School’s just around the corner. Waiting for you with a baseball bat to shake down for your lunch money. That’s the way I always felt at the end of the summer, during most of my public education career. Summer was kid time, man, and we wrung out every drop of adventure, trouble, excitement, and near-death experience a kid could possibly have. If I didn’t start my new grade in the fall with at least three fresh scabs and some kind of infestation, well, I just didn’t try hard enough. But then came that day just after Labor Day, like a telegram from Jesus saying Santa Claus was dead: First day of school. At least we got to buy some fresh supplies. Seems like we always got by with a few pencils, a loose leaf binder, and a jar of delicious mucilage. But now the kids are issued a list of supplies by their school, and the list varies from school to school. Well, I took Rusty and Speaker to Wal-Mart today (yeah, I occasionally shop at Wal-Mart. I also drive there in my Hummer filled with illegally dyed diesel fuel, while chewing on McDonald’s burgers with extra trans fat, listening to CD’s of music I downloaded illegally, spitting on every cyclist I pass, and smoking a Camel straight with the windows up and three infants in the back seat. With no seat belts. Sue me). We couldn’t find the list for their school, so I shepherded them through the office supplies department, and we loaded up the cart with my version of the essentials. First off, about fifty spiral notebooks. Why? Because they were a dime apiece. I’m sure they’ll only need a couple, but I figure I’ll hang around the schoolyard on the first day and scalp a few when class lets out, to the poor schnooks who also didn’t get the supplies list. Anyway, whatever notebooks they don’t use, I can fill with songs I write. I’ve been at it for ten years now, and I’ve already started Book Two. Next, Krazy Glue. I tossed a multi-pack into the cart. “Uh, dad, I know they’re not gonna let us use that,” said Rusty. “We’re supposed to use white glue.” “White glue is weak,” I said. “Plus, it’s made from horses. You want them to kill Flicka just so you can stick two pieces of construction paper together? No way! Besides, you can have all kinds of fun with Krazy Glue, man. Like when Brandon nods off, you can glue his finger in his nose. That’s why it’s so Krazy!” Rusty gave me a sidelong look and put some distance between us. I picked up an accordion file to help me organize the avalanche of paperwork that invariably comes home after the first day. “Can I get a pencil box?” asked Speaker, browsing through all the colorful choices of boxes emblazoned with cartoon and/or Nickelodeon characters. “Oh, I already got a pencil box for you, honey. These things are such a waste of money. Plus, they’re not big enough. I think you’ll be able to fit all your pencils and erasers and stuff in the pencil box I made you.” She looked at me with a heavy dose of skepticism, like the time she caught me giving her Barbie doll a Brazilian wax. “What did you make it out of?” “An empty Swiffer box. I covered it with dryer lint and ribbons.” No go. I let her get the Scooby Doo pencil box (Reight rawlers?!? Ruh roh!) I took two rubber stamps off the shelf and put them in the cart. Rusty looked at me quizzically, so I explained that they simply said “Returned NSF.” “What’s that mean? he asked. I told him how the bank will sometimes send back a check to someone if they write a check that’s more than the money they have in their account. “Like the ones you keep getting from the liquor store?” asked Speaker. “Yeah,” I said. “Like those. And you know how, when daddy opens an envelope with a returned check, he always says some not nice things about the bank?” “You mean, like when you called that one lady a turd nugget?” asked Rusty. “Yeah, well, the turd nugget lady wouldn’t redeposit the check I wrote, even though I had just post-dated them a check from another account. She was cranky. Prob’ly not getting any. Oh, never mind. Anyway, here’s what you do with this stamp: if you get a poorly-graded paper from your teacher, just stamp it with this, in red ink, and just kind of casually drop it on her desk on the way out of class. She’ll be afraid or confused, I bet, but either way, she’ll probably slide you a few points.” This brilliant tactic went right over their heads, so I put the stamps back on the shelf. We got pens, rulers, pencils, and some highlighters. I let the kids pick out which color of highlighter they wanted, but warned them that one of the reasons I flunked out of college was that I used a black highlighter all through my sophomore year. I mean years. Tape. Scissors. Erasers. Pocket folders. Glitter (hey, you never know). “Do we get new lunch boxes?” asked Speaker, surprisingly hopeful. “No, I already got you one,” I said, as she rolled her eyes. “It’s brown, and it’s shaped like a small bag. You’ll love it. It’s going to be a great year.