Friday, September 25, 2009

I Would Not Put A Thief In My Room To Steal My Pencil

Have you ever seen the John Wayne movie True Grit? The Duke won an Oscar for it, you know. Not because he was a good actor, but because The Academy thought they owed him one. Because if you've ever seen that movie, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Let it suffice to say that even at his Oscar-winning mediocrity, The Duke acted circles around his co-stars, Glen Campbell and Kim Darby. Not that I am inside the actor's studio or anything, but even I can sniff the stench of a bad performance. That said, let it be noted that True Grit is one of my all-time favorite movies. It cracks me up. The dialogue is straight from the book, by Charles Portis. It is better on the page than dripping off the tongues of these actors like some fermented, bespoiled nectar.

But it was not my intention to review a movie tonight. I merely wanted to point out a quote from Mattie Ross, of near Dardanelle in Yell County. "I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains," says Mattie when Rooster Cogburn offers her a pull from his moonshine jug.

I would not put a thief in my room to steal my pencil. But somebody else would. And did. Thanks OH SO MUCH, Mabel, for fanning the wings of the butterfly half a hall away that caused a tsunami in my classroom. I got a new student last week. New to my class. I've had the pleasure of his studentry before. And now I have it again.

Having re-broken in my 11th graders after a two-year sojourn from the knee of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, we are sympatico. Or were. Now I have to spend seven weeks re-breaking New Oldby. It's going to be a tough row to hoe. All year, I have kept a yellow-and-black mechanical pencil on the back table by my computer. It was by the desktop, and recently it has been by the mouse and number pad of my laptop. My yellow mechanical pencil, somewhat unstylish, as models change frequently. I bought up a bunch of them because I like them. For the past two years, I sold them to students who didn't have a pencil. Then that got to be a hassle, what with them coming from other classes and wanting to buy a pencil, so I just kept my stock to enjoy for myself.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I went to take roll, and found my pencil missing. I am a clever old coot. You don't immediately clamor, "Who took my yellow-and-black mechanical pencil?" Well, unless you are winding up a teacher inservice, a teacher inservice attended by your Arch Nemesis. But I digress. I coolly surveyed the room. BINGO! There it was, bright as day, right under my very nose. New Oldby had it clenched in his thieving hands. He took out the virtually new white eraser, shook out a piece of lead, and inserted the lead up the business end of the pencil. There is something so wrong about that action. I watched him for a moment, scratching away with my purloined pencil, his cronies gathered around him in group work. Actually, he came to them. They didn't reject him.

"Hey, Oldby...where did you get that pencil?" He looked up at me like a deer in T-Hoe's headlights. "Pencil? Oh, I got it out of my car when I went out to get my book. It was in my cup-holder." His gaze told me otherwise. I could almost hear the beating of his tell-tale heart.

"Well, I had a pencil just like that. I had it all year, and part of last year. I always leave it on the table by my computer. It was just there third hour, and now it is gone. And that looks like my pencil." New Oldby chuckled a nervous chuckle. "That's funny. Because this one is mine. Are you calling me a thief?" I chuckled back some of his own medicine. "That's quite a coincidence that I have had my pencil on the back table all this time with no problem, and then you are put in this class, and now my pencil is gone, and you have his twin."

New Oldby frowned. "I borrowed it, OK? I didn't have a pencil, and this one was just laying there, not belonging to anybody, so I took it. To use." I told him to bring it to my desk, and that he should know how I am about my stuff. I gave him a really crappy wooden red pencil with silver Valentine hearts all over it. "I'll loan you this one today, but I don't loan pencils. Bring one to class. And keep your hands off my stuff."

His cronies razzed him about being a pencil thief. At the end of class, after sitting idle for 10 minutes, I saw that Oldby still had my Valentine pencil. "Give that back. I can't believe you're trying to take that one, too." Oldby dropped it on the floor and put his foot on it. "What pencil?" HallPassRansomer stomped on his foot, and stole Valentine. A short skirmish ensued. They should have known I can see feet under desks. And I don't even need x-ray vision. Oldby kicked HPR and jammed his foot down on Valentine. And broke him. The metal eraser-holder-thingy popped off. My Self-Proclaimed Favorite said sarcastically, "Way to go. Now you broke Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's pencil. And the lead, too. I'll sharpen that for you, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom." He shoved the eraser-holder-thingy back on top. He sharpened. He handed me the pencil. "We never had anybody breaking and stealing your pencils until Oldby got in this class." Which is like something we say at least once a day. Usually more. We tell Oldby how idyllic it was until he joined us.

We yearn for the good ol' days.


Cazzie!!! said...

You know, there is a black hole out there for pencils, pens, erasers, rulers and children's socks? If you ever find the damned thing can you please forward me the co-ordinates for my GPS? Thanks :)

Hillbilly Mom said...

I am a frequent victim of the Hillmomba Triangle. The disappearances are mainly scissors, tape, and pencil sharpeners.

I think The Devil's Playground is behind the vortex that eats rulers. Every year, I buy my boys a new one for school. The socks just walk away. They are tired of sweaty, smelly, boy feet, and of being worn on the porch and snagged by nails.