Benny and The Sweats
By Jack Bogut
I’ll never forget the day in Mr. Panuto’s English class when each of us had to stand up and give a 5 minute extemporaneous speech.
When it was Benny Johnson’s turn, we knew the fuse had been lit on an academic bomb. – Benny couldn’t say two words without swearing. And I don’t mean the mild stuff. I mean the real descriptive terminology that would make a drill sergeant blush.
It was the way he was brought up on the ranch. His father and five brothers talked that way. Even his mother, we’d been told, used language that could wilt flowers.
So to Benny, it wasn’t profanity. It was plain, ordinary speech that conveyed in very few words exactly what he meant.
A blue cloud used to follow Benny wherever he went like a balloon on a tether. He was profanely articulate beyond belief, and when he stood up in front of the class to speak about his horse, we knew we were in for a treat.
The hard part was we couldn’t laugh and belittle or demean the speaker. We also know if we did, Benny could alter our ability to grow older.
We scratched the toes out of our socks as we listened to the strangled first part of every swear word we knew as he tried in vain to clean up his vocabulary.
Professor Panuto walked around and cleared his throat a lot. He also found something outside the big classroom window extremely interesting. I thought I saw his shoulders shake a few times and his forehead touch the glass once or twice, but it could have been a gathering cough.
That day some of us almost got hernias.