The Day I Pretended to be Bad

Friday afternoon stretched endlessly in Mrs. Lott’s third-grade class. Flies droned on the window sills. I watched the secondhand tick past the minute hand, and I squinted my eyes trying to catch the hour hand move. I had already written each spelling word five times each. And now I was copying page after page of math problems from the textbook onto my paper, solving the same kinds of calculations over and over again.

Still, I tried to be good. My parents wanted me to follow the rules. And besides, Mrs. Lott had an end-of-class ritual. Each day when the closing bell rang, she stood in her doorway with a paddle in one hand and a dish of M & M’s in her other hand. Every kid left her room with a swat from the paddle or a good pill from the candy dish. Some kids, like Judy Hadley, who sat across the aisle from me, got the paddle every day.

Even so, I envied Judy. Her afternoon had been far livelier than mine. Having just shopped at the Judd Road party store, she had munched through a box of Lemonhead candy and was now chomping on a mouthful of Bazooka gum while she surreptitiously parceled out hot cinnamon toothpicks to her friends. When Mrs. Lott wrote on the chalkboard, Judy talked and passed notes. And she created a mess in the aisle by stuffing so many papers into one side of the book box under her seat that they fell out the other side.

I was watching her use the tip of her scissors to etch a design on the back of her math book, when I got an idea. I could liven up my afternoon by pretending to be bad. I didn’t really chew gum, but I moved my mouth like I did. I didn’t carve a design on the back of my book. But I sketched one with a pencil and then erased it. I didn’t actually talk to Frank Adkins, who sat behind me. But I turned around and pretended I did. I began to see why Judy was bad. Being bad made the end of school come faster.

The dismissal bell rang. That’s when I remembered the good pills and the paddle. I could hardly breathe. When I stood up, I thought I would fall down. Somehow, I got to the door. For a terrible moment, Mrs. Lott looked at me.

“For the first time,” she said. “I’m not sure what to do with you.”

I waited.

Then she gave me a good pill.

I was never bad for Mrs. Lott again.

(For more stories like this, read my memoir—Yoder School.)

One Reply to “The Day I Pretended to be Bad”

  1. I found myself in your story, looking through the child’s eyes. Your story telling took me on a journey. Thank you for your share. I miss teaching along side of you. Keep writing my friend. ❤️


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