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Clown noses, to be precise. They arenâ€™t really clown noses. They are in fact 1.5â€ spherical foam rubber balls, made of a very light airy red sponge rubber, available inexpensively at any magicianâ€™s supply store. However, calling them â€œsponge ballsâ€ for a roomful of third graders does not have the galvanic effect of calling them â€œclown noses.â€ And if you ask any of my kids what Doc has in his pocket at any given time, clown noses will be among the first items you hear, along with pirate gold and Dwarven treasure coins. Yâ€™see, I have found that when a child is melting down, going psychobilly, or simply having a tough time focusing, there is no better way to redirect, misdirect, confuse, baffle, and refocus his or her little attention span than a magic trick. It works. Ice cream works, too, but coins and clown noses are cheaper, more portable, and donâ€™t trigger food allergies. NOT card tricks. Show a kid a card trick, and he will IMMEDIATELY want to show you one of his own, drag it out over five minutes, and then screw it up, and your impetus, energy, and refocusing effort fizzles. No, coins out of the ears or sponge balls out of thin air are the way to go, although they are not my only tools. Teachingâ€™s a performing art, and donâ€™t let anyone tell you otherwise. The trouble began today, when one of the little moppets asked me where I got the clown noses. Well, naturally, I didnâ€™t want to give a straight answer; the phrase â€œAt the Wizardâ€™s Chest, down off Cherry Creek Shopping Center,â€ seemed a bit dull. So I simply replied, â€œYou donâ€™t REALLY wanna know,â€ and went on with the math lesson. â€œDid you get it from a clown?â€ he persisted. I dodged the question by redirecting him to his work; you really donâ€™t last long in this biz if you let a stray question get you off topic. I only work with this bunch in short segments of the day, and time is limited, which is a good thing; I honestly donâ€™t know how anyone actually teaches third grade. I have found that my time limit is about two hours before I start feeling like strangling anyone; let us all take a moment to honor Mrs. Limekiller, their regular ed teacher, who works with them ALL day, EVERY day, and every year sacrifices chunks of her sanity so that your anklebiters may proceed to a later, less frenetic, state of childhood and education. But I digress. I cocked an eye to the clock; five minutes before moving on to the sixth grade wing, and most everyone was done with their assignment, and Mrs. Limekiller was working with the last couple who couldnâ€™t quite wrap their heads around this â€œmultiplicationâ€ thing; the rest of the class was getting restless. Time to run interference. So I brought out the clown noses, two in each hand, and began to twirl them, stopping only to make one disappear and then juggle the other three in slow motion; sponge balls donâ€™t fall very fast, being feather light, and the trick is much easier than it looks. The effect, as usual, was galvanic; all speech was silenced, all fiddling and fidgeting ceased. It is well known among the third graders that â€œPay attention when Mr. Doc is there; he might do a trick.â€ As long as it keeps things quiet, rewards the worthy, and prevents things from getting too out of hand. It helps that the class knows damn good and well that if every single person isnâ€™t behaving, the clown noses and magical treasure coins will disappear, quite possibly for the rest of the day, while the problem is dealt with. Up front, little Patty marveled. Patty is a dear little thing, who I think is representative of a form of evolution in action; sheâ€™s so stinkinâ€™ cute that any predator who attacked her would immediately keel over with diabetes. And she ooooohhed at the fountain of clown noses that went perpetually whirling through the air. Duncan, on the other hand, is an ancient, overcommon, and well known breed: the liâ€™l turd. You get one in every class. â€œI know how you do that trick,â€ he said. â€œThe clown noses are hollow. You make one disappear by sticking it into another one.â€ Did I mention that Duncan was the pesky little fellow who wanted to know if I mugged a clown to obtain my tools? With some irritation, I flicked one of the sponge balls at him. â€œDo tell,â€ I said. â€œIs there a hole in it where I could stuff another one?â€ He caught it in midair, and examined it... and noted with some dismay that it was neither hollow, nor had a hole. Regrettably, this also reactivated his previous line of thought. â€œSo did you kill a clown and then saw his nose off with a knife or something?â€ he asked. Such a delightful child. Little Patty, on the other hand, looked horrified. â€œMISTER BEDLAM DID NOT KILL A CLOWN WITH A KNIFE!â€ she screamed, loud enough that little heads popped up all OVER the room. It occurred to me that little Duncanâ€™s speculations could wind up beinâ€™ deleterious to my career. Sure, MOST parents would just laugh if their kid came home tellinâ€™ stories about how their teacher hacked up circus performers by night, but itâ€™d be just my luck that ONE of these kids would have a mom whoâ€™d call up my boss and demand an investigation... I reached out and snared the errant sponge ball. â€œNo one is killing anyone,â€ I growled at Duncan, with perhaps a bit more venom than I intended. â€œNow, what should we be doing right now...?â€ Duncan took the hint and began looking for some way to look busy. The other children decided the incident was over, and went back to what they were doing. And little Patty hugged my leg. SHE, at least, seemed to feel I wasnâ€™t a serial killer. Iâ€™d forgotten about the incident when I came back in for checkout and rounds, the last half hour of the day. Mrs. Limekiller was herding the kids around encouraging them to clean up and pick up their school supplies and not forget their backpacks and homework and suchlike. And little Patty bounced up and hugged my leg again. â€œI drawed you a picture!â€ she chirped. â€œI made sure I spelled the words right and everything!â€ And when I looked at it, I decided that I wanted to take it home and put it up on the fridge. To hide the evidence, if nothing else...