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Freeze! Put Down That Cookie

Aug 052014
 By , August 5, 2014

The black, MH-6 ‘Little Bird’ helicopter came in low over the treetops surrounding Eastlake Elementary School in Chapman, Nebraska.  Third graders, usually engrossed in a fierce game of dodge-ball, diverted their attention towards the thrumming pulse of the helicopter’s main rotor blades.

As the helicopter circled the playground, school staff noticed the armed men sitting, two on each side, and perpendicular to the main body of the craft.  Teachers pulled out their trusty whistles and sounded the emergency shelter code that sent the children all running for their classrooms.  Not sure of what was happening, the principal walked onto the playground with a cellphone to her mouth and a feisty fist on her hip.

The helicopter made an abrupt 90-degree turn and set the landing skids down within 10 seconds.  Like dark shadows, the men with guns and Kevlar debarked and raced with single purpose towards the school cafeteria.  They ran in the traditional crouched position and moved all as one body.

Upon reaching the cafeteria, one of the men grabbed the doorknob and stealthily opened it about an inch.  Another of the invaders quietly inserted what looked to be a dental mirror just inside the door.  When he saw what he was looking for, he withdrew the instrument and slid the safety on his HK MP5 assault rifle and waited for the word to breach.

By now, the principal and huffed and puffed her way to the cafeteria, where she screamed at the men to explain who they were and what they wanted.  One man, clearly the one in charge, stepped up to the principal and quietly explained that some of her students were in violation of federal law.  With that, he turned to his men and gave the signal to breach.

black helicopterBoth doors into the cafeteria flew open and the men entered, weapons drawn, and quickly moved to surround the small table and two young girls seated at it.

“Young lady,” barked one of the black-clad men.  “Put that box of Girl Scout cookies down!

As the bulk of the children were screaming their heads off and running for any available door, closet or large garbage can, the two little girls dropped the boxes of Thin Mints and Samoas they had been selling to their cash-laden classmates and started to cry.  As the menacing intruders stood glaring at the girls, one of the girls puked all over her order sheet and the other one mumbled something about the restroom.

The leader of the men finished writing something in a special binder, ripped a yellow copy out, and handed it to the principal.  The men then turned on their heels and headed back the way they had come.  Soon, the sound of the helicopter lifting off and flying away faded into the distance.

As staff members quickly tried to restore order and comfort frightened children, the principal finally read what was printed on the paper the man had handed her.  Was it some sort of ransom note and list of demands?  No, it was a written fine for $15,000 for allowing certain ‘unhealthy’ snacks to be sold on campus in opposition to the prescribed healthy foods listed in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act co-sponsored by the First Lady.

While the aim of the Act is to replace cupcakes and brownies with fruit cups and granola bars, the terms of enforcement are a bit sketchy.

Due to the huge increase in child obesity over the last 30 years, many federal health organizations, championed by the First Lady, drew up nutrition requirements.  Gone were the fundraiser bake sales, gone were the Pizza Fridays, and gone were the small totes of chocolate bars being hawked by band students to earn money for their trip to Omaha.

All of these were replaced with low or non-caloric substitutes, such as wrapping paper sales (so families can wrap the box of premium Ghiradelli chocolates to send to grandma in Winnemucca) or bowl-a-thons (where the bowling alley menu has chili cheese fries coming in at 540 calories per serving).

Schools trying to follow the guidelines of the Act are having trouble with the pre-packaged celery sticks getting jammed in the vending machines.  The ‘book walk’ that replaced the cake walk at the last school fundraising carnival left numerous children with paper cuts on their tongues and confused children as they asked: “Daddy, why doesn’t this book cake taste very yummy?”

Perhaps the students will get used to the baked sweet potato fries at the snack bar or the blueberry Greek yogurt now being peddled out of the violin cases of orchestra students in-between class periods.  I hear the cello section has quite a racket going up on the second floor.

It will work, right?  I mean, what kid wouldn’t sneak $10 out of their old man’s wallet before school to come purchase apple slices (with honey dipping sauce, of course) from members of the offense line of the football team.  I mean, you gotta pay for those new football jerseys somehow.  Right?

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Michael Larson is newly minted Texan. He is a retired teacher, current university librarian, and a future 'great American' author.

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