Note: Relax…Most of the names in my collection of school stories have been changed or altered so as not to embarrass those of you that know who you are!
Mrs. McKenzie was the principle of Montclair Elementary. You rarely saw her out of her office but when you did, you walked straight, looked directly to the front and moved out as quickly as possible before she saw you…because if she saw you, you were doing something wrong. Maybe you didn’t comb your hair or your shoes were untied. Maybe you just happened to have a lizard squirming around in your pocket or a Hershey Bar tucked in your drawers…I swear I don’t know, I’m just sayin’… if there was anything out of the ordinary she was going to spot it. She came to embody everything I imagined throughout my life when I heard the term anal retentive.
I still don’t know how she knew about that Hershey Bar.
One day, I was sitting in Mrs. Worley’s 5th grade class when Darren Ellis, who sat behind me, tapped me on the back and passed some paper to me over my shoulder. I had been hearing a lot of giggling but that’s not unusual in a 5th grade class when the teacher is out of the room. I could tell the paper was something torn out of a book or a magazine and opened it up to find a Penthouse Centerfold! As interesting as that would have been to me as a teenager, as a ten year old it was just plain funny! So I got a good laugh and then did what everyone else had done…I passed it on up. In hindsight, passing it to the left or to the right might have saved us all a lot of trouble but I didn’t do that. Nope…I tapped little Miss (goody goody two shoes) Anita Smith on the shoulder and when she turned around, I gave her a big cheesy smile and passed the goods forward. It always felt good to be in on the joke, but this time, the joke was on me. Apparently, little Miss Anita was not amused.
As recess came and we were released to go outside, I noticed her talking to the teacher but I thought nothing of it until later that afternoon when Mrs. Worley came over to my desk and told me to go to the principal’s office to see Mrs. McKenzie. To this day I wonder why she didn’t just tell me to chew my arm off. At the time, I still had not made the connection, but I was a little slower in those days. I knew that something was wrong but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. All I knew for sure was that I was on my way to see the last person on earth I ever wanted to see.
I arrived at the office and told the ladies who worked behind the counter that my name was Kenny Darville and that I was supposed to come see Mrs. McKenzie. They all gave me that weird sneer with the curled upper lip and flared nostril, like that little freckle faced kid in kindergarten class, and I knew at that very moment that, apparently, I had done something real bad.
As I walked in Mrs. McKenzie’s office I could imagine what Hansel and Gretel felt like. She was a little too nice and I immediately suspected that it was a trap and that she was luring me in to her oven. She got up and walked over to the door, placed her claw on my back, guided me in and told me to have a seat. She said “please” and even asked me if I was comfortable. I was terrified. Her dress was hideous and as long as I live I will never forget it. Even now, I think she must have worn it at least three times a week. It was black with big white flowers laced in baby blue that nearly matched her white and blue tinted head. I sat back in that big chair as far as I could and prepared for the worst. And as the worst grew imminent I saw nothing but Mrs. McKenzie’s face in a long dark noisy tunnel rapidly closing in like a raptor on its prey.
Suddenly it got quiet and there I was…in the chair. She leaned across the desk, interlocked her fingers, looked me square in the eye and asked, “Do you know anything about any…pic-tures?”
Of course, I sang like a canary.
“Yes ma’am…I sure do! You see, everybody was laughing in class and Darren tapped me on the back and…”
She interrupted me.
”Where did you get…them…from?”
She spoke real slow.
“Well, there was just one and Darren gave it to me.”
She asked me if I knew where he got it and I honestly didn’t know who brought it to school, all I knew was that I got it from Darren and the last time I saw it, Anita had it. That’s when everything I saw at recess began to make sense. Yep, I was a little slow. I seems that it went from Anita’s hands to Mrs. Worley’s.
So Mrs. McKenzie moved me over to the famous big black couch under the window next to the air conditioner and I heard the ladies in the office call Mrs. Worley’s class through the intercom.
“Mrs. Worley, would you send Darren Ellis to the office please?”
Within minutes, he arrived and I watched him fall into the same deadly trap that I did, and just like me…chirp, chirp, chirp.
Before it was over, fourteen of twenty-one of boys and girls present in Mrs. Worley’s class that day were crammed elbow to elbow into Mrs. McKenzie’s tiny office and she was not letting anyone out until she got to the bottom of who brought the naked lady to school.
Enter number fifteen, Bobby Jones. Of course, that’s not his real name, but since he is on my Facebook friend list, Ill spare him the agony and embarrassment of being exposed. Yup, as it turns out, little Bobby Jones still holds the record at Montclair for the most original subject for Show and Tell. Unfortunately for him, not only did he get himself and all the rest of us into trouble, he put his big brother in a jam too. As we filed out of the office, it was clear to all of us that he did not want Mrs. McKenzie to call his Mom. Of course, she did anyway and Mom had to come and pick him and his lady friend up from school.
Bobby, Darren and I became pretty good buddies that year but I will never forget that day in Mrs. McKenzie’s office and I never trusted Anita Smith again. The odd thing was, she would say hi to me every morning and always sort of gave me the look, so I always wondered why she snitched me out so quickly. No matter, after that year in the 5th grade, I don’t think I ever saw her again.