Please be nice to Mary

Be careful about making accusations in front of a third grade girl.

Ms. Holloway was my third grade teacher. Will Burton swore he saw a pint bottle of Jack Daniels in her desk drawer. Although he may have been making it up to have a good story to tell, alcohol abuse would explain why we learned nothing in her class. Let’s see, I remember planting Impatients outside near the playground. I organized stacks of National Geographics from the 60s and 70s. Apparently, I had earned these “privileges.”

I remember playing Number Munchers on the Tandy computers in the classroom even after Ms. Holloway started teaching. My best friend Hunter and I were finally back in the same homeroom, and we both had to go to the principal’s office after making a disparaging remark about Chris, the new kid. He and Ryan Schmidt got into a wrestling fight on the kickball field, and even though Ryan ate his boogers and had hands so dry that his skin cracked and bled, we were rooting for him. At one point Ryan seemed to have the upper hand, and to encourage him further, we yelled at Chris, “Yeah, take that fat boy!”

Well, Chris passed on our little moniker to the principal. We were summoned, and in an effort to illustrate the gravity of the situation, she asked how we would like to be called “String Bean.” I, for one, could have cared less if someone called me a “String Bean.” This insult lacked that special zing important to verbal warfare at W.P. Scales Elementary. Hunter and I laughed all the way back to class. In retrospect, I don’t think we were very nice children.

At the Christmas party put on by the room mother, my nose bled into a bowl of M&Ms while I was filling my plate with food. When I got back from the bathroom, the bowl was in the same place, but all the candy was gone. For years, I believed that all my classmates filled their unsuspecting bellies with my blood.

Who knows. Maybe the room mother saw everything and threw out the M&Ms.

Ms. Holloway needed all the help she could get. She asked me to be in charge of the computers. I was home sick one day, and my mom got a call. Who was it? Ms. Holloway asking if my mom would bring me in for just a few minutes because she didn’t know how to turn on the computers and she needed them for class that day.

She would disappear from class for inexplicable reasons and would sometimes ask me to read the answers to the previous night’s math homework. I would sit on the front of her desk and swing my legs while I ran a finger down the page of her teacher’s edition.

One day, I left class to go to the bathroom. When I got back, I noticed that a boy on the opposite of the room from me was using my pencil. Why would he take it?

I was having none of it.

I walked right up behind him and demanded, “Give me back my pencil.”

“It’s not yours,” he said.

”Yes, it is. Give it back.”

Mary, who was sitting to this boy’s right, took my side. “Give him back his pencil.”

[Thank you, Mary.]

“It’s not his, it’s mine. Leave me alone.”

He then turned his attention back to me, which was a mistake because, seizing her opportunity, Mary grabbed the pencil in question, raised it above her head, and drove it point first through his t-shirt into the muscle on his right shoulder. It stuck there like an arrow.

The boy screamed bloody murder, all heads snapped our direction, and Ms. Holloway waddled over.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that except that the guidance counselor came and took Mary and the boy to her office. Somehow, I was forgotten in the fracas and simply walked back to my desk.

Lo and behold, my pencil—which, to my credit, did look exactly like the one the other boy was using—was on my desk where I left it. All that for nothing. A case of mistaken identity. Happens all the time, right?

The guidance counselor came back for me later in the day. She asked me what happened, and I told her the truth. I thought that he had taken my pencil because we were using the same kind. I was mistaken. Mary stabbed him.

“About that…,” the guidance counselor said, “Apparently, Mary has a little crush on you. I only tell you that because it helps explain why she felt defensive and wanted to protect you. So please be nice to Mary.”

She sent me back to class, and Mary reappeared a day or two later.

I never mistreated her, but I kept my distance after that. Girl was crazy.

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