#23 A Simple Ride to SchoolPosted: April 22, 2012
Since my father was a teacher in my High School, I rode with him in his big navy Buick. He insisted on running the engine to warm it, so if I was lucky I’d get into it already toasty. I walked home in the afternoons, which was fine since it was all down hill.
I’ve written before, but can’t do it enough, about not being a morning person. It probably tops my list of personal characteristics. Every school morning when my mother hollered up the stairs that it was time to get going, I’d try to throw my voice across the room as if I’d been standing there ready for hours. With one bathroom in the house I don’t recall morning showers. I do remember trying to stay in bed as long as possible. I put out my clothes the night before, so to the second, it was a masterful plan. In the winter I stood over the heat register warming my shoes and clothes. I never had breakfast since I had no appetite in the morning. Forget calories or protein. I craved sleep.
One morning I had a terrible time getting up and ready, so my father left without me. And that was a game of chicken no one should ever play. It meant Alice, my mother, would have to drive me, and school was not on her way to work. Nothing was more than five or ten minutes away, but it was in the opposite direction.
I reluctantly stumbled downstairs where her voice extracted the last bit of sleepiness. Though never chatty in the morning, I’d have to be a passive passenger without further elevating her pitch. My first class was in the front of the school and it was so dark out, I could see everyone already in the room. She pulled the family Volkswagen in front. My hand was on the door latch, but she wasn’t finished screeching about what a terrible ungrateful lazy daughter I was. Her anger escalated and there it was. The slap! A good solid slap. I don’t know how the hell she got enough extension or leverage in that little car, but she got me to turn her way for the smack, and the sting.
Slaps in film or on stage get my attention. Hard to capture the shock of a real slap. The toughest stunt artists are pathetic compared to my experience. In film they try to cut to the reaction so holding back or lack of contact won’t show. The real shock of a slap turns your head, sometimes clobbers an ear.
I got out of the car without knowing if my classmates saw. Though the school wasn’t quite street level and there were a few steps up, we were right there. I know I didn’t cry. I walked into the building, into my classroom and I took a seat for an education.
As always nothing was ever said. I’ve wondered what would have happened if I had had the nerve to slap her back. But I never did. He had plenty of temper to tip toe around, but in all those years, my father never saw her slap me. I’ll never know what he knew.
I’m pretty sure I was never late again.