Biographical Non-Fiction posted January 3, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
My first battle

The Classroom War

by lancellot

Share Your Story Contest Winner 

Mostly true memoir
This is a war story. You may not recognize it as such at first glance, but I assure you not all wars involve guns, swords, blood, tanks, or armies. For war, all that is required are opposing sides and, of course… loss.

I knew it was coming before she called my name. That’s what a syllabus is for, after all. The last time Ms. Clarkson tried this, I faked being sick. I knew that she knew I was lying, but we both knew she couldn’t risk it with the flu going around. I patted myself on the back while she stayed silent. But she was only biding her time. I blamed myself for not reading the entire syllabus when I got it. Sometimes, I think I’m smarter than I really am. That’s a character flaw. I recognize it, and I’m trying to get better.

“Lance.” Ms. Clarkson’s amber eyes bore into me, and a tiny curl of her lips broke through her professional mask. “You will partner with Max, Sara, and Ben. I expect--”

“I decline.” We were supposed to rise when we spoke, but I remained seated.

Ms. Clarkson smiled and slowly removed her glasses. Her smile was quite attractive, like a cat toying with a mouse, relishing in its power over life and death. “You seem to be under the impression that you have a choice. However, this is a team-based assignment, and I have assigned you to a team.”

“I decline,” I repeated. “I do not need help from a team to complete the project.”

She showed no sign of being surprised by my remarks and merely nodded. Ms. Clarkson wasn’t an ordinary teacher. She was young, well-educated, and beautiful. Beyond all that, her father was the local Alderman, so I really should’ve just gone along with her, but-

My grandpa once told me about women. He said, “Boy, listen up and listen well. Men don’t rule the world. Women do, and do you know why?”

“Boobs,” I shouted. At six, I knew my grandpa well.

Grandpa laughed. “Well, that’s true, and they have two of ‘em, but there’s also….”

I never did get to hear the rest. Grandma came into the room and ushered me outside. Grandpa died a few days later, taking the secret to the grave with him. I suspect the day I discover women’s secret power, a bus will drive through my bedroom, killing me, and I sleep on the third floor.

Ms. Clarkson pulled off her glasses, and a chill swept through the classroom. “Did you ever stop to think, other members of your group need your help or do you only think about yourself?”

I knew what I was supposed to say, but the witch used 5th-grade logic on me, and I was in the 6th. She had a lot of nerve.

“Actually, yes. I did consider the needs of the group -- you chose. I don’t care about them." There was a small grumble from my classmates but I ignored them.  "And yes, I usually do think of my needs, my desires, my future, and my life before most others.”

Ms. Clarkson frowned, then immediately smiled. “So, you are a selfish little boy and proud of it. Is that it?”

Those were fighting words. I sighed loudly, doing my best to show boredom with the conversation. “I’m no more and no less selfish than you are, little girl.”

The class erupted in a loud, “Oooh!”

I knew then that I had crossed the line. I expected to be sent to the office but-

Ms. Clarkson crossed her arms in front of her and glared at me. “And, how am I selfish? I’m standing up here trying to educate an ungrateful, spoiled child.”

I should’ve apologized or at least shut my mouth. One call to my dad and my ass would burn for hours, but sometimes the most intelligent people are the biggest fools. There’s a poster in my room that says that. “You’re standing up there trying to educate us, that’s true, but you are getting paid to do it. You paid money for college professors to teach you. They didn’t do it for fun. Your parents paid for a tutor to help you in school. You told us the story. Yet, here you are, expecting me to teach or tutor three kids for free. You’ve admitted that already.

“When you won this job, you did so by competing against other people. Did you help them get a higher score on the interview questions than you? You helped your father run for office. Did you help the other candidates so they could get more votes?

“The answer to those questions is no. These people around me are not my friends. They are my competitors.” I spread my arms out and raised my voice. “This is America, and I am doing just what you and every other adult taught me." I gave a dramatic pause, expecting a roar of applause. There was none, but still I soldiered on. "I was wrong about one thing, and I apologize, Ms. Clarkson. You are not selfish. You’re just a hypocrite.”

Immediately a thunderous roar of cheers and clapping erupted from the entire class, including my supposed teammates. I had won the battle.

Dear Diary:

It’s been four days since I lost the war. My imprisonment has been long and hard. My room smells like dirty socks, as my mother has not washed my clothes. My TV is gone, so is my computer. I have missed the NBA finals, and I still haven’t completed the five research papers assigned to me during my suspension.

I have a stack of old dusty books, which Mom calls Encyclopedias. I don’t know where she got them, but she claims they are just like the library. On the bright side, I can lay on my backside again. Thank the lord Dad stopped exercising a year ago.

Being a genius pre-teen is a horror show. I don’t think the thrill of facing off against Ms. Clarkson was worth it. I really should have kept my mouth shut.

Oh well, I guess I learned something after all. Sometimes the best way to win a war is not to start one.

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Contest rules: Write about an event in your life. Everyone has a memoir. Not an autobiography. Too much concern about fact and convention. A memoir gives us the ability to write about our life with the option to create and fabricate and to make sense of a life, or part of that life.
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