This is a short recollection of an event from my 7th grade year at Duchesne High School. It's mostly accurate, I think.
“Did you get it?” I asked impatiently while trying to keep a look out for our teacher.
We had less than a minute before she would come back to find us. Quickly I glanced back at my two friends, JS and MW. They were attempting to unlock the bar on the exterior door to the high school auditorium so we could sneak back in later during our lunch break.
“Got it,” JS said, closing the door quietly.
Turning we ran back down the aisles between the seats and upon to the stage just as our teacher stepped out from the dressing rooms.
“Come on you guys. Quit playing around.”
As I followed her I looked back at the long rope hanging from the rafters at center stage. One more class period until lunch, then we would be back. The rope held so much potential.
We wolfed down our lunches over at the elementary school and then hustled back up the sidewalk to the side door of the auditorium. With a quick look around, we ducked through the door, locking it behind us. The large room was dark and eerily silent. Carefully we made our way up onto the stage. Feeling around we found the light switches, bathing the stage in bright lights for our pending adventure.
MW grabbed the end of the rope. It was thick, maybe three inches with a large knot tied at the bottom. Rope in hand we climbed up the ladder at stage left, to the small platform about 20 feet up on the wall. The platform was small, crowded with old, abandoned stage props from productions past. There was barely enough room for the three of us.
The length of the stage lay before us. We were ready to experience it at high speed. I was anxious for my turn. Since MW pulled the rope up we decided to let him go first. Holding tightly to the rope, he carefully climbed over the railing of the platform. With a deep breath and a scream, he jumped.
He flew across the stage with a full-throated yell. As he reached the apex of his swing at stage right, the backstage door from the hallway opened. In walked Principal JD and another teacher. They looked up to see MW fall from the sky right in front of them and then streak away toward the other end of the stage.
Quickly JS and I ducked behind the props on the platform, hoping to remain unseen. MW gave one brief look at us as he came back up toward the platform; his eyes were a cross between terror and amusement.
Passing back out over center stage, MW offered a weak greeting to our esteemed principal.
“Hey, JD. What are you doing in the auditorium?”
The initial look of shock was receding slowly from the principal’s face as he began to realize what he was seeing. Unfortunately the teacher with him remained confused for at least a few more swings.
“Well, hello MW! What are you up to?”
“Not much. Just going for a swing.”
“Really? Just a swing? All by yourself?”
JD looked around, expecting to find some co-conspirators. MW was a very social person, not likely to be engaged in any mischief alone.
Coming back by again, MW answered: “Yes, I’m alone. Couldn’t get anyone to come over with me.”
I felt JS shaking next to me, trying to keep his breathing quiet. Neither of us wanted to get caught, even for something so trivial. Luckily for us MW was an expert at being in trouble. I hoped he could keep us safe, the same way he had when we built the clubhouse off campus in elementary school.
As his kinetic energy began to zero out, MW dragged a leg across the floor to bring him to a full stop.
JD remained unconvinced that MW was swinging by himself on the stage during the lunch period. MW was never alone.
“Come on, you’re really in here swinging all by yourself?”
He was squinting his eyes looking around the stage and into the darkness of the empty auditorium seating.
“Yeah, I like to come here to swing by myself sometimes. You know, just to clear my head.”
JS forced out another controlled breathe next to me. I realized I was doing the same thing.
MW compliantly walked over to JD.
“So, I guess we’re going to your office to talk for awhile?”
“Yes. I guess this is worth a chat.”
As they walked away, MW looked straight ahead, giving no indication of our hiding place. JD stopped at the door and turned to look around one more time. As he walked out, he turned the lights out plunging the stage and auditorium into a deep darkness.
JS and I stayed in place for a few more minutes just in case JD tried to slip back in to catch us coming out of hiding. Climbing down from the platform was a bit iffy in near pitch-black darkness. With a few bangs and a slip or two we made it safely back to the stage and made our way quickly to the exterior door. We slipped into the bright sunlight and walked away safely.
It turns out that MW had to sit through a half serious lecture for about twenty minutes in JD’s office. He talked about the importance of rules and being safe. He asked him a few more times about swinging alone on the stage. He never gave us away.
Looking back on the events of that day, I still think about that rope. Part of me wishes I had carried the rope up and taken the first and only swing. Flying across that stage with a dark auditorium to one side would have been amazing. Looking down to see JD and the other teacher standing there would have added to the thrill.