{December 11, 2012}   Back to school


After Florida, I recovered from Scarlett Fever.  My parents returned from their Caribbean cruise, and my brother and sister returned home. It was even more tense around the house because we didn’t talk.  Daddy never asked me about what I did in Florida and I didn’t offer any information. All I wanted was to get back to school. I’d missed almost an entire semester. Once I got back to school, it was like I’d never left–same friends smoking on the breezeway, same school bus stop, same lunchroom that smelled like spoiled milk. The counselor said that I needed to make up lost time by going to summer school. I agreed to that. But, Mother had other plans for me. She decided that instead of me going back to the same high school, I would go to a Christian school. It was weird because no one in my family went to church, not since Mother’s Harper Valley PTA days when she sang in the choir. There was no way I was going to a Christian school. I wasn’t a hypocrite. I’d been interested in being a missionary back in the third grade and I wanted to help the starving people in Africa and the middle east, but I hadn’t been allowed to attend my grandparent’s church for years. The problem was, I wasn’t in the greatest bargaining position after running away to Florida.  Daddy told me to at least go see what the school was like, so I agreed to an interview with the dean and tour of the school with Mother. I had to see for myself just to see how bad a school like that was going to be.

Mother and I arrived for our appointment early. She was dressed in a black leather mini skirt and boots that looked like someone would wear in high school. I wore blue jeans and a tee shirt. I didn’t see any reason to try to impress anyone since I wasn’t about to change schools. After shaking the dean, Mr. Rodent’s, hand, he asked me to sit in a chair facing him behind his large wooden desk. He had beady eyes, yellow teeth and a mustache that reminded me of a guy in one of those porno books of Mothers. He looked me up and down asked me me what I liked to study. I told him I liked English Lit the best and was pretty good at math, until this year. He told me that English and math were part of the curriculum, but my studies would center around classes about Jesus Christ. Then he asked me what I liked to do with my free time. I told him I liked writing poetry and listening to music. He chuckled. Mr. Rodent asked me if I was saved. I answered, “from what” even though I knew what he was talking about. I didn’t like Mr. Rodent. I didn’t like his tiny eyes and his lipless mouth. I didn’t like the way he laughed when I told him that I liked to write. I didn’t like his lengthy pauses before he spoke and how he looked up at the ceiling like he was talking to a god-in the sky rather than to me. Mr. Rodent gave me the creeps. There was no way I was going to this school. Mother asked him if the students wore uniforms. Mr. Rodent said no uniforms, but the dress code allowed only dresses or skirts below the knee. No short skirts or blue jeans. That really did it. I wasn’t going to fit into this cult. Absolutely not. Mother asked him how soon I could start. Mr. Rodent said I could start the following Monday. She smiled at him and told him that that was fine and she would be in touch. Mr. Rodent grabbed my hand and took Mother’s hand, bent his head and said, “Let us pray.” I didn’t feel like praying with them. I sat with my eyes open, staring at Mother’s phony smirk  and disliking Mr. Rodents bad breath and bad teeth. After the prayer, I jerked my hand out of his and stood up. “I’m ready to go” I said.

In the car, Mother said that she wasn’t taking me back to school. She said that  we’re going shopping because I had to have a whole new wardrobe now. I told her not to spend any money on clothes for me because I wasn’t going. She said that I was going and that I’d better be thankful for the opportunity they were providing because they were spending a lot of money for me to go to that school. I said nothing and looked out the window.

We drove to downtown Rich’s and Mother marched me to the Women’s Sportswear department. That was the place to find frumpy old lady dresses. The Junior department carried only short, colorful dresses and skirts. Mother told me to pick out some skirts to try on, but I just stood still at the rack of clothes. She said if I wasn’t going to look, I could go to the dressing room and she would bring me something to try on. I went into the dressing room and sat on the chair, waiting. Mother knocked on the door and handed me hangers of skirts through the open crack in the door. I took the skirts off the hangers and dropped them on the floor without trying them on. A few minutes later, Mother knocked on the door and asked if any fit. I said no. She came back a few minutes later with more hangers of dresses and skirts. I took them through the cracked door, took them off the hangers and draped them over the mirror and the light fixture. Mother came back and asked if any of them fit. I told her no. She said, “Open the door. I want to see.” I opened the door and she looked at the clothes on the floor, mirror and light fixture. “You little Bitch!” she screamed. “You didn’t even try them on!” She grabbed me by my arm and led me out of the dressing room. “I’m buying you these skirts anyway,” she hissed. “You’re going to that goddamned school!” “I am not,” I protested. Mother took some skirts off a rack and went to the counter to pay for them. Once she paid, she shoved the Rich’s sack in my face. “Here’s your fucking present.” she said. But I didn’t take the bag and it fell to the floor. Mother picked it up and marched off with it. “We’re leaving. I’m telling your father about what you did in that dressing room. That’s another good reason why you’re going to that fucking Christian school.”  Mother had no sense of irony.

Mother didn’t take me back to school; we drove home. “Go to your room!” she ordered. “Gladly” I said. I sat down on my bed and took out my notebook. I scribbled gibberish, bearing down hard. I wondered what I was going to do if they tried to make me go to that school. I would have to leave home again if it came down to it. I didn’t relish the idea of leaving again, but I wasn’t going to cooperate with Mother’s punitive ideas about what I should do anymore. Daddy knocked on my door. “Come in,” I said. Daddy came in and stood near the door. “I hear you went for an interview at the new school today.” “Yeah” I said. “I’m not going to that school, Daddy. The dean is a guy with beady eyes and yellow teeth and he gives me the creeps. He said I had to wear old lady clothes to go to that school, and take classes on the subject of Jesus Christ. I’m not going. If you try to make me go, I’m running away from home again. I can’t take it, Daddy.” Daddy stood silent for a moment. Then he said, “If you don’t want to go to that school, you don’t have to. You can go back to your regular school tomorrow.” “Okay” I said. “Thanks, Daddy.” Then, he closed the door. I could hear Mother cursing at him all the way down the hall from the living room when he told her that I didn’t have to go to that school.

About a year later, I was reading the Atlanta Journal before dinner and saw an article about a dean of a Christian school being arrested for fondling a student. It was the same school where I interviewed. The article said the school would be closing its doors. Mr. Rodent had been arrested on child molestation charges.


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