Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared Sept. 16, 2016.
I’m going to bring the reminisces on my school days to a close with the fifth grade.
There are a lot more stories I could tell of my misadventures in the classroom. But, my memories from fifth grade are really some of the last that don’t involve a lot of cussing, chicanery and a lot of devious mischief.
Back in those days, you went to school and they told you where to go for class. I don’t remember ever having an orientation or anything. So, I showed up and learned that I was in Mrs. Grant’s class.
Mrs. Grant was an older, heavy-set black lady. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that she was old school. Thankfully, somebody else was dumb enough to test Mrs. Grant before me.
I had been in the same teacher’s class as Anthony before. He ended up getting a paddling about as often as I did. But, Mrs. Grant came up with something new.
Mrs. Grant had the “Death Walk.”
I’m not really sure what Anthony did to get the Death Walk. As usual, I wasn’t paying attention. All of sudden Mrs. Grant snatched him up out of the desk and slammed him against the wall. She made him put his hands on the wall and spread his feet apart — it pretty much looked like he was standing up against the wall like he was being arrested.
Anthony was standing there looking over his shoulder with a confused look on his face. Mrs. Grant proceeded to pull out some kind of paddle. It was something I’d never seen before.
It looked like some kind of fan belt that had a wooden handle on it. It was about a foot long and four or five inches wide. She’d duct taped a wooden handle to it. She smacked it over her palm a few times and told Anthony to go to the bathroom and stand against the wall in the same pose and she was going to come paddle him.
Well, Anthony took off to the bathroom and about 15 minutes later Mrs. Grant went and paddled him. I knew Mrs. Grant was laying down the gauntlet when I could hear Anthony hollering from the bathroom.
I decided I needed to mind my P’s and Q’s for the next few days. I didn’t want to have to stand against the wall for 15 minutes waiting to get whacked by a fan belt. But, I learned the Death Walk wasn’t as bad as it sounded.
A couple of days later, Anthony brought a drinking straw back from lunch and was shooting spitballs at some other kids every time Mrs. Grant turned her back. She eventually caught him and gave him the “Airplane.”
Mrs. Grant picked him up by the belt and grabbed him by the neck of the shirt. She spun him in a circle, flipped him over like a cartwheel and shoved him out of the window. Well, Anthony got stuck halfway through the window. So, Mrs. Grant went outside and pulled him the rest of the way out of the window and made him sit in the hot sun for an hour or so.
Even though Mrs. Grant was pretty mean, I kind of enjoyed her class. She had this big shelf of books and she would let you check them out like you were going to the library. When you got done with your work you could read the book in class and you could take it home.
Well, one week I had been reading Aesop’s Fables. But, I got the new Boy Scouts of America Handbook. I took it to school and when I finished whatever I was supposed to be doing, I pulled out the BSA Handbook and started reading it instead of Aesop’s Fables.
Apparently the BSA Handbook wasn’t on Mrs. Grant’s approved reading list. She snatched it out of my hand and shoved it in her desk drawer. At the end of the day I asked her if I could have my book back and she told me I could have it at the end of the year.
Well, that ticked me off.
So, I took Aesop’s Fables home and put it in a plastic bag. Then I took the bag out to where I blew up all the little green army men with firecrackers and buried it.
The next day I picked up the gauntlet with Mrs. Grant and told her she could have Aesop’s Fables back when I got my BSA Handbook back. Well, I got the Death Walk. After that, Mrs. Grant told me that every day I didn’t bring back Aesop’s Fables I’d get another death walk.
So, I told her every day I got the death walk Aesop’s Fables was rotting in a hole in the ground. I’d learned about bartering in the first grade. So, I thought Mrs. Grant had something I wanted and I had something she wanted. So, I figured we could work out a deal.
Well, word got out that I was holding Mrs. Grant’s book hostage. Even the school secretary knew about it. Somehow, word got to my mother and she showed up at school to put an end to it.
She drug me home and made me dig up the book. Then, she took me back to school and made me and Mrs. Grant trade books. That was the highlight of my fifth grade year and also when I learned about third party negotiators.