Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."  ~  Groucho Marx

There's more to that Folk Lit class… many more things that were funny and touching and full of learning. But it's one day, close to the last day of classes that second semester, that I can never forget… It showed, again, the power of a book!

I was sitting in the Teachers' Lounge, that "off-limits-to-students" little room filled with used stuffed chairs, a thinly-stuffed, fake-leather couch, and a couple of round tables surround by uncomfortable wooden chairs that never failed to scrape the floor with screams of pain each time another teacher pulled one out to sit on… Or was it my ears that screamed at the sound of those darn wooden chairs? Teachers would grade papers or drink coffee at those tables… depending on how the day went for each of them.

I distinctly remember that I was sitting on one of the stuffed chairs, my legs tucked under me and my head resting on the arm of that chair. I was pooped! I'd just gotten back from driving over to the automated bank ATM about 3 or 4 blocks from school to get some money out of my account during my "prep" period. I had about 15 more minutes of my break to revive my energy so I could finish teaching my last two classes, and then go home and begin reading 220 essay tests, and writing my comments about each point of each essay, and then determine the final grade of each essay, to boot. But, all at once, there was a knock at the door. 

A knock on the Teachers' Lounge door means only one thing ~ "Student Calling!" That knock meant one more thing to me, though. I'd have to sit up in a teacher-like position and be the professional Mrs. Waldron, instead of "Terry"… just me, "Terry."  Drat! And since I was closest to the door, it also meant that I would have to uncoil my body, get up, and answer that darn door. Drat, again

"Hi, Mrs. Waldron. Can I talk to you privately for a minute?"

"Sure, Dave. What's the problem?"

"Well, you know that drawing that we were doing in Folk Lit… that Celtic Meander thingy that we did a month or so ago?" And I nodded. "Well, could I borrow that book that you showed us?"

"Well, Dave, I told you guys that I got it in London when I was studying there. That's the one book that I won't lend to anyone because I can never get another. I told you guys that, 'member? Sorry…"

"But, see… I'm goin' somewhere and I really need it…"

"Well, I gave you all copied handouts on how to make the weave and even how to go around corners and leave spaces in the middle… Hey, I have some copies left over.  I'll give you those…"

Now, Dave was a neat kid. I mean he was always interested in the things I was teaching, and he'd drawn some amazing Celtic Meanders when we were reading some of the Medieval literature that I'd inserted into the class that semester. He was even polite in an unassuming way, never pushy, never conniving, never fake, but never shy or afraid. He was a great kid! 

But, that book of mine unfolded the mystery of how those intricate interweavings were drawn on the pages of Medieval manuscripts by monks who could not read, but who were amazingly intricate artists with ink and brush on stretched and tanned leather. More amazing still, those monks had no pencils and erasers, no way to correct any mistakes. In fact, it took 700 years for the world to discover the actual, anti-logical, pin-prick technique that the monks had invented to make those ink-drawn weavings on true vellum made from the skin of sheep and cows. Let him take MY book home with him? NEVER! EVER! No one was going to take that book out of my grimy little hands! I mean, I liked the kid and I trusted him, but c'mon…

"Mrs. Waldron… can you come out here… just for a minute so I could talk to you… please…? I've got to tell you something…"

"Sure." And out into the corridor I went to talk privately with Dave.

"What's the real matter, Dave?"

He searched my face for a long, long time before he spoke. 

"I'm going to jail…"

"Jail? You? What happened, Dave? YOU???"

"Well, it wasn't my fault… I didn't want to tell you, but I really need that book. I'll be there for about 10 months, I guess, and if I had your book… well, at least I could draw… But it wasn't may fault, really! I was just in the car. I didn't know he was going to do that… Really, Mrs. Waldron. You gotta believe me…"

If this sounds like a bad 1930's old black-and-white movie on TV, it isn't. It really did happen just like I'm writing it.

Dave was in the car of a "friend" who drove over to "my" ATM a few blocks from school in the middle of one night, and instead of using his ATM card (which he'd never, ever had at all in the first place), his friend had decided to "break into" the ATM for the free money that was languishing there. Money ought to buy something, after all, not just sit there, sleeping.

"I TOLD him NOT to do it, Mrs. W.! I really, really did! But then there were sirens and cars and cops, and we went to jail. They let me out, but I have to go to jail as an "accessory" because I was in the car. You DO believe me, don't you? PLEASE BELIEVE ME, MRS. W! I WOULDN'T DO THAT!"

"I DO believe you, Dave. I really do… but bank-robbing isn't just nothing! Even though you didn't…"

"I know, I KNOW! But I've never been to jail or anything, but I'm going there, and I just thought that if I had your book, I could draw and not just sit there… in jail… and… … … and I have to go to JAIL, Mrs. Waldron!"

"I'm giving you the book, Dave. I'm giving you the book. In fact, if there are any others that you want, go ahead and take 'em."

So we walked up the stairs to my classroom, and I found the book just before the bell rang and gave it to Dave. He looked long and hard at me, and he said, "I'll bring this book back when I get out, Mrs. W. I promise."

And he did.

When he brought my book back, Dave told me he had decided to move to Big Bear, CA because he loved the mountains, and because his "friend" hated mountains, and they weren't friends anymore, anyway. Dave was determined to turn his life around, he said to me.

(I tried to end this story there, but I just can't! I've forever been so thankful that Dave's "friend" had never been in my class. How dumb could a kid be? That jerk of a "friend" of Dave's couldn't "break into an ATM!" C'mon… They are metal with hidden cameras and sirens attached and stuff like that. What a complete idiot the "friend" was! More to the point, the idiot had wrecked "my" ATM just enough that I had to drive 2 miles to use my bank's other ATM for the rest of the year!  Sheesh!)

And, no, I never saw Dave again, but that means that I can make up my own "happily-ever-after" ending. 

In my mind Dave moved to the mountains, met a mountain maiden, and had scads of bright-eyed little children who all loved to draw Celtic Meanders. And every single night they all roasted marshmallows in their log cabin's fireplace, right after they had helped Mom with the dishes. And they never, ever asked their Daddy why he would drive 10 miles into town to go to the bank instead of using the bank's ATM over there at the corner of the pine trees and the liquidamber trees about 1/2 a mile from their cabin!

THE END (I hope)


  1. As always, this was a captivating read. You were definitely blessed with an outstanding memory and a brilliant way of weaving a tale.

  2. Thank you soooo much, Linda, once again. What you wrote means everything to me! I'd write even if no one ever told me anything nice, but having a comment like yours is like having a free caramel ice cream sundae with whipped cream slathered all over it every day of the rest of my life! Thank you, Linda.