From time to time our teachers would get sick and we occasionally thought that it was not often enough. On those rare and wondrous days we would be blessed with a substitute teacher. Sometimes it was one of our moms, but most often it was someone that none of us knew and it was then that the adventures would brew. Each of us had our particular skill that we would try out with a new substitute.
Allen’s forte was Geography. Boy could he come up with intelligent sounding dumb questions!
“Miss Laird,” (Miss Lard, to us) he would drawl, “How can the Nile River run up hill?”
“Don’t be silly, Allen. No river in the world can run up hill.”
“That’s what I thought, too,” he would return, “But just look at this wall map” tracing the river with his dirty fingernail, “The river goes from the middle of Africa straight
UP to the Mediterranean Sea.”
Amid a chorus of agreements and statements of doubt there would be a long pause and a rustling of papers while she pondered the significance of water running up the map. No matter how intelligent her explanations, he could play dumber. It seemed to him to be great sport.
Freddy’s strength was dates. He had the uncanny knack of knowing what day of the week any date of the year fell on and because he still didn’t know his multiplication facts he loved to show off this skill during Math class. For a new substitute he could easily waste the whole class period exhibiting this “talent.”
“What is your birth date, Miss Laird?”
“July 4, 1931,” she answered.
“Your mamma was really busy that Saturday, wasn’t she?”
And so our fun with substitutes would continue. Some of those days there would be almost nothing worthwhile accomplished except lunch, and recesses.
One Friday in late September Pinky sat brooding, chin on hand, gazing out the classroom windows.
The room was stuffy. The children’s voices and whispers, as they studied intently, blended into a monotone.
Miss Lard, the substitute teacher was intent on some detail at her desk.
Lenny poked my elbow and pointed at Pinky. We grinned at each other, for it had been at least 25 minutes since we came in from morning recess. Math class had convened, problems explained, examples worked at the chalkboard, and assignments given.
Pinky had withdrawn his paper from somewhere in the recesses that messy jumble of a desk and placed it there before him. Then he had looked out the window and died, still holding a pencil in one hand.
That’s right, for all intents and purposes he had died! Except for his eyelids slamming shut in slow motion occasionally, he hadn’t
moved in nearly 20 minutes! We knew he wasn’t dreaming of girls, because he didn’t have a silly grin on his face.
Sometime before lunch he “came to” when Miss “Lard” gripped his shoulder and informed him that it was his turn to read for Reading Class.
“Why don’t you have your book out?” she queried as he winced under the pain of her vice-like grip.
“What have you been doing here?” she demanded.
We all broke out in spasms of laughter, and she glowered around the room at us, bringing silence.
“Joseph Pinkerton,” (boy, he hated to be called Joseph) she growled, “Take out your Reader and turn over to page 179. As Lenny begins reading, find his place.
Raise your hand when you have found it,” she finished as she marched back to her desk.
“You may begin Lenny,” she said with a flourish.
Anger flushed Pink’s face. He hated to follow Lenny at anything.
I guess that all started in about the 2nd grade when the teacher thought that perhaps Lenny was too smart to be in our grade. She had called in the Educational Superintendent to test him. Not wanting the rest of the kids to know what was going on, I guess, she had picked Pinky and me to be tested, also.
Both of us had scored only slightly lower than Lenny, but he was permitted to skip the rest of the 2nd grade. But the crazy part, was why Lenny still got to read with our group three years later!
He in fact, got to read with all four grades in this room, but he only had to do the reading workbook for the grade ahead of us. Grownups sure had funny ways of doing things. That had sort of stuck in Pinky’s “craw.”
“Joseph! Joseph, where are you going?” I was jerked out of my reverie by the rasping voice of Miss “Lard”.
“Well, you told me to take out my Reader,” said Pinky with a deadpan look, “So, I was taking it outside.”
“Shut the door. Get back to your seat, and don’t be such a smart-aleck, or I must send you into the Principal. Now turn over in your reader to page 179!” She hissed between tight teeth.
This time we were giggling a little quieter behind our books. Miss “Lard” was standing on the very edge of her patience, balanced as it were, over the abyss of the unknown. We all somehow sensed it. Most of us wanted to push her over the brink just to see what would happen, but none of us quite had the nerve, nor did we want to be the brunt of her anger.
Before Pinky had reached his seat she ordered, “Please continue, Lenny!” Her eyes had dropped to her book to follow Lenny’s reading, but I was engrossed in what Pinky was up to. He had quietly dropped to the aisle and was rolling back and forth across his book. Several of the girls started giggling and pulled their feet back under their desks.
I could hardly believe my eyes; Pinky was nudging her toward the brink! Not defiantly, but pushing all the same! Golly, he was brave!
I couldn’t resist flashing him a grin of admiration. I noticed that several girls looked about ready to swoon over his act of bravery.
Their giggles were like saying “Sic’em” to Buster the dog.
Miss “Lard” looked up at the commotion. Seeing Pinky goofing off again so soon, she turned positively livid. Springing up from her chair, she fairly flew across the room. All eyes riveted upon that huge body moving so gracefully that she seemed not to touch the floor at all, but was being propelled by her wrath alone. I’m sure no one realized that she was capable of such speed and agility.
The look on Pinky’s face could only be described as pure terror as he caught sight of that nightmare baring down on him.
Reaching down with outstretched fingers, she plucked Pinky from the
floor as easily as Mom would pick up my dirty socks. Pinky seemed to float horizontally through the air as she carried him by the nape of the neck in a mad dash for the door.
For weeks Pinky was the reluctant hero, the one who pushed a teacher over the brink of tolerance. He had taken our daydreams and wove them into the reality of a genuine nightmare, and we were all the wiser for it.
Without a doubt she had gotten our attention for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until the end of the day that we found out what happened to Pinky. But, by the next morning his three swats on the rear had developed into a beating that would do justice for the valiant deed he had done.
It was two days before we saw Pinky in the classroom again. He had been suspended, and Miss Lard had gone back to doing whatever substitute teachers do when not at school. We guessed that to be eating and reading, in that order.