Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Fifth Grade Incident - Part I

The truth, if it ever existed, has been filtered and lost through half a century of experiences. She is deceased and all that remains is my fallible memory and, perhaps, a manipulated and coerced signed report -- or should it be called a confession. My choice of titles -- The Fifth Grade Incident -- illustrates my uncertainty and partial ambivalence about the experience. Perhaps, if fear, threat and violence in schools were not inflamatory topics in the news, I would be less ambivalent and more inclined to tell this story that casts me in a not-so-politically-correct light. I do not think threats to kill someone should be taken any way other than seriously.

I have only four memories of fifth grade. The first two are pleasant memories. Each day we walked single file to an adjoining classroom to be taught some subject -- math, English or something else -- by a grey haired teacher with the demeanor of a sweet, kindly grandmother. Though I cannot remember the subject, she touched my spirit and made me yearn to have her as my teacher rather than the harsh woman I endured daily.

My second pleasant memory is of crouching under the balcony of the auditorium as part of a training exercise in case of a nuclear attack by Russia. The stage in the auditorium sagged due to damage caused by an elephant many years earlier. I wished I had been present to see the elephant and hear the floor creak under its weight. Fantasies of being present for the elephant’s performance far exceeded fear of Russians, war and nuclear holocaust.

The memory of refusing to take a test is vivid. The papers were passed out. I accepted the test handed to me, put my name on the top, placed my pencil on the desk and retreated into an attitude which declared that not even the forces of hell would cause me to complete her damned test. Why? What had happened between us to elicit this reaction? I no longer remember the preceding events -- only the memory of my anger and stubborn refusal.

My fourth memory is of the incident.

“You may sit down.” I was standing facing the corner as punishment for some violation that I no longer remember. She and I had a relationship characterized by open dislike. Why? I do not know. As I returned to my seat, I looked toward her desk and saw a harsh look. Was it disgust or triumph or contempt? Whatever it was, it crossed some unconscious line. My next actions were not conscious decisions but were instinctive reactions that said “Dammit! I’m not taking it.”

I got out of my seat, left the room and went to the coat room across the hall. After getting my coat, I turned and she was blocking the aisle and access to the door behind her. I don’t remember what she said or even if she spoke. I remember saying “Get out of my way or I’ll kill you!” She froze with a look a fear. I turned, used another aisle, walked past her and left the building.

As I walked down the sidewalk, I heard someone shout “Stop!”. Instinct kicked in and I easily out ran the principal. My father worked about one mile from the school and I walked toward his place of work.

I was eleven years old and figured there was hell to be paid for what had I had done and said.

(Tomorrow, the rest of the story -- my version of the story -- and my interpretation of it’s significance.)

4 Comments:

Blogger Buffalo said...

You have my total, undivided attention.

11/16/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger whitesnake said...

Refer Buff's comment!

11/16/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Round Belly said...

I love it. Thank you

11/17/2006 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

This is a great cliff-hanger. Will be back for the rest.

11/17/2006 09:58:00 AM  

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