Did I like School?

Did I like School?

I attended Catholic school from the 1st to 8th grade. I never knew I would be a writer when I got older; otherwise, I would have paid more attention during English classes.

The biggest problem is I couldn’t find a way to cheat in English.

The Dominican Sisters taught me from 1st to 5th grade. I was convinced they learned how to torture boys from the World War II Japanese.

They drilled us daily by dissecting sentences, drawing a straight line, placing nouns, verbs, adverbs, and prepositions in a sentence, and placing 45-degree angles between the words. I never got it right.

One day in the fourth grade, Sister Mary of the Miserable World called me to the caulk board to dissect a sentence. Knees shaking, I put the verb in the wrong place and the adjective on a line below the main line like I thought I should. I got that one right, but the plu perfect subjunctive was dead wrong. (Whatever that means.) Sister Miserable bashed my head against the blackboard, leaving a Vitalis hair gel stain that remained there for the duration of the 4th grade as a monument to my stupidity. Of course, Kelley Ann O’Conner came up and made the appropriate corrections in four seconds. 

I doubt O’Conner wrote as many books as I have because I finally found a good editor who knew all about the real English language and made my books readable.

Then I had the infamous Sisters of Charity, who studied under the Third Reich and kept me from any creativity from the balance of the 5th through 8th grades. 

The good Sisters, in their black habits, did all they could to destroy any creativity in me and made memorizing Latin prayers the bane of my existence.

Finally, in high school, a lay teacher—that’s a teacher who actually got laid—assigned us to write a composition on our favorite person. It had to be a real person. I finally found a way to cheat.

I knew Mr. Byrne was a gung-ho military man, and with Vietnam just starting, I wrote a story about my older brother Anthony, who was stationed with the First Marine Battalion in Vietnam. The problem was that I’m the eldest in my family, and Anthony is a fictitious character. I lied.

Mr. Byrne had tears in his eyes when he read my composition. I got an A and a hug. The only A I got except for a history test in senior year.

He told the other teachers I was bright, and suddenly, I made my bones and only failed two subjects that year: algebra and French. I made it up in summer school and remained at the school in spite of my grades for four years.

I knew then that cheating and creativity went hand-in-hand. 

When I wrote my first book at age 58, after my business career was over, I absolutely fell in love with the writing process.

Between spell check and a good editor, I finally got over the pain of the Vitalis stain, which likely remains on that blackboard to this day.