“A lot of classroom skeletons, in high schools, universities and medical schools, are real.”

–“Classroom Skeleton: Whose Bones Are These?” All Things Considered, March 20, 2018

When they talked about donating your body to science, I didn’t think they’d take it so literally. Now, I’ve always been die-hard fan of scientific achievement. In my past life, I like to think (in that I remember with 100% clarity) that I was a great biologist, a lifelong learner, and rotary printing press of academic writing. I find a bit of gallows humor in the fact that none of those papers, none of those beautiful, award-winning treatises (on the leading contemporary field of phrenology, don’t you know), were the thing to do me in. No, it was one line on my driver’s license: organ donor.

My name is Hugh Meris, M.D., and I am a bona fide human skeleton. Though, in the classroom, I go by Mr. Bones.

As a skeleton, I’m a regular fixture in the third grade physiology classroom, never getting any limelight but for that one lesson a year where I get sketched and poked and prodded. Yeah, welcome to the real ivory tower, kiddos.

Now, some people would kill for tenure. I still don’t get why. It’s not like being trapped in a classroom, getting a bare bones “living wage” (A.K.A. pro bono), and having the exact same position year after year after year is exactly “living the life.” Learning the ropes never made the job easier either, considering I’ve always had the hang of things.

It’s not exactly a walk in the park, being pithed and all. Being a teaching aid (or TA for short) is—quite simply—a dead-end job. No matter your innate inhabitivity, teaching elementary has a way of working you down to the bone. And, frankly, I’m tired. Bone tired.

I mean, back in the younger days of my un-life, I didn’t have as much of a bone to pick with my situation. Teaching felt like a joint effort, where I shouldered the burden of practical demonstration while the teacher rattled off the dry facts. I really felt like I was making a difference, like I was helping kids stay on the straight and marrow.

On my other hand, certain student propensities made me want to give them the ol’ knee to the coccyx. First, there were the lazy bones, whose gall even a jaundiced joe couldn’t have beat. Second, there were the gossipy girls would complain about their complexion and their lust to be paler, bleaching their hair and hiding from the sun. Really, modern fashion has whitewashed the issue. Sunbleaching is not as nice as it sounds from personal experience. Finally, quite a few boneheaded boys would crack terrible puns at my expense to impress the ladies. The worst of those rascals would even use fart jokes. (How insensitive in front of someone who will never pass gas again!) At the very least, though, no precocious pipsqueaks have tried jumping bones in my presence, something I would never be able to unsee (or stop myself from seeing, lacking eyelids and all).

I’ll be dead serious with you: I’m burnt out. Sometimes I wonder if life is just pulling my leg, ribbing me for the sins of a prior existence by letting me collect dust when I should be dusting knuckles. I would quit, give this popsicle stand the ol’ bone voyage, but where else would I go?

And, admittedly, it isn’t all bad. Occasionally, one of the acquisitive ankle biters will get it into their skull that they need a shoulder to cry on, to get something off their chest and have a heart-to-heart. One kiddo, Clay Vackle, dragged me into the closet to practice getting out of his own. The rotating cast of teachers that own my body (not that I’m into that sort of thing) liven things up as well.

I also very much appreciate that, at least once per year, a student will come into class dressed up like me, albeit a bit spookier and scarier, to show their solidarity and support. Why they always come out right before All Saints’ Day is a bit over my head, but I appreciate the assurance that us old-fashioned skeletons are still hip.

When I donated my body to science, I had imagined that these old bones would get to see the world. Get some tan lines, meet lots of jaw-dropping ladies at conventions, or maybe even get a paper written about me. Heck, I wouldn’t have even been put out to be put in to someone else’s dying body, regardless of the curvature of their cranial cavity. At least then my sacrifice would have been worth it. Yes, I certainly made a grave mistake, selflessly giving of my heart and soul. Weariness and wear have certainly crept their way into these old bones.

Yet, I just have a feeling that eventually it’s going tibia okay.