Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fuzzy Memories and Drug-Induced Flashbacks - Part V

In November of 1982, I was a sophomore in high school.

My first period class that semester was Health. Now this was in the crazy days before we learned about dirty, dirty sex in school, so the entire focus of the class had been the Food Pyramid and how to keep your skin clean. So far, it had been a blow off. The final exam was going to count as 25% of my grade, but I had a 98 average in the class and I wasn't all that worried about it.

The teacher was a woman named Ms. Rothfus, who also coached the girls' volleyball team. She liked me because I was a good student. I paid attention, I took good notes, and I always raised my hand when she asked a question. In other words, I was an insufferable prick. But like I said, I had a 98 average in the class...

There was a girl named Sharon who sat in front of me, and she'd been very nice to me for the past six weeks or so. Every morning, I let her copy my homework. And once, during a pop quiz, I had whispered answers to her when Ms. Rothfus wasn't looking.

So the day of the final came, and I was blasting through the multiple choice without breaking a sweat. I had an English final and a World History final later that day, both of which were going to be pretty rough. But at least I'd be able to get through the Health final with no problems.

Then Sharon passed me a note. There was a portion of the exam where we were supposed to list the basic needs of humanity in order, and she couldn't remember what they were. Could I help her?

I looked up and saw Ms. Rothfus looking in our direction. I didn't know if she'd seen Sharon pass the note or not, but I didn't want to take any chances. So I just slipped the note under my exam and ignored it.

Sharon passed me back another note. If she failed this exam, she'd fail the class and her mom would kill her. Please. Just help with this one part. She wouldn't ask me for anything else.

Ms. Rothfus wasn't looking, so I scribbled down the answers and passed them up to Sharon. Sharon was copying them when Ms. Rothfus suddenly stood up and marched over to us. She snatched the cheat sheet from Sharon and beckoned her to the desk up front.

My heart was pounding so hard I thought I was going to faint. I swear, I'd never been this terrified in my entire life. Aside from the occasional detention for tardiness, I'd never gotten in trouble in school before. I kept my head down and kept working on my exam, trying like hell to pretend like whatever was going on didn't concern me.

Ms. Rothfus said to Sharon, "I'm only going to ask you this once. Who gave you these answers?" And Sharon pointed right at me and said, "He did." Ms. Rothfus marched back and snatched up my exam as well. She held the two of us after the bell and informed us that we'd both be receiving a grade of 1 on the final. Not zero, but one.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, I protested my innocence. It was a setup, I proclaimed. I didn't give her any answers. She was only lying to protect the REAL guilty party. But Ms. Rothfus wasn't buying any of it.

Somehow, I made my way through my World History and English final. But all day long, I was just dreading getting home and explaining this whole thing to my mom and stepdad.

I should note at this point that, in 1983, my stepfather J.R. was going through his crazy born-again evangelical Christian phase. He and my mom had been attending Church on the Rock, one of those kinda creepy charismatic churches where people flail their hands in the air and start speaking gibberish. You know, like Jesus commanded.

Anyway, J.R. was on a real demon kick around this time. He was convinced that demons were responsible for EVERY evil in the world, from gayness to headaches.

So I got home and told Mom and J.R. that I'd been accused of cheating, but it was totally false. I was being set up. All Ms. Rothfus had was a piece of paper that sort of looked like it was written in my handwriting, but that didn't prove anything. And it wasn't fair, because she wouldn't even listen to me when I told her I was innocent, blah, blah, blah...

J.R. and Mom didn't get mad, but they didn't believe me. J.R. kept after me, prodding me with questions, until I finally broke down and admitted that I'd cheated. I was in tears by this point, so J.R. hugged me and started praying to Jesus to cast out these demons of lying and cheating that had possessed me.

Once the exorcism was over, J.R. told me to go to Ms. Rothfus the next morning and confess to her. Only then would Jesus truly forgive me my sin.

So I did. I asked her if I could speak to her in the hall outside the classroom, and I worked up my courage and I told her I'd cheated. Ms. Rothfus just snorted and said, "I know you cheated! That's why you got a 1!"

Eventually, the incident blew over. Mom and J.R. were relieved that the my demons had been cast out, and I didn't even get whipped or grounded! I could hardly believe my luck!

Of course, there was the report card to deal with. The final grade was listed there along with the rest of them. Because of the final exam, my 98 average had been dragged down to a 74. And thanks to the no pass/no play rules in Garland I.S.D., I had to endure the scrutiny of a less-than-discreet band director who examined my grades and said in front of the entire South Garland Concert Band, "I don't understand how you ended up with a 74 when... OH MY GOD! YOU GOT A ONE ON YOUR FINAL EXAM?"

But given the severity of the crime, I still feel like I got off relatively lightly. Sharon ended up failing the course. Unfortunately, her mom didn't follow through on her promise to kill her, but she did have to repeat the class.

Sharon dropped out of school the following year, and my buddy Charlie told me that he thought he'd seen her working the drive-thru at Long John Silver's. I don't know if this was true or not, but it would certainly serve her right.

That's what you get for not studying the Food Pyramid, bitch!


SJ said...

Oh, that was AWFUL. I was so nervous for you, even though it happened long ago. I never got caught cheating, 'cause like you, I was an insufferable prick in school that the teachers liked and did well on tests, etc.

Is your stepdad still speaking in tongues?

Amanda said...

Man I'd have kicked her ass for snitching.

1 said...

Snitches should be shot.

Good readin'!

ix said...

in defense of j.r. : he had a cool beard

Irb said...

SJ: My mom and stepdad got divorced in 1988. Last I heard, he had moved to Alabama to open an alternator shop. And I'm not sure, but I suspect he was living in a van down by the river...

Not sure about the glossolalia, though.

Amanda: Wish I'd known you back in '83. I woulda paid you $10 for each tooth you brought me.

-GD: Wish I'd known you back in '83. I woulda paid you $10 for each bullet pumped into her cold, black, withered heart. And I'm sure you would've been responsible and waited until Amanda was out of the line of fire...

IX: Ladies and gentlemen, my old pal Ego! And yes, J.R. had some serious Bluto beard action going on.