The second time I went through the fifth grade I took an orchestra class. I was really into the Bach Cello Suites by Yo-Yo Ma so it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. My real goal was to collect enough new skills to convert into money or whatever so I didn’t have to have a day job. I certainly wasn’t learning much from the school, which unfortunately found itself in a backward little town of 37,000 in far west Texas. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but then a lot of it was out of my hands at that point.
Late in the school year, as Spring was just beginning to hint at the next season (what I liked to call “hell”), everyone was restless. Teachers, students, janitors, lunch man, everybody wanted out. I found myself near the end of the day standing at the front of the cafeteria stage with a stack of folders raised high, aiming for the large gray pouf of hair of the so-called teacher sitting in front, but facing away, of me. Various eyes went wide, mouths opened. Got a few chuckles, an outright laugh, not great. I pulled a faux-menacing face just at the exact moment that CORNELIUS!!@# rang through the cafeteria. I immediately dropped my arms, turned as ooos slowly rose up like a fright of ghosts in a Halloween special. The principal, with whom I like to think I had a passing decent relationship , had sidled in unannounced and silent. Come here this instant. Trademarked sheepish grin in place, I dropped the folders on the boards and hopped down to jog over. He simply crooked a finger and walked out. I glanced back to see a puzzled look on the face attached to the pouf. I shrugged and turned to follow.
I settled into the chair with a calculated slouch as he looked at me with that face that principals have. I looked back. I wasn’t going to do it, it was just for a laugh. Tensions are running high these days you know. He sighed and shook his head disapprovingly, Do you think it’s appropriate to even joke like you’re going to hit a teacher? The disappointment in his voice, the inflection, oh. The guilt. It was three empty folders and all the music had been passed out and besides, she has the padding. It would have been like a stiff breeze regardless, I wasn’t gonna to do it. Whether or not you were gonna do it is not at issue here, Mr. Cornelius. We do not live in a society where there is any place for threatening violence, to anybody especially not your teacher whom you should have respect for! I sometimes wondered if he had ever done any acting, he had a pretty decent range. As he went on I checked out to concoct a backstory: domineering mother, milquetoasty father, pushing him into engineering or something when he just wants the stage, the adoration of crowds, the shared dressing rooms. Twenty years later, his dreams forgotten or repressed. Poor guy. What do you have to say for yourself? Brought me back to the moment, which made me raise the eyebrow. I’m not sure what more I could say, frankly I think you’re overreacting. What punishment do you believe is appropriate? None, there was no malice aforethought and no ultimate intent to harm, let’s forget it. Shaking his head, shall I get your parents on the phone? How do you think they’d react? I was getting a little tired of all this, my sympathy evaporating. Regardless of anything else I was still a ten year old bale of energy, wires crossing and wrapping around a core like a vibrating rubber band ball. I daresay they’ll find you’re being quite trivial and would likely be rather annoyed at your intrusion into whatever they find themselves up to at this hour. He squinted his eyes and (I think?) clucked. He made some sound and his jaw moved, Let’s just see then, and reached for the phone. I gave my eyebrows a lift and settled my face into my palm. I liked the fourth-grade principal much better, we had a great relationship. She took me to get ice cream once. This one began to swivel and mid-swivel said, Yes hello Mr Cornelius this is Mr. Smith at Parker.. yes, fine thank you. I’m sorry for disturbing you, but we have an issue with your son. Yes, yes, quite. Right eyebrow firmly in place as he brought father up to speed. Ha, yes, I am quite aware of that. Yes, I agree one hundred per-yes… Well thank you but. Yes, absolutely. He listened intently for at least thirty seconds, looked at me from beneath dark, hooded brows. I shrugged my tried to warn you shoulders at him. Of course, thank you for you time he said, and slowly returned the receiver. Where will you be next year? as he scratched the pad in front of him. Pease, I said. He nodded slowly as he finished and handed me the pass. Could you please try to be more considerate in the future? Absolutely I said as I smiled warmly. Take care now, and turned to leave.