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English Composition Class

I still remember the sentence on the blackboard:

“Only one word could describe him – Tramp!”

It baffles me as to why that would still be vivid after all these years.  With the blackboard as a backdrop, my grade eight teacher holds a book in one hand, and peers over spectacles low on his nose.  Tall, imposing, unsmiling, enormously wise.  His eyes see everything and penetrate each of us.  We struggle with English Composition class but I am gazing out of the window, remembering the square dancing in gym period.

“Now get busy and write!”  Mr. Clarke’s voice jolts me out of my reverie and back to the classroom.  Will I write about dancing?  “Sophie”, he instructs, as he heads out the front door, “you are the monitor for a few minutes until I get back.  Class, start writing your compositions”.

At the back of the classroom, so close to me I can reach out and touch it, is a door with a pebbled glass window.  It’s always closed, but I know it leads into the principal’s office.  Mr. Clarke also serves as the principal of the School.  He needs to go into the office to do mysterious principal stuff.  The only thing I know for certain about the principal stuff is that sometimes, bad kids get the strap.  It happens on the other side of that door with the pebbled glass window.  I think the strap is a flat, black, rubbery sort of thing.  The bad kid has to hold out his hand.  (It’s almost always a boy, I think).  The principal holds the kid’s hand to make sure he doesn’t pull it away when the strap smacks down.  I see in my mind the kid biting his lip.

We fall silent.  Then comes the sound.  Rubber hits flesh.

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.

My thoughts somersault.  “He must have been very bad.”

I don’t remember how that composition turned out.

© Joan E Barr. September, 2005