Thursday, May 21, 2009
Clifford Barrows. Pin Cushion with Honors.
Clifford Barrows made a deal with his mother. She promised him two new piercings if he brought up his grades at Cloverdale’s Comprehensive School. He started the semester with a C average. His mother expected straight ‘A’s” and knew it would take bribery to get her son to reach his potential.
Clifford knew giving his schoolwork that much attention could cost him some popularity with his gang of pin cushioners but he had respect for his mother - and being a good, but slightly odd son, decided to accept the deal and make the required grades to get the needed piercings. Besides, he was intelligent enough to find ways to keep his improving grades secret.
Clifford’s home room teacher passed out the report cards. When your name was called you stood, walked to the front of the room and held out your hand to accept the establishment's evaluation of your performance. Clifford’s friends saw this ritual as an opportunity to make a statement. Each one picked up his report card, ripped it up in front of the teacher and waited for the order to report to detention. This was their agreed upon action. Clifford knew he was in trouble. His last name started with a B. He would be the first Pin Cushion called to pick up his report card. He was expected to set the example for the others. He would be the first to tear up the report. He would be the first to be sent to detention. On the other hand, he needed that report card to fulfill his part of the bargain - a 4.0 for two new piercings. He was caught between his duty to his rebel alliance and his obligation to his mother.
“Clifford Barrows,” It was time. His name had been called. He stood and began the long walk from the back of the room, headquarters of the Pin Cushions toward the front of the room, home of the nerds. Strangely he felt comfortable with both groups. Clifford was very intelligent. He knew he had the ability to do anything. His teachers and mother spent hours explaining his ‘gift’ and his future possibilities. Clifford reassured them that he understood.
“I’m young and this is what you do when your young,” he explained hoping they would cut him some slack and let him have some time to express himself in this unusual way. “I’ll conform when its time but now I’m having some fun. Besides, I really like the reaction I get looking like this. I’m spooky. Kinda fun.”
Clifford reached the front of the room and held out his hand. His teacher looked at him. She knew the routine. He would destroy his grades in front of her and she would send him to detention. Mrs. Dawson was a good teacher. She knew Clifford and was proud of what he’d done that semester. She ignored his look of indifference. “It’s all part of the act,” Clifford told her in previous encounters.
Clifford took the report card and glanced down to privately admire the perfect rows of A’s. He was puzzled. The paper was blank except for a hand written note.
“Clifford, the teacher in detention has your real report card. Your first there so you can pick it up before anyone else sees. Go ahead and rip up this paper. Give us a good show. I expect the best from you.”
Clifford gave Mrs. Dawson a quick and private smile. His demeanor changed to disgust. He was on stage and ready to perform. He turned to face the class. He held the report high over his head.
“Do it, Do it, Do it,” the Pin Cushions chanted from the back of the room. Clifford didn't’ disappoint them. He took the paper with both hands and ripped it into several smaller pieces. The back of the room erupted into loud cheers. Clifford was expected to toss the shredded paper up into the air. Instead he turned and placed the confetti into Mrs. Dawson’s hand. The room fell silent. No one had ever handed a destroyed report card back to the teacher. This would be legend. Mrs. Dawson took the paper in one hand and pointed to the classroom door with the other.
“Detention Mr. Barrows,” she shouted playing her part in this one act play.
Clifford left the room. He had his 4,0 and the report that proved it. He would get his piercings. His mother would get the grades and everyone would be happy. Clifford wasn’t planning on repeated the deal. The new piercings would be his last. He intended to let his grades slide for a semester and then bring them up again at the end of the school year before secretly applying for university. Now he was rethinking his plan. He had a newly found respect for Mrs. Dawson. She came through for him and he thought he might give her another good semester - as long as she would be willing to repeat today’s performance.
Clifford is a good boy. He just doesn’t look like it and that’s OK with him.