As the classroom door closed, Joey got up from his seat. Rushing to the front of the room, he ran his fingernails down the blackboard.
Squeak…squeak… the sound echoed through the room.
The girls in the second grade class squealed, “Eek! Stop it Joey!”
The boys all laughed.
Three more boys jumped up to add their squeaking nails to the din.
With so much noise, it was not surprising that none of the boys heard the classroom door open, or the Sister enter the room. It wasn’t until the ruler was cracked across the boys’ knuckles in quick succession that they realized they had been busted – quite literally. Their next stop was in the School Administrator’s office. Of course, he was also their own parish priest.
While they sat in silence, they heard each phone call – one at a time.
“Your son was scratching the blackboard with his fingernails when Sister Elizabeth was out of the room for a moment. No, it is only a minor infraction. He was told to stay in his seat when she stepped into the hallway. Yes, she exercised discipline, a ruler across the knuckles.”
All four heard the same conversation time after time until each of their homes had been called. Once the black telephone handset was placed in the cradle, the boys glanced at each other.
“Well, my boys,” he began, “it seems that we have a problem.”
Each boy kept his eyes trained on the floor.
“Look up at me, please.”
When the boys looked up at Father Wilcox, they saw him smile. “Don’t misunderstand me, boys. I know that hearing the girls squeal because you run your fingernails on the chalkboard is fun…at your age. Believe it or not, I was your age once. But it is inappropriate and the bad behavior will not be tolerated. You must show restraint by doing as you are instructed by your teachers. What you did was very disrespectful.”
Father Wilcox pulled the pink pad from his drawer. “But Father, wait, please don’t do this, we’ll behave” the boys protested. The dreaded pink pad was used for detentions, suspensions and sometimes – even expulsions.
Taking his time, the priest wrote four forms, one after another and then handed one to each boy. “Take this to Sister Elizabeth, she will remove the top form and give you the yellow copy for your parents. Sister Elizabeth will tell you what to do next.”
The boys walked very slowly back to their classroom, two of them in tears. After all, they were only eight years old. When they handed the forms to Sister Elizabeth, she read them, gave each of them the yellow copy and directed the boys to their seats.
Joey and his friends looked at the Sister quizzically, the Sister said, “The Father has decided to overlook this transgression as long as you agree to clean the blackboards for the next two weeks.”
The boys yelled, “Yes, yes, yes! We will, we promise. We’ll behave from now on, Sister.”
The second grade girls all laughed at the boys. “No more squeaking fingernails for awhile.”
At the end of the day, Joey and his friends were standing at the blackboards with the erasers in their hands. They looked at each other and in one motion all four boys raked their fingernails down the blackboard.
Sister Elizabeth was at the back of the room…
“Eek!” was all they heard from her before the crack of the ruler found its mark.
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