A Recollection of Grade Five
Miss Cyril, the Grade Five teacher at Harmony Public School, knew even before the school year started that Andy Crowley was going to sit in the front row. She knew his type. The black and white rock and roll shirt told her a lot. His hair, like a girl’s, parted, feathered, and down to the shoulders said it all. Called by the Lord to be a shepherd of children, she knew she had to watch this one. In preparation, she had observed him methodically during yard duty the year before.
She would manage him, but she held out little hope she could bring him to grace. He was a worst-case-scenario — a daydreamer and a rock music enthusiast. He even played the Satanic Dungeons & Dragons game older children played now. He was a clever child, to be sure. Such a shame.
Then there was the clincher: a broken home. With only two years left until retirement, she had seen enough of those. A doomed life for the boy, certainly; damnation for eternity was a virtual guarantee.
She would not waste her prayers on the salvation of Andy Crowley. No. She would pray for the strength to maintain her composure in the face of his insolence. And she would pray that his wayward inclinations would not infect the other children: that the grim draw of his godless passions would not sway them from gift of God’s grace.
Miss Cyril didn’t know her powder blue pantsuit was covered in chalk. Andy was sure she thought she looked like Nancy Reagan. She didn’t. For just a moment, he was a little sad for her. The smell from the black marker she held was giving him a headache. The hand she held it in shook over the giant get well card the class was making for U.S. President Ronald Reagan. He had been shot by John Hinkley Jr. yesterday.
The class had been asked to come up with things they were thankful President Reagan had done and Miss Cyril was not satisfied with what they had come up with so far. Having been on the receiving end of her self-righteous indignation more times than he could count, Andy knew when she was edging toward something bad. Right now she was showing early indications of going full Soviet MR-UR-100 Sotka.
He mulled taking the hit for his classmates and squirmed in his seat at the thought. Even at this, the slightest of movements, Cyril’s gaze snapped onto him like an owl’s onto a rabbit under a full moon.
Andy didn’t hate Sea-hag Cyril. He’d lost his mother to Jesus, he knew the type well. He pitied her: another victim of this culture’s fixation with ego. He often pondered the irony of her profound capacity for cruelty being the product of her desperation to be seen by others as loving and good.
Zoxathotho a oo’ee Zozazoth, he focused the Hermetic mantra in his mind to give him courage to put up his hand. He didn’t really want to go out into the hall today. At this time of year it smelled like Cougar boots and wet feet. But… Oh well.. what the Hell, man.
His hand went up. It was contorted into the Bhramara mudra for whatever protection that would offer him.
“Yes Andy,” Cyril’s forced smile looked as though it might shatter her petrified prune of a face. “Which of President Reagan’s accomplishments are you thankful for?” She couldn’t hide her skepticism in her asking of the question.
Andy’s eye’s looked at the giant Bristol board card propped up on the ledge of the blackboard.
Thank you for securing the release of the Iranian hostages.
Thank you for the War on Drugs.
Were the only things written there.
“Thank you Ronald Reagan –, ” he said it in a statesmanlike tone before stopping to ponder for a moment. He hadn’t completely thought this through.” — for proving demonstrably the inefficacy of trickle-down economics, and the lunacy of a working class electorate bestowing the presidency upon a sycophant of the corporate oligarchy.”
Miss Cyril looked perplexed for a moment. Andy knew she had not really understood what he had said, but he could tell from the rage vibrating into her to be prepared to protect his face.
Then Miss Cyril lunged for the bible on her desk and threw it.
As he had done so many times before, Andy collected the good book, which had bounced off his arms to land splayed on the floor, and dragged his desk out the classroom door into the hallway. Deb Holcroft was smiling at him through the door of the Grade Six classroom across the hall. She sat in the front row too. Unlike him though, she was the kind of person who chose to sit there.
He made a big show of pompously reading Miss Cyril’s bible. This always made Deb smile. Deb Holcroft was Andy’s next-door neighbour, and she had known him longer than anyone else.
She knew that Andy’s mother had given him a bible for his sixth birthday and that she had made him read it all the way through before his seventh. She also knew, he had read the Quran, the Tao Te Ching, the Upanishads, the Corpus Hermeticum and everything by Plato that year as well.
“Just to be fair,” he had told her. That was his reason he had sequestered himself away to read perspectives beyond his bible’s. But looking back now, Deb thought it might have been something else.
Just to be fair.