Back to my career at school. About the only thing at which I excelled was drama. I had a part in every school play (except the
aforementioned Dare to Stand) that came along, usually the leading role. Now, I do have some acting talent, but it was mostly my willingness to make a fool of myself in front of large numbers of people that secured these parts. Little did I realize that my hard work and sacrifice would one day pay off! Big time!
It was my Senior year, and I was about to commit the most horrible of crimes. One Sunday evening, the school principal, Ed Beatle (yes, name changed!) was speaking at our church. As was my custom, I was sitting with my girlfriend, Sandra, and had my arm casually draped across the pew behind her. Unbeknown to me, Principal Beatle took my thoughtless display of physical contact between persons of the opposite sex as a deliberate assault on his authority. He continued his presentation without visible signs of angst, but inside, he was seething. Two days later, I was called from one of my classes and told to report to the principal’s office.
I honestly had no idea that I was guilty of any misdeed, and went there with an unclouded mind and a clear conscience. Ed was waiting for me, his face flushed with anger. (To this day, I wonder how he managed to maintain that fury for two days until he had time to deal with me.) He pointed his finger at me and declared me guilty of flaunting my libertinism in his face. “If I had caught you in an alley right after that, young man, it would have been bad for you!” he declared. I was dumbfounded. (When I later told Robby, one of my friends, about the principal’s statement, in a beautiful example of treppenwitz, he blurted out what would have been the perfect response to this unexpected threat: “well there’s an alley right out here behind the school. Let’s go!”) “You’ve done it this time, young man,” the principal fumed, “and this time you’re going to be punished. As soon as you finish this play, you are going to suffer the consequences!”
Ah, the play’s the thing! As luck would have it, the school production of Sons of Liberty (a patriotic musical written, produced, and directed by some of the teachers … one of whom was my sister) was scheduled for only a few days hence. Guess who had the lead role of Sammy, the boy who hates history, but falls asleep and dreams that he is Sam Adams? That’s right, the one who was just about to pay for his terrible crimes … as soon as the play was over!
“Whoa,” I said. “If I’ve done something so terrible and I need to be punished, it doesn’t need to wait until I’ve performed. Why don’t you just go ahead and let me have it?” [That’s right, I said it.]
“Oh, no. You’re going to do this play! For once, you’re going to do what you don’t want to. There are too many people counting on you and you are not going to let them down!”
The question was not resolved, and eventually I was allowed to return to my class with the Sword of Beatle hanging over my head. The day of the play came, and I performed my part to rave reviews, actually singing several solos, including “I Hate History.” I kept expecting the axe to fall, but I never did hear anything else from Ed, and years later Miss Galloway told me that he had asked her, “can the play go on without Ray Paden?”
“Without Ray,” she had replied, “there will be no play.”
And so I was saved from retribution by the value my otherwise worthless hide had attained as an actor.