Now Playing: Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, by Pink Floyd. “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
Cinco de Mayo brought report cards from the boys, or at least one of them. Austin did very well. We think Garrett did, too (though I have one question – when did an 86 become a B?). Turns out he either lost his or left them at his friend Kyle’s house. But if what he told us about his marks is true, and I certainly believe it is, he also scored highly. Of course, it got me thinking about the great excuses for forgetting homework/report cards, etc. Like the dog ate it.
Which got me thinking about why cats are better than dogs, at least in One Man’s Opinion – feller name of Arthur.
It hearkens back to my days at Cluster Springs Elementary School. I was a good student, respectful, well-liked by teachers – some might say a teacher’s pet. Until I got to seventh grade. We started changing classes and had three or four teachers a day. My problem was with Mrs. Edney. As I remember, she taught math, one of my best subjects. She wasn’t a bad teacher, and we got along pretty well until that fateful day.
That was when I committed the crime of chewing gum in class. To her credit, all she did at first was ask me to spit it out. Which I faked. Then she caught me again. And she once more asked to spit it out. I again refused. And got sent to the office.
The principal, Mr. Hudson, was a lanky, soft-spoken administrator, about as threatening as a guy whose first name was Worth could be, which is to say not at all. He asked me to write a 1,000-word composition on why I shouldn’t chew gum in class and get it signed by my parents.
Now here’s the thing. I’ve never been scared of much (someday I’ll expand on that and reveal some of my brushes with real danger). But one of the things I was scared of in this world was my mother, or more specifically, my mother’s disapproval. I knew what would happen. She would give me the “I’m very disappointed in you” speech, the one I absolutely hated.
Interlude: Clay Pigeons, by John Prine. “Go down where the people say ‘y’all,’ Sing a song with a friend, Change the shape that I’m in, And get back in the game, And start playin’ again.”
So I came up with a plan. I’d forge the signature, and nobody would know the diff. Bad plan, for three reasons. No. 1, then, as now, my handwriting sucks. No. 2, my mom’s handwriting didn’t. No. 3, my cousin, Mary Shirley (who was at least 20 years older than I was – the generations in our family were screwed up), was Mr. Hudson’s secretary, so she knew everything that had gone on and was likely to spill at the first opportunity.
Well, Worth may have had a dumb name, but he wasn’t a stupid person. He saw right through my forgery. And he deduced that I was more worried about my parents than any punishment he could come up with. So he said he was going to mail the composition and forged signature home to my folks.
I worked up another plan. I got the mail almost every day, and I’d intercept it. If Mary Shirley stayed quiet, I’d be off the hook.
So for the next few days, I made sure no one went to the mailbox but me. Saturday came. But it wasn’t just any Saturday. It was my sister’s wedding day. We had a couple of her college roommates staying with us, and there was great confusion around Casa de Murray.
Here’s the thing. Some time before the Chewing Gum Caper started, we had gotten a dog. It would be one of a succession we’d get through the years. It never worked out well, we lived on a really busy (for Halifax County, Va.) highway, and the dogs invariably would wander onto the road. I can’t even remember what any of them were named, because we never had one long enough to really get to know. As I recall, this particular dog we gave away (in part because after this incident I pretty much refused to take care of him).
Anyway, we’re getting ready to leave the house and cram into the car to go to Shady Grove United Methodist Church when the mail comes. I volunteer to go out and get it, and sure enough the critical envelope is in there. I start back to the house desperate. I had to ditch the letter, but everyone was in the den waiting for me to come back in the house. So I hid it in one of the shrubs in the front yard.
We came out seconds later to load up and what did I find? The damn dog had the letter in its mouth. It didn’t even have the decency to eat it or run off with it. It just stood there. My mom went over to see what it was and I was nailed. (Punishment: I got the “disappointed” speech, had to issue apologies all around and couldn’t play basketball after school for a month – trust me, that was a big-time penalty.)
I think the dog thought he was being helpful. A cat couldn’t have, and wouldn’t have, done that to me. Lord knows, a cat wouldn’t try to be helpful under any circumstances.
Ever since that day I’ve been partial to cats over dogs. Now I just need to figure out why I need three of them.
“Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of bar-room vernacular, that is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have.”
– Raymond Chandler