It’s half past ten on my Monday morning, I’m twisting and twirling my pencil around my fingers trying to figure out what my third grade teacher, Mrs. Palfrey is talking about and why she keeps pointing at me.
Mrs. Palfrey is the scariest teacher I’ve had so far at Southside Elementary School and she’s definitely the oldest, she’s at least thirty.
My compadre Cheryl is two seats over to my left and I know she’ll tell me later what Mrs. Palfrey is talking about; Cheryl is my best and smartest friend; her Mom’s a teacher, so I know she knows everything; Cheryl and I will be friends forever; I know if I ever need to know any of this stuff, I’ll call her and she’ll explain it to me.
Willie, my best guy friend, is my funniest friend, outside of my Nonnie of course.
Willie’s always looking back at me to see what I’m doing and I love making him laugh.
Today I decide to get his grinner going by wadding up a small piece of my textbook, tossing it in my mouth for a good ten minutes, and throwing it at the back of Cheryl’s head. I know she’ll think its funny too because she’s always grinning and shaking her head at me when I throw things at Catfish Butch, our school bus driver.
I chart my course by shutting one eye and focusing the other between Mrs. Palfrey’s roses on her new spring dress. My aim is dead on and as I get ready to release my spitball with precision and accuracy, Mrs. Palfrey whips around so fast chalk flys from her hair. I, like my pet turtle maude, immediately throw my head, arms and shoulders over my perfectly rounded spitball as though
my stomach just gave me a punch. And just as I wince, Tabatha, the fat girl in front of me yanks around in her chair and gives me the “ole buzzard one eye”.
“What’s she looking at?”, I think to myself and “why’s she giving me the ole buzzard one eye look for?”
And just like that, Mrs. Palfrey turns back to the chalkboard; Willie and I make eye contact, my Kodak moment of Spitballing has arrived. I lean back and lurch forward, like a rubber band in a newspaper factory and I launch my prize creation.
But wait, just as I release my perfectly wadded up, finely salivated spitball the fat girl in front of me, Tabatha Oats, raises her Pillsbury dough girl hand and blocks my perfectly timed shot. And just like that my spit and paper golfball masterpiece falls to the ground.
Now I don’t know why Tabatha decided to mess with my master spitball plan that day, but she did, and now I’m madder than a mosquito on a mannequin’s ass in the middle of Times Square.
Why did she mess with my master plan to make Willie and Cheryl laugh? Who does she think she is?
“Heeey fatty, Heeey fattey”, I say over and over again trying to get her attention and trying to find out why she ruined my laugh.
I tap her left shoulder and lean forward and I say it again,
“Faaattyy why’d you mess with my spitball”? And just like that she begins to shiver and shake, turns around and yells at me,
“you should be paying attention to Mrs. Palfrey, not throwing spit balls at people”.
Now I didn’t now Tabatha’s face until this year but I know she is new, and I know most kids in my class pretty much know not to mess with me, so I have a reputation to keep up with and as I turn to say my mean words again, Tabatha whirls around with her sharp blue eyes and looks me square in my eyes and says;
“quit making fun of me” and immediately she bursts into tears, making me feel like a shrew in the middle of a dinosaur festival.
And just as I’m going to start apologizing, Mrs. Palfrey snatches me up by my swimmer’s ear and asks me “Why Can’t you sit still and you’re going to see Mrs. Maltsberger!”
And with very little opposition I’m off to my principals office.
Oh the displeasure on my Mommy Gah’s face when she arrives at school later that day. Somehow I know she knows about my spitball incident and I try to get ahead of Mommy Gah’s look by yelling, “I never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings, I just wanted to make people laugh!”
And with that said, my Mommy Gah shakes her head, looks down at me with her steel trap blue eyes and says,
“Making people laugh is one thing Michele, but doing it at the cost of someone else’s tears is another thing all together!”
Three things will drive my human being ship from this point forward; I will never, ever be skinny again (God’s way of keeping my universe in check); I will never ever make fun of anyone’s body type, natural or man made proclivities; and third but not least, I will always reach out to those who feel or look different even though society’s rules say otherwise.
My second grade event was and still is the defining moment of my character.
And just like that, “The Tabatha Oats Theory of Life” is born.