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The Halloween Project Day 7: Volume Cask

This one is not dedicated but aimed, like an arrow to the bullseye, at bad teachers, especially those who ridicule, demean and diminish students. Watch your back.

“STUDENETS! Are you getting this?! Do I have to pour it into those empty heads of yours?! Is anyone awake out there?!”

Mr. Rodgers had several beakers, a pitcher of water and a bunch of other utensils that no one gave a crap about all piled on the demonstration lab table. This was Comprehensive Chemistry, not Advanced Placement Chem, not Honors Chem, not regular Chem. It was Chemistry for those of us who needed another science elective and the closest we would come to any chemistry in our lives would be whether we put cream and sugar in our coffee.

“Do you see what I’m doing? Look up here at least, will you Ligouri? Pretend like you’re interested? I am demonstrating the concept of Volume Cask. It’s an interesting phenomenon of liquids, although I’m certain that none of you care at all.”

Rodg, that’s what we always called him behind his back, had filled several beakers to the absolute top with water and now was taking a little dropper and adding just a bit more.

“Check out the very top level of these beakers, studenets!” That’s what he always called us…studenets. Except when he called on us individually. Then he only used our last names. Ever.

“The surface tension of the sides of the container allows the vessel to be filled beyond its capacity. It doesn’t matter if it’s a smaller vessel or a larger one, all of these now contain more than what they can actually hold. Jensen, are you with me? Do you get this, Jensen, or are you still daydreaming about why Banthort broke up with you?”

How he knew this stuff no one could ever understand, but he somehow had the inside track on the social scene at our high school. A whole bunch of us figured he must be some kind of creeper on Facebook. At lunch we used to talk about him all the time.

“Jesus Christ, he really hates you,” I said to Michael, my semi-best friend. Michael, that would be Michael Jensen.

“The thing is,” Michael said matter-of-factly, “that he doesn’t hate me any more than he hates you. The truth is that he hates us all equally.”

I nodded my head because Michael had a point there. Rodgers was infamous around school. The word was that he was a different person in the Honors classes but for us academic bottom feeders he was more than brutal, he was caustic and hateful.

“But how does he get away with this for years and years? I just don’t get it,” I said to no one in particular. A couple people at the cafeteria table just shrugged and went back to their fries and Gatorade.

“O.K. studenets, now I’ve got a game for you. I want you to try and pour any of these beakers, these completely full vessels, into another without dropping a single drip of water. Think you can do it? I don’t think so. But you’re going to try. Ligouri, you’ve been so attentive, you first.”

Ligouri, basically a criminal in training, would have rather pissed in one of old Rodg’s containers, but looked like he didn’t have the fight in him on this particular day, so he unraveled his long arms and legs from the stool and table in front of him, made a half-hearted attempt at pulling up his sagging jeans and stepped toward the demonstration table. Why I raised my hand, I have no idea. Then I just spoke out loud.

“It can’t be done,” I announced to the class.

“Excuse me, Smitty?” Rodgers said, sarcasm would be an understatement. My name is Smith. Jason Smith.

“The beakers”…I hesitated for a moment; “the vessels or beakers that you used are the ones without spouts. You know those little lips that make it easy to pour. These are flat all the way around. You just mentioned the surface tension filling them up beyond their capacity. I don’t think you can pour them without spilling. Pour slow, they drip. Pour fast, they’ll splash. I bet if you used the ones with the spouts, we could pour them, no problem.” I may be in Comprehensive Chemistry for a lot of reasons, but I’m not a dope. Wait a minute, let me correct that, I’m totally a dope for speaking out in Rodg’s class.

“Is that right, Smitty? Well, aren’t you the bright one today? Ligouri sit down, Smitty come here.”

Ligouri said very softly, almost, but not quite under his breath, “Whatever you say, Rodg,” and started to descend back to his stool.

“What did you say, Ligouri! Did you call me Rodg?! Who do you think you are!! Get out of here! NOW! Go to the office!”

“With pleasure, Rodg,” but this time he said it with a lot more volume so the entire class could hear. Everyone collected their breath. Like some huge spider Ligouri moved slowly away from his table, looked back at his books and then simply extended one of his long arms and pushed them off the table. In the silent room they made a resounding slam and papers flew everywhere.

“OUT!! NOW!!” screamed Rodgers.

Ligouri reached the door, but must have figured one more message would cap the period, “Kiss my ass, Rodg,” calmly, flatly, and he was gone.

Not recovered, but trying to re-capture, Rodg turned to me, “Smitty, front and center, now. Pour them, now, without spilling a drop, all of them.”

“I can’t, they’ll spill or drip. That’s what I told you.”


“I can’t.”

“You will.”

I looked at him for about 10 or 15 seconds, probably no longer than that, but it felt like a really long time. I looked at Michael, and his newly broken off girlfriend, Leslie Banthort, who really was a hot girl, but an ass. I looked at a bunch of other kids too. Then I simply picked up the first beaker and tried to pour. Of course, it dripped down the side almost immediately.

“See, I told you,” I said.

“Next one!”

This one I took more time. I positioned the beaker directly over the center of the one below and I tried to pour really, really slowly. Really slowly. No good. The very first drips stuck to the side, carried down the length of the beaker and dropped to the table top.

“NEXT!” We could all tell that Rodg was still a little worked up. Maybe a lot.

This one I tried to pour quickly, but that just turned into a mess. I got a lot into the beaker but there was splashing and dripping all over the place. He turned to the class.

“That, studenets, is a profound demonstration, by one of our brightest, of the concept of Volume Cask. A vessel, any vessel that is filled to BEYOND its capacity, is no longer a vessel, but becomes a cask. Think of a wine cask, or a big oil tank. Those containers cannot be “poured” per se, but must be tapped, or drained by use of a spigot, usually placed near the bottom so that a gravity feed helps to drain the liquid. GOT IT!?”

There are a lot of things I don’t like in life. I get mad easy, although you might not know it because on the outside, I seem pretty chill. But Rodg, he really was at the top of the list. There was one beaker on the table filled with water and I did think for a millisecond about dumping it on his head, but I was way more angry than that, so I hefted it up and with a good fastball throw I hurled it over the heads of my classmates on a laser beam shot to the far wall where it exploded in a million little shards of glass.

I was suspended for the next three days but no one could come pick me up, so they made me stay for detention. It must have been about 3:30 when I was released. Standing near the front doors something just flipped. I made my way back upstairs to the Science wing. Nobody, I mean absolutely nobody was around. I suppose if Rodg hadn’t been there everything might be different, but he was. Yeah, he really was. Sitting at his desk, maybe grading papers, I don’t really remember.

My footsteps were pretty quiet, but not like I was trying to be stealthy or anything. Rodg had this old apothecary scale on the corner of his demonstration table with a collection of brass weights. It was actually pretty cool. Sometimes he even used it to measure weight and mass. I just picked up the biggest brass weight and when he turned his head to look at me, before he could even mouth the word “Smitty” or “Look, a studenet!” I brought it down on the top of his head. Hard.

He fell off that stool so fast it was like one of our team’s linebackers had hammered him. He was completely out. Completely. Out.

I looked around the room and found a length of that rubber tubing that we used in Chem all the time. Mostly we liked to shoot our friends with water but this time I attached it to the faucet right at the sink next to where Rodg had been sitting. It was pretty long and I fed the other end into Rodg’s mouth. I pushed a good length of it in there and then I turned on the water, just a steady stream. The water flowed and it just disappeared into old Rodg. I stayed there for quite some time. After a while I could see that his stomach was starting to bulge a little bit. Then a lot. And eventually water started backing up and coming out of his mouth and then his nose. I just let the water run.

Just before I left I bent down to the waterlogged and slowly submerged body of my Chem teacher and simply whispered, “Volume Cask, Rodg, Volume Cask.”

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