Principal pays debt by smooching Godzilla

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper Middle School Principal David Hubster kisses Godzilla, the school's bearded dragon, as eighth-grader Sarah Smith holds him, at the end of a relay to celebrate the school's peanut butter and jelly donations for Community CHEW at the school on Tuesday. Both Hubster and Godzilla were fitted in peanut butter and jelly costumes. 

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — This is a story so wacky that you, the reader, might find yourself rereading lines from it over and over to make sense of it all.

The cast: A man and a dragon. The setting: Jasper Middle School’s gymnasium. The plot: Our lead characters — both of whom dressed in peanut butter and jelly sandwich costumes  — puckered up and shared a kiss in front of 675 cheering students on Tuesday morning.

Let me know when you’re ready for more.

The man was JMS Principal David Hubster. The beast was the school’s official pet, a bearded dragon who resides on the premises and is named Godzilla. Before we get too much further, it’s important to note that as Hubster leaned away from the scaly and prickly reptile’s tiny face, our lead man was completely unharmed.

He and the reptile have known each other for about three years. Even so, Hubster didn’t feel warm and fuzzy after he pecked his cold-blooded friend.

“As soon as I went back after I kissed him, his mouth opened up real wide and his tongue came out,” Hubster said moments after the kiss. “I was like, ‘Whoa!’”

Jasper Middle School seventh-grader Ryan Verkamp checks on Godzilla, the school's bearded dragon, after fitting him with a hand-made peanut butter and jelly costume before a relay to celebrate the school's peanut butter and jelly donations for Community CHEW at the school on Tuesday. Ryan and three other students have been tasked with being "Guardians of Godzilla," cleaning his cage and taking care of him daily.

The event was the culmination of a peanut butter and jelly collection drive organized through a partnership between the JMS Builders Club, a service-oriented group, and Community CHEW. Community CHEW (Child Hunger Ending Workshop) is a nonprofit program that targets food insecure children.

Those groups spun the food drive into a friendly competition. If more jelly came in, Assistant Principal Phil Tolbert would have starred in our strange story, as he would have been the one puckering up to Godzilla. (And if it weren’t for a massive, mysterious donation of peanut butter on Friday, that very well could have been the case.)

But since the pasty brown spread won out, Hubster was the lucky leader giving a smacker to the school’s lizard.

The contest drove in more than 200 donations. I mean, think about it. For teens and preteens, what better way to incentivize donations than promising a grown man of their choosing would lock lips with a lizard?

Many were disappointed when it was revealed that Tolbert would watch from the sidelines. It is known that he and Godzilla aren’t buds.

“It’s a lizard,” Tolbert said before the event. “What’s to like about a lizard?”

He later joked: “I told the kids I would kiss it, but I’m gonna cook it first.”

Godzilla first roamed into JMS in the fall of 2016. His glass tank home formerly harbored fish, and later housed an aquaponics system. Hubster asked students what they’d like to inhabit the vacated receptacle, which is affixed prominently in the school’s entrance area, and the writer of an impassioned essay pointed him to the pint-sized beast.

Jasper Middle School eighth-grader Aiden Zorn, left, quiets the crowd, as she prepares a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Principal David Hubster, during a relay to celebrate the Jasper Middle School's peanut butter and jelly donations for Community CHEW at the middle school on Tuesday.

Previously, Godzilla was known as Dave. Hubster felt a little uncomfortable sharing names with the pet, though, and a subsequent survey yielded his current moniker, which is a callback to the Japanese monster that has risen from the ocean and smashed cities in 34 films and counting.

But let’s cut the tangents. JMS’ Godzilla looked anything but intimidating Tuesday morning. Four seventh-grade students who regularly feed and care for the little lizard — known as the “Guardians of Godzilla” — strapped a fabric sandwich they collectively made onto the little lizard’s back for the schoolwide event.

In the moments leading up to the smooch, Hubster slid into a screen-printed sandwich costume of his own, put on a pair of purple antlers and ate a PB&J in front of the student body as part of his loser responsibilities.

The guardians speculated before the big kiss that if Godzilla could talk, he’d tell them the event would stress him out a little because loud areas can strain him. But the kids took extra precautions to keep him calm, and when it was all said and done, the lizard sat comfortably on Hubster’s arm as students petted him on their way out of the morning assembly.

And that marks the end of this wacky story, when a man and a lizard named Godzilla dressed as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and kissed.




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