(Most of the names are changed to protect me from lawsuits!)
The fact is, with my change of schools I was suddenly transformed from a shy, withdrawn timid soul who was the butt of every prank and the foil of every bully, into a smart-Alec ne’er-do-well who was the clown of every class and the bane of every teacher. I changed from an outsider among dope-dealing promiscuous heathen into an outsider among Pharisaical hypocrites. Oh, in my early days I was timid enough, but as I grew familiar with this new culture in which I found myself, I began to chafe. My early run-ins with authority were mild and seemingly insignificant, like the first eruptions of acne, and although the full tale of my adventures there would fill many pages, that will have to wait for my memoirs. Still, even in a brief summary such as this a few notable incidents must be mentioned.
I was paddled for tossing a dictionary to another student who requested it. I was paddled another time for tossing a roll of toilet paper through the halls like a foot-ball. Once I received demerits for sarcastically answering a teacher, but when my hearing came I managed to beat that rap by vowing that I had been misunderstood. (Unfortunately, I had earned more demerits for talking in the waiting room before the hearing.)
Actually, I was once suspended from school for “praying wrong.” As was the custom before each class, the teacher called upon a male student to lead in prayer. On this day, the student was me. I bowed my head and gave one of our standard invocations, “Lord, we thank You for this class and pray that You will help us to learn and do well in our studies. Keep us safe and bless our school. In Your Name we ask, Amen.” I raised my head (as did the rest of the class) but Miss Roomer* was still sitting on her desk, her eyes closed and head bowed. “Amen,” I said a little louder. She looked up. “Would you pray, please?” she demanded.
“I just did,” I replied.
“PRAY,” she ordered. I complied (again) and I must admit I may have sounded somewhat less sincere in this second supplication to the Almighty. When I finished and raised my head, she was glaring at me angrily. Without another word, she snatched up her little pad and wrote a note to the principal and sent me on my way. Three days suspension, just like that.
Yes, I had, it seems, a serious problem with authority. But looking back on it now, I can see that it was not “authority” per se that rankled me, but authority wielded unjustly, arbitrarily and hypocritically. But even under those circumstances, there were some teachers who apparently could see some small measure of potential in me. I remember Miss Gloria Galloway (her name is not changed) who was very kind and patient with me, and I honestly loved her and would have done anything for her–except behave. She it was who graded one of my first literary works, Dare To Fall, a play I wrote for one of her classes. It was filled with nasty wit and sarcasm, and hilariously lampooned a play our school had recently performed (and the playwright, producer, and director, with whom I had had a small run-in) called Dare to Stand. My play, Dare To Fall, was, she reluctantly admitted, “unfortunately, very funny.” I would have gotten an “A” except the girl I paid to type it did a hideous job. I learned my lesson from that and started practicing my typing.