Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.
There's Only One Place to Start
and that is the year 1964. I was in the fourth-grade and the days were hot. And I do mean those sweltry, dry "Alabama Hot." That's hot, my friend. For some reason I sat in the front desk smack dab in sight of my teacher, Mrs. Rosa Bowling. She was alright in the beginning, but as the school year rolled on, she changed. At the end of our first semester she pulled a fast one on us and when she blew back to teach the our second semester, she was married. Talk about stunned! She even had a new name: Mrs. Rosa Simmons. She was in love.
I hate to be an egotist, but I was far from in love. I had to contend with my classmates who all had successful parents who owned successful businesses in Hamilton, Ala., but me, no, sir. My parents both worked to put food on our table and pay bills, and needless to say, my clothes wwre not the best in the world, but my parents did their best.
But even with all of this turmoil, there was one more area of severe contention and I can call it as I seen it then in 1964 and in 2021. My situation was the "Mother of Torture," who went by the name of Mrs. Rosa Simmons. What a crock. Some sensitive teacher. I still carry the emotional scars that she helped to make. Yes, I mean it.
A Typical Day in Rosa Simmons' Room
was very-ordered. I had no problem with that. Quite frankly, she was somewhat fair and we knew that she was the boss. Each morning we would stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance then sit while she read us a Bible story and I tell you, there were no sounds when she read. She had a fine voice.
At 10 a.m., we had morning recess and we were allowed to go to the playground in front of our school house (then-Hamilton Grammar School) and play football, baseball, or tag. We were just overjoyed to be out in the fresh air, sunshine, and get to run like the wind. But folks, little did "I" realize that Mrs. Simmons was "setting me up for the kill," as it were.
Mrs. Simmons would let us know that we needed to come into class. Some got a drink of water while I got back into my seat. This was the only part of the day that I liked. Simmons taught us all of the fine things about arithmetic, health, and how to tell time. I was a poor student when it came to arithmetic and telling time, but health was not that much of an obstacle. No bragging.
Lunch came quickly and this is when our days would "hit the skids," and slide down hill. Lunch consisted of government lard used to cook whatever some things we were forced to eat made lunch a sickening ordeal. We were forced to eat cold ham and drink a pint of milk. I found out years later that I was lactose intolerant. This explained me having to up-chuck immediately after lunch--all due to that awful food and milk.
We went back to Mrs. Simmons' room for more teaching until around 1:30 p.m. when our final recess was held and we loved to hit the playground once more to play, yell, and just have fun. Mind you that this story is set in August, probably the hottest month of the year and when Simmons summoned us back to the classroom, there was a line a mile long to get a quick swig of water from our only water fountain. Many times, I was near the end and I hated Simmons to scold me so I just sucked it up and went to class.
Then Came The Fourth-Grade Torture
that I'm sure that you are wondering about. Firstly, Mrs. Simmons' torture was not whipping us with horse whips, putting us through water torture or making us stand in the corner. She did something worse. Something so awful that prisoners held in the major prison system of the nation would crack under "this" daily event Mrs. Simmons did.
Remember that we were on the playground and playing football, baseball, or just running like wild horses. Now put that fact with August, the hottest month of the year and you have some really fried students. Me included. But no matter if I got my turn at the evening water fountain after recess or not, Mrs. Simmons would wait until we all were seated and sweating like mules that had to plow for a farmer and like the skill of a master strategist, she would sit her huge glass of cold, cold ice water and sit it in front of her desk for all to see which put me "under the gun" because I sat on the very front.
The time was 2 p.m., one hour of school left. At 2:30 p.m., the school buses would arrive and get parked in line for us students. Oh, how I wish that I had cut the 2 p.m. part of Mrs. Simmons' class. And that painful glass of cold water with ice looking straight at me between the eyes and I knew that it was me or the water.
I was already dying of thirst from the activity on the afternoon playground and the huge glass of water with ice did something as bad as just sit there to torture my class and I. The small water droplets began to form at the rim of Mrs. Simmons' huge water glass and they would slowly trickle down to the bottom. My tongue had already swelled two sizes. I knew this from watching people on TV who had become lost in the dessert.
But Mrs. Simmons preserved. She carried-on the lecture and would take a short sip of that cold water and she would look directly at me and never bothered to ask me if I wanted drink. No, ma'am! It didn't matter to her if I (or my friends) passed out from thirst. She just sat there, read a little, and tortured us with her ice water.
And to this day in 2021, I never knew what I was being tortured for.
March 12, 2021_____________________________________________________
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© 2021 Kenneth Avery