From 1972 to 1980, I attended Carlyle Grade School and Carlyle High School in (wait for it) Carlyle, IL.  One of my friends was Matt Tucker.

Matt was (and still is) a fun guy, and even crazier than me.  He excelled in both baseball and football.  But the main qualities that set him apart from the other kids were his total disregard for the well-being of his physical frame and his superhuman tolerance for pain.  He was Mick Foley before there was Mick Foley.

He could take an incredible pounding on the field.  He could also take an incredible pounding in whatever insane daredevil stunt he was attempting.  And he wasn’t a big guy – kind of scrawny, actually.  It didn’t help that he had about 11 siblings, and was thus always vying for attention.

He was usually wearing some sort of cast somewhere on his body.  He’d always remove them himself, weeks before the doctor’s go-ahead.  He eventually broke nearly every bone in his body, including his neck (and you think you’re tough?).

One day, in freshman science class, some of us were sitting around those big marble-type tables where you’d pour hydrochloric acid on seashells and such.  It was the last few minutes of the period, and the teacher, Mr. Sommers, was outside the door in the hall chatting.

We were goofing off by “karate chopping” the sharpened end of horizontal pencils, so the pencils would flip up in the air.

Then Matt said, “hey, watch this.”  He had a pencil on the table in front of him.  He put his hand to the back of his head and pushed down.  He was apparently attempting to flip the pencil with his forehead.

Instead, he forcefully drove his upper front teeth into the table.  There was a sickening crunch, and fragments of teeth shattered all over the clean dark tabletop.

Everyone froze.  Matt lifted his head up and quickly put his hand up to cover his mouth.

The kid across from him stared at the teeth remnants, yelled “AHHHHH!”, and briskly swept them to the floor.

Matt pulled his hand from his mouth.  He revealed his bloody gums, and a big empty space where his four front teeth had just been.  He laughed and called out, “Mr. Sommers, I think I need some help.”

It ended well.  Matt got new teeth, and I think they even glow in the dark.

But still: how many fifteen-year-olds do you know who could bust out their own teeth — and laugh about it?  Balls, man.  True, planet-sized balls.

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