Tom Sawyer asked: “What was the wildly inappropriate thing you said to Mr. MacIntyre?”
This was in reference to the Ask Me Anything post about the moon, in which I mentioned that Mr. MacIntyre didn’t like me right from the start, because of the wildly inappropriate thing I said on my first day at my new school.
We moved to Ontario because my mother got engaged to Skipper, but she ended up not marrying him after all. Instead, she married a guy we’ll call Bobbity-Bob, and they bought a one-room schoolhouse near the village of Kinburn.
I was in Grade Five and Fitzroy Centennial was my fifth school. I was pretty adaptable but this school was a bit trickier than most. Partly because it was in the middle of the school year, and partly because it was my first rural school. Things were different there. The kids were different.
My teacher, Mrs. Cavanaugh, was unpopular and ineffective. A core group of seven bad boys seemed to be in charge of her classroom. She had nervous tics and she was utterly miserable and completely powerless. All she could do was smack her pointer on the desk and cry “Stop cutting up! Stop cutting up!” over and over again.
On the other hand, Mr. MacIntyre, the Grade Six teacher, was one of those cool teachers that all the kids liked. That very first day of school, he was on yard duty, and there was a big gaggle of kids following him around, waiting their turn to talk to him.
The group of bad boys from my class approached me with a suggestion.
“Wait your turn to talk to Mr. MacIntyre,” they said, “And then ask him if he reads Playboy. If he says yes, then ask him ‘Why? You’ve got Miss Badham.’”
I’m sure I looked puzzled, since I didn’t know what Playboy was and I’d never heard of Miss Badham, but the boys assured me that Mr. MacIntyre would think this was really funny. And because I wanted to fit in, I naively agreed to do it.
I got in line and slowly moved up in line until it was finally my turn to ask Mr. MacIntyre a question. (Honestly, you’d have thought this guy was God or something, the way the kids fawned all over him.)
“Yes?” he said.
“Do you read Playboy?” I asked innocently.
“Yes,” he said, bristling a bit.
“Why?” I asked. “You’ve got Miss Badham.”
Mr. MacIntyre clouded over, his jaw clamped, his face turned mean and hard, and he lit into me. I don’t remember what he said so much (it started with who the hell did I think I was) but I remember how I felt. I felt humiliated and confused. I looked over at the group of boys who had put me up to it and they were literally rolling on the ground laughing.
I slunk away.
A week or so later I found out what Playboy was, because it turned out my new stepfather was a subscriber. And I found out that Miss Badham was the Grade Two teacher. She and Mr. MacIntyre got married a year later and, according to Facebook, lived happily ever after.
I remained at that school for three and a half years and Mr. MacIntyre never liked me. But the kids did, even the bad boys, so it wasn’t so bad.
The Ask Me Anything series will continue as long as there are questions. You can leave a question in the comments, or send it to me by email at zoomery at gmail dot com. (I think I’ve lost a couple of questions, so if you asked me one and I didn’t answer it, please ask again.)