Kenneth Avery is a Southern humorist with well over a thousand fans. The charm and wit in his writing span a nearly a decade.
Writer’s note - - - no, there wasn’t (a) “Mr. Todd,” in this piece. But this is a composite, more or less, of all the hateful male teachers that my friends and I had to endure. "Thanks, Kenneth"
Harsh. You bet he was harsh. He should have been in the U.S. Marine drill instructor. Or in his bed somewhere. But no. He was our History teacher for a week or so, but those ten days felt like forever in Purgatory. Young high school students, either you have been there or in there now. The better you will understand this piece.
All that I came away from his class was being aware that he couldn’t stand me. For some of my friends who were punished into taking his class, that knowledge would have been enough. Easy to live with. But for me, it was personal.
I guarantee it. Wisdom is mostly-extracted from near-tragic real life moments. This was not one moment, but several. But we endured. We were in the 11th grade, a great day to be in our junior high class and we thought that we could fly. Maybe just able to deflect speeding bullets. But one thing’s for sure. We could not leap over tall substitute teachers, especially those harsh ones who resemble King Arthur’s battle with his gang of ugly, powerful dragons.
No. I had rather face a dragon at midnight than face this harsh guy anytime. It was never proven, but we whispered to ourselves in the secret nooks of our hallways in our high school. Of course it was pure speculation, but we did know that he had to be a demon from the Lake of Fire. Heck, this harsh teacher could have breathed fire if the need had arisen. But we waited patiently for that spectacle to materialize.
His name was “Todd.” And my redneck, jock pals just knew that he was a sissy. Jock’s and rednecks for some reason, have this gift, if you please, to always know the he-men from the sissies. Later on that thought.
“Todd,” besides yelling louder than a drug-crazed rhino, displayed such a hatred that we were stunned because we never knew what for, except that we just hated us. Especially me. And this is the mystery. Charlie Chan would be called in back then or maybe a good clinical psychiatrist to dig into “Todd’s” tormented, evil hatred for people. Maybe he just hated students. Or maybe just me. I didn’t show any weakness for him to get his foot into my head because if he were to achieve this move, it would be curtains.
“Todd’s” voice was so loud, strong, and operatic, that he could have passed for those famous Italian opera singers, but thank God, where we attended high school, there were no male (or female) opera singers in the Deep South. His other punishment was if we didn’t understand his Tommy Gun speed of speech, he said said early on to raise our hands to explain the question. Big mistake. I fell for it. My hand went up when he explained something or other about Pilgrims and the James Smith connection somewhere near 1492. Then, out of pure arrogance, he glared at me and yelled, and you are so stupid that you did—-not---understand? ( he loved to emphasize each word to make it harder on me.)
The one memorable event which I recall was very fulfilling and yet so sad happening was on a bitterly cold winter night when our football team was going against our rival and this meant fights galore, both on the gridiron, in the stands, and in the parking lot. What a great idea to let off steam. “Todd” was there. He held his box of hot popcorn that some concession stand volunteer gave him, and there he stood, munching the kernels with his eyes set on our pretty cheerleaders. Uh, oh!
Before another moment, there he sat, on the same bench with the pretty cheerleaders who kept the spirit of the night fresh to keep the football atmosphere unfold. Now why the following minutes will always be stuck in the craw of high school students me included. “Todd,” rose and stood up high and let go a few boisterous cheers that even two or three of the football teams who were on the field heard his yelling. Some of our cheerleaders, now humiliated, bowed their pretty heads in shame. I ask you who wouldn’t? An adult single male teacher should be near any high school cheerleaders. Actually, any cheerleaders for that fact.
Afterwards, after our team was soundly-defeated 44-8, and the rival team used their second string players to boot, we were not hurt. We had grown used to having our team dragged in the mud and crucified in the local paper. Our high school coach did not go a sound job of recruiting teams. This fact was evident. The old stand-by adage, maybe next year was our high school motto.
The dark, indecent incident that put “Todd” in the very middle of this fracas, surrounded by other jocks who had been dismissed from the football team the year before and those good ol’ boy rednecks and gave “Todd”such an unmerciful beating that not even a mangy stray dog could have lived through it. I used the word, fracas, because I did have a little pity on “Todd” the hateful teacher. But that soon disappeared. I recalled that one of our student body, a well-known know-it-all, told some of us that after the beat-down, “Todd” was not recognizable. My, my.
So did “Todd.” As those famous adventure authors say, and the rest was a slice of dark, bloody history.
I didn’t want to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, so here is only an image of the vivacious female teachers that we had in my years in high school. Oh, at the times that I dreamed of having a teenage-twenty-something romance. Sure I wish that I could go back and try it again.
And yes, the best part, no “Todd” to torment me.
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Another writer's note: Call me fickle. Call me a dream-catcher. But the lovely lady above is the late Ruth Roman. From the stage to film and TV, her career was spanless. She had "that" grace and looks that made her be cast in several films and TV shows. Now for the personal side of me. I am 17. in junior high school. This was the dangerous age where most guys go wild looking for women like Ruth Roman.
I dreamed many times of her being my teacher. And what other red blooded American male didn't? Thank you, Kenneth.
© 2022 Kenneth Avery