Saturday, July 31, 2010

The more the merrier

A cliche fest for your amusement :-) It was posted at Yahoo Answers by "Roger" with no other attribution. Since it is (or was) no where else on the internet, I assume he wrote it. -- Joyce

by Roger (probably)

There was no love lost between my high school English teacher and me. As old as the hills, with one foot in the grave, he tried to keep a stiff upper lip about his bodily decrepitude; he refused to face the music and admit that he was not the picture of health. He attempted to crack a smile as though he were radiantly happy; as he spoke earnestly about punctuation and grammar, his eyes twinkled. After ten minutes of class, however, the cat got out of the bag, and we could tell that he could no longer toe the mark. The handwriting was on the wall.

Perhaps in a teacher other than Mr. Withers, advanced infirmity might have touched a soft spot in our hearts, but more than once the old bag of bones hit us below the belt. The tests and themes he assigned added insult to injury. One day he had the unmitigated gall to quiz us on a chapter that we had not yet gone over in class! Innocent as newborn babes we had walked into that classroom, but neither rhyme nor reason could persuade Mr. Withers to call off his examination. Finally it was time to let it all hang out. The crap had hit the fan.

It was my best friend Kerry who decided to lay his cards on the table. He was mad as a hatter and made no bones about it. “This quiz,’’ he protested, “is unfair! I’ve had all I’m going to take! You can take this paper—” [here Kerry threw the test on his desk, defiance glaring in his eyes] “and, by God, you know what you can do with it! Hasta la vista, baby!” With that Kerry left the rest of us in the lurch with Mr. Withers. Then three girls flew the coop, and last but not least I felt in my bones that it was time to show the old bag a thing or two. Kerry started it, and I would finish it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In for a penny, in for a pound. I got the hell out. “I’m leaving,’’ I told Mr. Withers. “Do what you like about it.’’ With that I took to my heels.

Once out the door, a twinge of guilt did touch me; but in my heart of hearts I reasoned that the hour had sounded to give the devil his due. Of course, had we nipped Mr. Withers’ unfair practices in the bud, it might have been unnecessary to join the battle royal: a stitch in time saves nine. Yet I was happy as a king to watch the rest of the class storming out of the room, swearing like troopers. I was spoiling for a fight and was pleased as punch that we had made a monkey out of Withers.
The old boy was stung to the quick. He had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

And then the tide turned. We saw that he was not such a snake in the grass after all. In his heart the milk of human kindness flowed.

Fearing for our lives, we told the principal, Dr. Frelinghuysen, what we had done. He took old Withers to the woodshed and gave him a thorough dressing down, man-to-man. As he pranced out of Dr. Frelinghuysen’s office, Mr. Withers was a horse of a different color. He had changed—lock, stock, and barrel. Next Monday’s class saw a shame-faced apology about the quiz. Mr. Withers said that he was going to talk to us straight from the shoulder. We were all in the same boat together, he said; although he was ill, if we would try to learn from him he would try to learn from us. It was share and share alike. He promised to stop putting his foot down so heavily and said that after all we both knew the ropes and understood how the game was played.

O alas the day! In two weeks, old Mr. Withers left us high and dry. At the eleventh hour, his time was up. He passed away, like a ghost in the night, of bone cancer. You didn’t have to like the man to feel sorry for him, to feel gratitude for his crusty appeal and devotion beyond the call of duty. He never rested on his laurels but risked life and limb to teach us the eternal verities of life. Kerry, I recall, cried his heart out that week and avoided all his friends like the plague.

In every cloud there is a silver lining. Even the worst of us, the least fortunate and least well liked, has a vein of gold. We must learn to seek out this vein and mine it. Mr. Withers was really a grand old man, and if only someone had opened a dialogue instead of pushing matters as far as they would go, all our lives would have been richer and fuller. We all cried a little when he went the way of all flesh.

No comments: