I think it was maybe the first grade, but probably it was the 2nd grade. Yeah, I think it was the 2nd grade. I was already excelling at school, being one of the smart kids, I never got into trouble. I was a strict disciple of the discipline, follower of all the rules.
But one day this kid got me talking. He was one the talkative kids, one of the ones the teacher was always telling to “stop talking” or “be quiet” or “class! Quiet!” over and over again. I guess that was a noisy class that year. I was definitely not one of those kids that talked though, no way. Teacher had my full attention. 2nd grade teacher… Miss F(?)... I don’t remember. Seems like there was an F in it. School was great, I thought. Learning was easy. And they don’t want us to talk, they want us to listen, so that’s what I did.
Except for this time. This kid sits next to me that day and he gets me talking. I just get caught up in the moment, taken away in the flow of the conversation. I’ve never felt this rush before, this has never happened to me. I can’t stop talking to this kid about whatever it was that we couldn’t stop talking to each other about. Evil Knievel or some shit, who fucking knows?
And then it happens. I’m in trouble. After I wantonly ignore the repeated warnings and threats of dire punishment, I’m in trouble for not being able to stop talking to this kid next to me. Miss F(?)’s punishment? Sentences. Our sentence was to write sentences. For me, I received a sanction of 10 sentences. The talking kid got it much worse - 50, as a repeat offender.
When I got home I pretty much told my mom immediately. Honestly, I said it with a little joy, that I had been in trouble. The initial stirring of the “feels good to be a bad boy”. I got in trouble at school! Just like those kids she always seemed worried about me becoming, and that I should not, and that I should be a good boy and follow the rules. I wasn’t sure I was capable, but this day, this day I had gotten into trouble at school. Alright, well, I better serve my suspension dutifully, and be quick about it. She stationed me at the dining table. No, I actually I just went there. I was a weird kid. I liked to sit there and do my homework. Important people had to sit at the dining table and work there, I had seen my dad do it, and he was for sure an important guy. So I sat down, the television was so far away it was really difficult to follow along the storyline of that episode of Gilligan’s Island or whatever it was.
So I got to work on my sentence sentencing. How hard could it be to write 10 sentences? I figured they should be good sentences. I wanted first to write funny sentences, so maybe Miss F(?) might even think they were funny enough to read aloud to the rest of the class. I would turn this punishment into a victory! Oh yeah, good sentences were flowing out of my pencil and onto the paper. Five sentences, six sentences, then I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and this assignment being put behind me.
Then my brain freezes. I struggle, fighting the demons of writer’s block, 8 year old kid-style. One by one, I pull out of the ether the remaining sentences and finish the 10th one my crowning achievement. Mission accomplished. I had committed the crime of being interested in something during school which was not what the teacher was presenting to me at that very moment to be interested in. I had stepped fully out of line. But now, now I was buying my way back into the good graces. Elegantly dropping the full force of my creative genius on Miss F(?) like a literary savant.
I got to class, and out of my bad boy sense of camaraderie I went and sat down next to the talkative kid. He almost got me talking again too much too. Sneaky talkative bastard.
“Did you get your sentences done?” I ask out of genuine sheer concern that my new talking friend not get into more complications. “Yeah, no problem.” He brushed it off nonchalantly, not caring, or, as adult me might describe 40 some years later, as not giving a fuck.
And then that’s when I got a glimpse of his paper, his sentences of sentence. They read:
I will not talk in class
I will not talk in class
I will not talk in class
Etc etc and on and on. 50 times total
Here I had thought that the teacher had given me a challenging, strenuous, complex and innovative solution for me to fulfill my penance for making the heinous violation of talking to someone in class while the teacher was trying to talk. Nope. All along, the sentence had already been mapped out for me, already pre-planned and ready for download to be programmed in. We’re all good little robots, aren’t we?
I scribbled out my 10 “new” sentences in about the 30 seconds it took Miss F(?) to reach our table and collect our pencil lead prostrations.
I usually didn’t talk much in class after that. Not because I was really afraid of having to write the sentences though.