Ms. Butler’s glaring eyes were as daggers piercing my spirit. She had it out for me since that first day I entered her classroom. My older sister had warned me but I thought she must have been over-reacting.
The stern spinster looked harmless enough when our eyes met in the hallway during Millbrook Middle School orientation. She was a master of disguise.
The years since had not dulled my memory of her strict teaching, disciplinary methods or dagger eyes….
“Gregory Smith, you are not applying yourself; I expect better from you. You will stay for detention this afternoon and rewrite this essay.”
I slouched in my seat and eyed the clock. Three minutes till’ the final bell; the guys were meeting at the vacant lot downtown to play baseball and I was stuck behind this ancient desk. I fingered the names carved decades earlier by my father with his pocketknife.
"Will loves Linda.”
Golly, Dad was mushy.
It was hard for me at the awkward age of twelve to picture Father carving his name and Mom’s on his schoolroom desk.
The loud buzzer signaling dismissal sent friends scampering in frenzy. My pal Norman eyed me with sympathy then smirked as if he halfway enjoyed my incarceration.
Some friend you are!
“Do not dawdle Gregory. You have forty-five minutes to write in detail what career you plan to pursue. Begin with an outline and check your spelling and punctuation. You will be graded on your penmanship as well.”
I sat staring at my wide-lined notebook paper, rolling my number two pencil atop the desk thinking of how I could possibly please this tyrant.
She barks orders and actually expects me to roll over!
The after school confinements became commonplace. I counted the days until school would be out and Ms. Butler would be off my back. As the promotion day from seventh grade to eighth drew closer I began to scheme.
I daydreamed of ways I might take revenge on this heartless teacher. Yet, I never did decide on a fool-proof plan, fearful my parents would find out and ground me for the summer.
High school merged with middle school. I pushed myself from comfort zone to raceway speed toward my dream of a baseball career.
I was driven and diligent, making my way to the ball field at every opportune minute. The coach and teammates patted me on the back and gave thumbs up following home runs. Yet, I sensed I had not reached my prime.
Keeping up my grades had been a challenge but a summit I had reached. I often had an eerie feeling, sensing Ms. Butler with me barking out orders to apply myself. I succumbed to that pressure.
It had paid off with a full sports scholarship to a prestigious university.
“Hey, Butler....Coach wants ta’ see ya’ in his office!”
I dusted off my hands on the seat of my uniform, shook out my ball cap and wiped sweat from my brow.
Approaching his office, looking inside, I spotted an interesting dude standing aside the coach at the water-cooler.
“Butler’, said Coach, grinning. ‘Got somebody here that wants ta’ meet ya.”
The clean-shaven paunchy man, reeking in Old Spice, reached for my hand.
I fumbled for his, embarrassed that mine was grass stained and sweaty.
“Mr. Smith, I’m a scout for the Yankees and I’m very impressed with your record and your fortitude. How’d you like to come for a tryout with our minor league team in Scranton?”
Heart-pounding, blood pressure rising I replied.
“Would I ever? You serious?”
“You bet yer’ life! I’m here on special assignment from Yankee’s front office. How soon can you be there?”
“As fast as I can shower and pack!”
Pausing, I turned my attention toward my coach.
“I mean…uh’ guess I shoulda’ asked you Coach…Is it okay if I leave the college a few days?”
He gave me a bear hug and nearly bulldozed me out of his office.
Thus, I became a minor league ball player.
“Hi Greg, it’s Mom. Have some sad news.”
“What’s up? Something wrong with you our Dad?”
“No, just heard from Martha at the canasta club that your old English teacher Ms. Butler passed away.”
I heaved a sigh of guilt feeling I’d made the teacher’s job difficult. Before I could reply, Mom continued.
“A neighbor found her inside her basement apartment. Ms. Butler had slumped over her desk while putting your latest newspaper clipping in a scrapbook. “Greg Smith voted MVP.”
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