Tuesday, December 6, 2011



Mr. Stinky was a very big man.
Tall and wide... in a Refrigerator Perry sort of way.
He was the first male teacher I'd ever had...
and easily the most frightening.
He seemed to glower all the time
from under his military buzz cut and receding hair line.
His uniform was a tweed jacket, white shirt, tan tie and tan pants.
Rich dark brown brogues perfect for squishing bugs covered his feet.
His voice was a deep rumble like the ogres in my head.

I was so afraid of him that once I puked into my desk,
rather than to risk his wrath and ask for permission to go to the rest room.
He felt badly about that and seemed startled when he asked me why
and I admitted 
"I was too scared to ask.".
Mr Stinky cracked a yardstick over our knuckles.
As a compulsive talker, 
I'd been successfully silenced by that stick.
Who knew what would happen if I broke his rule about not asking to go to the john?

We piled in from lunch and recess and fell into our desks.
Our eyes turned to the blackboard... which really was black back then.
Mr. Stinky's precise printing, 
larger than usual, and underlined for effect proclaimed
"Class Christmas Party" at the top left side.
Our names were entered below this heading with an ominous dash-

As soon as the final bell rang,
Mr. Stinky rumbled out his orders;
Yes, we would be having a class Christmas party.
Each of us was expected to do three things:
Bring a goodie to share with the class.
Yay! Yay!
Each of us would bring a small gift to exchange.
Yay! Yay! Yay!
Our final task was to decide right then and there...
something we could do in a class talent show at the party.
Oh crap.

Silence departed for a moment as children began to murmur about what they might want to do.
Mr. Stinky slapped his yardstick on the front desk...
and I jumped in my seat while clapping a hand over my mouth.
I felt his eyes fall on me...
which was never a good thing.
"Lets begin with you." he barked,
putting me on the spot.
I had to think fast,
but was woefully unaware of any "talent" that I possessed.

When I failed to immediately come up with an act...
Mr. Stinky did my thinking for me.
"Come on now... You're in the choir.
Give me the name of a song you can sing."

It was true that I was in the choir.
That had nothing to do with any ability to sing.
I was "hired" because my voice was loud enough to be heard 
at the rear of the auditorium.
I couldn't have carried a tune to save my soul.
The only solo my wise music teacher gave me was a talking part.
Kids around me began to snicker.
Mr. Stinky slapped the board with his yardstick and silence fell.
"I know you know a Christmas Carol." he said in warning.

"White Christmas!" was what jumped out of my mouth,
though I was not certain I had said it.
I could not have thought of a more unfortunate choice.
I didn't even know all the words to White Christmas!
Why hadn't I said Jingle Bells...
that had a simple tune and words....
a short song...
where I could have yelled "Hey!" and used my real talent to be loud?

I knew that I had made a dreadful mistake as 
Mr. Stinky wrote the song next to my name.
I paid little attention to the suffering of my classmates as they offered up their talent choices.
All I could think about was how much I did not want to stand in front of the class and prove my lack of talent...
and how I could manage to get out of doing it.

By the time I got home,
I thought I had it all figured out.
"Mom... can I stay home the last day of class?
All we're going to do is have a party."
My mother looked up from some pants she was mending.
"I want to stay home and help you."
I added cleverly.
She gave me that look down her nose from above her glasses, mid stitch.

I tried collapsing like a rag doll into my dad's chair.
She kept sewing.
I tried my biggest and best sigh.
She kept sewing and said
"Go get out of your good clothes."
Conversation over.
I laid my mimeographed paper explaining our class party objectives on the table and mumbled my way upstairs.

I had two and a half weeks to prepare.
I did work up some enthusiasm for buying the present I would take to give.
A plastic gray horse from the .88 cent store.
I enjoyed wrapping it and imagining how thrilled my recipient would be to get such a marvel.
I even made a little card out of wrapping scraps to match,
and signed it
"From your Secret Santa".

But practicing my song was something I put out of my mind.
The new plan was to get sick.
I opened the window at night, hoping the chill would do it.
I splashed in every puddle I saw and walked without an umbrella.
When the fatal morning arrived...
and no sickness had descended...
I ate two pickled beets!
Even they refused to come back up.

"There is nothing wrong with you, little girl."
Mother said as she read the thermometer.
"Go right now and get dressed!"
When I managed to take too long,
she thwarted me again by driving me to school.

I walked into class, cookies clutched in my hand
and deposited them on the table with the other food offerings,
then slunk to my seat to await my doom.

Or maybe one of the earth quakes would happen
instead of the drills and we'd all hide under our desks until it was time to go home.

After lunch Mr. Stinky was waiting for us.
All the goodies were spread out around our class tree on a table next to his desk.
One by one all the other students were called upon to entertain us.
Ropehead Smith read one of her great Terry The Tulip stories.
Jan twirled her batons.
Terry L.R. (The Tulip) showed off his match box cars....
almost endlessly, giving me false hope.
I looked at the clock.

"Ok, class, we have just one more... Becky 2"
(There was also Rebbecca 1, Rebecca 2, and a Becky 1 to avoid confusion.)
I sat there stunned that cruelty loved me so!
Mr. Stinky tapped the board with his yardstick.
I compelled my feet to walk and took my place next to his desk.
The clock said I had exactly 4 minutes to perform.
Mr. Stinky made an encouraging wave with his hand.
I took a shaky breath...
closed my eyes and began to croak...
"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
just like the ones I used to know..."
giggle, giggle, giggle
Mr. Stinky nodded at me to continue.
"Where the tree tops glisten and children listen..."
My voice had a tremor that would have registered on the Richter Scale.
I warbled onward.
"to hearrrr sleigh bells in the snnnoooow..."

I stopped singing.
"I forgot the words..." I said in horror.

But had I ever known the words?
Holy crap!
I should have learned the words!
I felt genuinely ill.

It would have been nice if Mr.Stinky had let me off the hook and said
"That's ok honey, go ahead and sit down."
Instead he fed me every single word to the end of the song,
one by one,
making the entire class stay even after the bell rang.
In all honesty,
I think he felt sorry for me and wanted to help.
He gave me a nice pat on the shoulder as I left for vacation
and wished me a
"Merry Christmas".
ho ho ho

Outside, Ropehead Smith walked next to me quietly.
An unusual thing, that.
It wasn't until we were in front of my house that she said
"They'll forget about it by the time we go back."
I nodded my head and waved.
But I didn't believe that for a second.

Still... there was vacation ahead,
Santa to visit, presents to buy and wrap...
maybe there would be a miracle at the end and everyone would forget.
I wasn't going to think about it until then.
And hey, maybe I could get sick.


  1. Heh, heh. Yep... all right, I'll admit it: in first grade I peed in my seat in class for the same reason. A similar conversation was had.

    And no one made fun of me, 'cause they all would have too. Even if the teacher didn't get my logic, the class sure did.

    Bonus: I got to go home early.

  2. Cricket- Oh no!
    Well, I was in 4th grade at this point. I'd never had a male teacher before and my folks were very mild compared to Mr. Stinky. He was so scary.

    I survived and no one teased me when we went back. But I worried about it all vacation. There were plenty of other times I was teased for various things. School builds character... or a tough skin. =:)

  3. Cricket- I think the worst part of Mr.Stinky's class came when HE was the one who gave us girls the talk about what to do when you get your first period. I think he was easily more uncomfortable than we girls were. But no one was happy that day.

  4. That was a great story telling. Thanks!

  5. Oh, Lord. I have a horrifying memory of being forced to stand and sing solo in music class so she could assign our parts.

  6. 3GirlKinght- Thank you!
    billy pilgrim- Yep. Merry Christmas!
    secret agent woman- School was full of horrifying experiences for me. Fortunately, I can look back and laugh at them now.

  7. I still can't believe I once got up on front of people and sang, with a friend. And now I blanked on the name of the song. At least it was two of us.