It was in the fall of 1963, when three students stood ahead of me in line at the water fountain. One of them, George, was sounding off as usual.
‘Sh-h-h! Mrs. Brown will hear you,’ I said.
George sneered at me. “Your shoes are ugly, just like you!”
‘Oh, man! I hope he gets it!’ And, he did!
WHACK! Mrs. Brown had swung the paddle and growled, “I said no talking in line.”
“Ouch!” cried George, rubbing his backside.
I glanced down at my white, plastic shoes, and had to admit George was right! They were ugly. My shoes were ripped down the side, like an open can of sardines. The pair of socks I wore gave some cushion against the hard plastic digging into my skin. Yes, indeed! Those shoes were ugly, and I had no choice, but to wear them. And having to wear them, made me feel not just ugly on the outside, but on the inside, too.
After everyone had a sip of water, we walked single file back into that old, stuffy classroom and took our seats. Mrs. Brown passed out sheets of writing paper cut in half, while saying, “It’s time to take our weekly quiz on multiplication. Make sure your name is at the top and number your paper from one to twenty.”
“Man! Another stinkin’ quiz!” I mumbled. I glanced over at Wanda, the smartest kid in class. ‘Oh, I just bet she gets another gold star on her paper! It’s not fair for anyone to be that smart! Makes it hard for the rest of us.’
Wanda, the teacher’s pet, sat behind me in a brand-new desk. No one else got a new desk, except for her! It wasn’t fair! My desk was old and squeaked whenever I had to scratch or pick up my pencil, which was constantly falling out of the pencil holder, from the beige, tile floor.
Mrs. Brown began the oral drill, as we wrote down our answers. What was that? Oh darn! I can’t remember. She’s going too fast. Oh, what’s the answer to that problem? Another ‘x’ for me!
“Pass your papers down,” commanded Mrs. Brown, collecting them.
I sat in the middle, and it was easy for me to see the other papers decorated with ’x’s like mine.
I felt a little better, because I wasn’t the only one that was dumb! As Mrs. Brown stood glancing at our papers, she clicked her tongue before saying, “It’s obvious some students aren’t studying at home. If you don’t pass mathematics, you won’t get promoted to the fourth grade.”
GULP! I really wanted to pass third grade. Now, to be perfectly honest, I did try to study at home, but it was so hard on an empty stomach. I’d have to wait, until Momma had fixed something for supper, before I could eat, and believe me, that wasn’t something to look forward to. For example, last night, Momma had us eat mustard greens and fat back. I HATE MUSTARD GREENS! Eating that stuff makes me want to barf!
Of course, Momma knew this and she’d say, “Pretend you’re eating something you like, then it won’t taste so bad.”
Now, I had a pretty good imagination, but there was no way to pretend that the horrible taste in my mouth was anything other than those NASTY MUSTARD GREENS!
After having a math lesson on fractions, everyone couldn’t wait for lunch, except me. My crumbled paper bag was between my desk and Tony’s. As I reached down to pick up that disgusting paper bag, my chair squeaked, letting everyone know exactly what I was doing, while Tony turned away, giving me the cold-shoulder treatment. It had been more than a week, since we last spoke to each other.
Tony, short for Antonio, came from Cuba. He spoke good English, probably better than I, since I rarely opened my mouth. He was mad at me and it all started with my stinky desk. One day we were talking about my desk and how the seat would pull up. When Tony said it reminded him of a toilet bowl, I let loose.
Of course, Mrs. Brown kept a firm rule about students keeping their mouths shut and their ears open, especially when she was upfront teaching. Now, here we were laughing like a pair of hyenas. Mrs. Brown called both of us to the front of the room. She asked if I had to use the restroom. I replied, “Yes, ma’am.”
I was so nervous, about to wet my panties, as I rushed to use the toilet. After I took care of my business, I thought about stuffing my panties with a thick padding of toilet paper. Then I realized Mrs. Brown would never spank me. After all, this was my first offense.
Well, I was sure wrong about that! As I opened the door and walked in, not one sound could be heard. If someone had dropped a pin on the floor, everyone would’ve heard it. Quickly, I glanced over at Tony. He had his head down and his arms were covering his face. That meant one thing and one thing only! I was definitely going to get it! Mrs. Brown had me stand in front of the class. My heart was pounding in my chest and it took everything I had at that moment, just to breathe.
“Touch your knees,” she barked.
The paddle made a crackling sound as it made its mark on my butt. My eyes began to tear up and I squeeze them as tight as I could. I dug my nails deep into the palm of my left hand, so I could feel the pain, a pain to keep from crying, as she swung the paddle two more times.
I really thought after that, I’d get teased by the others, but it never happened. Maybe, Mrs. Brown threatened them, not too, and if they did, they’d get it, too!
Oh, how, I missed Tony! He couldn’t handle the shame! Well, it was hard on me, too! Didn’t he realize I got a spanking? He acted as if it was all my fault. Well, he was just going to have to get over it! If he wasn’t going to talk to me, I may as well try to find another friend.