Sometimes the kids don’t like a teacher.
Sometimes a teacher doesn’t like the kids.
That could be. . . awkward.
So I knew I shouldn’t do it. You get that feeling sometimes—you just know it’s a mistake to do something and then you go ahead and do it anyway, and of course you were right, and it was wrong, and it ends up just like it should, with you embarrassed or humiliated or in deep shit with someone or hurt or some such crap. And you don’t even feel that upset because you knew that was how it was going to end up when you did it. That’s just the way it works.
And it really isn’t that bad to be humiliated. Hell, I’m in middle school—humiliation is a daily way of life. You learn to deal with it. You trip and your books fly out of your hands just when you want to look cool; you spring a boner just before you’re called up to the blackboard; you get bumped in the cafeteria just when you’ve got your head leaning way back and are you’re about to drink the last of the chocolate milk in the carton and are wearing a white tee shirt; you forget your jock strap and the coach has to know why in front of the whole gym class and you don’t want to say your mother forgot to throw it in the dryer but he keeps talking about it and everyone ends up staring at your crotch thinking there’s nothing under your thin gym shorts but you; you get an F on the math quiz because you were thinking about how to avoid the jerk in your science class who told you he was going to break your arm in three places when he saw you today and maybe drop you out the window to boot, so you weren’t paying a whole lot of attention to the problem and who cares anyway? But Mrs. Graedon has to call the names of everyone who got F’s and it was only you and Jesse and Jesse always gets F’s but you don’t, and she asks you, standing in front of the class in that haughty sort of way she always does, in that very condescending voice that rubs like sandpaper on fresh sunburn, if you’d like her to arrange a tutor for you and, well, yeah, you know about humiliation. You and every other teenager.
But, even knowing about it, and knowing you shouldn’t do it, you’d had to open your mouth. You’d had to get involved even though it was Brad Decker, only the coolest kid in the whole damned school and certainly not someone who’d even know who you are and what in the world were you thinking, speaking up at a time like that? You knew, you knew, you should just sit there. With your mouth closed. But when Mrs. Graedon decided humiliating you wasn’t enough to get her jollies for today, and started in on Brad, and you could tell it was getting to him, with him being a cool kid and not really used to being humiliated, being perfect and all, and he was biting his tongue and turning red, well, then you started feeling a little sorry for him and what in the world were you thinking, feeling sorry for BRAD DECKER???
It was painful how it went. First, she asks me if I need a tutor. “Danny,” she says in that really nice, oh-you-poor-little-boy tone she uses when she’s trying to piss me off or embarrass me, that voice with an edge to it that says she’s so superior to me that the only reason she’d even talk to me is that she’s trying to do her part to help the needy, “Danny, do you want me to assign you a tutor? Someone who can make you understand this really easy algebra better than I can? I have some little 7th graders next period and I’m sure one of them can work with you. Would you like me to ask one of them? Danny?”
She pauses, staring at me, and I stare back. She can tell I am not going to answer, so that’s when she starts speaking again, an evil smirk added in with her childish inflection—she’s enjoying the crap out of this—talking to Brad.
“Brad, you got a D, and since that’s not unusual for you, you always get D’s, why don’t I see if that 7th grader could work with you, too?
“Danny was just being lazy, just like he sometimes is. You’re not lazy, just not very bright. You could do with a regular tutor. I think I’ll arrange one for you. Would you prefer a little boy or a little girl 7th grader?”
So that’s when I had to do it. That’s when I had to open my mouth, when I knew full well that it was a mistake with a capital M, I went ahead anyway. I went ahead because Brad was getting seriously upset and I was pissed at her anyway and what was my father going to say about an F in math, he’d be disappointed in me and, awww, fuck it.
“Mrs. Graedon,” I heard myself saying, “I think both Brad and I would just love to see if one of your 7th graders could show us how to do advanced 8th grade algebra. Since you obviously can’t teach us how to do it any better than where we end up with D’s and F’s, I can’t imagine one of them knowing how to do it either, especially as they’re in your class.”
Mrs. Graedon marched right over to my desk, much more quickly than I thought an 85-year-old fat lady could march (well, she looked that old to me, what with that graying mustache she seemed to have and the wrinkles in her face, and she was way too heavy), leaned down to me with glaring eyes, a red face and spittle on her lips. Then here came this huge noise, and I think I heard a word. “Detention!” I think that was the word I heard. It was so loud, and screamed right in my ear, that the buzzing was a little disorienting, but I’m sure that was the word. It was the next three words, however, that shook me up more than her bellow. Those words were, “Both of you!”
Oh shit, I thought, what did I do now?
I wasn’t the only one with a question. “What?” screamed Brad. “Why me, I didn’t pop off like Danny did. Besides, I’ve got basketball practice after school. I can’t go to detention.”
“You laughed,” explained Mrs. Graedon, visibly pleased with herself and with Brad’s reaction. “You will go to detention. Today!”
“But everyone else laughed, too,” said a shocked and now bright red Brad. “Besides, there’s no way today. I can’t. I’ve got practice and then a dentist appointment. My mom is picking me up. I can’t.”
“You should think about things like that before laughing at your teacher. Detention tonight, and now, since you think it’s your right to argue with me, tomorrow night, too. That will give you lots of time to think about your unruly behavior and how you can improve your general deportment. And since you’re stuck there two nights, it’s only fair that Danny be there too, to commiserate with you.” She grinned her evil grin as she turned to look at me, and added, “Both nights.”
Mrs. Graedon and I don’t much like each other.
Brad shot a truly murderous glare at me. Well, he may not have known me before (although he did know my name; that surprised me) but he sure knew me now. Not good, not good at all.
After class, Brad headed up to talk to Mrs. Graedon while I unobtrusively tried to leave the class. I overheard Brad repeating, “But everyone laughed.”
“But everyone else didn’t get a D,” retorted Mrs. Graedon smugly. I was going to go back to point out that that was a total non sequitur, but decided, belatedly, that maybe that sparkling insight wouldn’t change her mind and that I’d done enough damage for one day and that I should do what I should have done earlier: just put a sock in it.
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