Mama, I'm Coming Home


BYU’s homecoming parade was a few weeks ago. It was pretty cool. You know, Tootsie Rolls and sweaty tuba players and princesses elbow waving. I bet most people didn’t know how easy it is to be a princess. Pretty much you just have to find some club with only a couple of people in it – preferably ugly people – and join it. Then, find someone with a convertible. Or, if you run with a less classy crowd, find someone with a jeep and a blowtorch and have him lop off the top of the jeep. Then, sign up your organization for a slot in the parade. At the club meeting right before the parade, look around and say, “Okay, who’s going to be the princess of the club? Oh, look, you’re all ugly, so I better be the princess.” Then you get to ride in the blowtorched jeep in the parade and everyone will cheer because you’re the princess. Unless you’re a boy, then everyone will laugh at you and maybe you’ll get beat up by some xenophobes behind Arby’s after the parade.

I didn’t know what homecoming was for a long time. In high school, I thought it was when the football team “came home.” Because, you know, we had a “homecoming” game. But then I realized there were two or three home games before the homecoming game. So then I wasn’t really sure. But I liked the “homecoming” dance. That’s when most of the guys on the football team took their girlfriends home after the dance. See? “Homecoming”! I wasn’t on the football team, but sometimes girls would go to my house. And then throw eggs at it and leave.

So, as I was saying, BYU’s homecoming parade was a few weeks ago, and the law school got to be involved. Basically, whoever wanted to could dress up in a suit coat and jogging shorts and walk in the parade. Even students’ kids could be involved. So I took Savannah and we were in the parade. That's Savannah's "Wha-?" expression above. Aren't those cute ribbons in her hair? Yes they are, dang it.

I’m so cool that this wasn’t the first parade I’d been in. In elementary school I got to ride on my school’s float in the Fort Dalles Parade. Oh, yeah, those were good times, I think. I don’t remember the details all that much. There was a float and a parade. And I was on the float. Maybe. I might be making this up.

But I’m not making up the fact that I was in this year’s BYU homecoming parade. It was pretty awesome. The streets were lined with people, all cheering and waving. I told Savannah they were cheering for her because she’s so cool. She didn’t believe me; she knew they were really cheering for me. “Abu Ha-LEN! Abu Ha-LEN!” they chanted as they made obeisance to me. Then my pet boa constrictor that I was wearing around my neck got loose and squeezed this one kid and ate his little sister. “Bad boa!” I says, and I rapped him on the head with the princess scepter took from Junior Miss Utah after my archers picked her off the top of the Paul Mitchell Hair School float and my chariot ran her down and smushed her just outside the Crest gas station. I had no choice; her sparkly sequins were drawing people’s attention away from me and Savannah and boa.

Okay, here’s a story that’s actually true. Since we were near the front of the parade, we were finished in time to circle back around and watch the tail end with Shannon and the kids and one of Shannon’s friends and her little kids. Suddenly, the “Pen and the Quill” club marches by. The “Pen and the Quill” is BYU’s medieval club. Members wear chain mail to school and carry wooden broadswords with them across campus, perhaps in case that quiet guy in biology class accidentally, I don’t know, turns into a foul orc and needs to be run through before he sups on the blood of the fair maiden in the fourth row.

So, the club’s a little strange, so I took several years ago to calling it the “Pen and the Queer” club, with “queer” taking its traditional definition of “strange” or “odd.” So, here comes the “Pen and the Quill” club, its members sort of loping down the street, awkwardly waving their pasty white arms and brandishing their menacing faux-weapons. I’m standing next to Shannon’s friend. I point to the looming motley crew of mythical beast slayers as I turn to the friend and say, “Hey, look, it’s the ‘Pen and the Queer’ club. Heh-heh.” At almost the same moment, she begins to frantically motion toward a kid dressed in armor: “Jason! Jason! Over here!” she hollers. I suddenly feel sick. She knows someone in the Pen and the Queer club. And, oh, guess what. It’s not just someone she knows. It’s her brother. Yeah, her brother’s a dragonslayer. And I blatantly mocked him right to his sister’s face. Fortunately, she forgave me my trespass, and her brother spared me the cold kiss of his tin foil battle axe’s blade. Ah, sweet mercy.