The Prostitute Incident

“Substitutes are prostitutes.”

I didn’t actually know what a prostitute was, but as an aspiring wordsmith in the fifth grade, something about that ┬ájust sounded right.

It wasn’t.

We were waiting in the hallway at Rushmore School for class to start. Since Mr. Myerhoff was out we had a substitute, and she began her day by hearing me call her a prostitute. She came out, grabbed me by the shirt and dragged me off to the office.

If Mr Meyerhoff heard what I said he would have set me straight and it would have ended right there. He was the best elementary school teacher ever, and knew how to deal with nine-year-old boys. But Mr. Meyerhoff was out that day. And the rest is history.

The principal demanded to know why I’d done it. Not having a good answer I dropped back and punted. “I don’t know. I heard a sixth grader on the playground say it.

“OK. Why don’t you go out there find that sixth grader and bring him in here.”

Outside, I looked around forlornly and thought about pinning it on somebody else. They’ll get blamed and I’ll be off the hook. Instead I just returned to the office.

I got back ┬ájust in time to hear the gym teacher, Mr. Ceccoli, say “Madeo? Oh, yeah. He’s a troublemaker.” Thanks a lot, Mr. Ceccoli. I’m sure you don’t remember calling me a troublemaker, but I certainly remember you being a jerk.

Then the principal got on the phone with my mother and explained the whole thing. They agreed to send me home, because the substitute teacher couldn’t stand the idea of having me in her classroom.

I waited all day to get in trouble — especially once my father got home. This was back in the day when it was OK to smack your kids. I’d had trouble at school before for little things, but calling the substitute a prostitute? Then getting tossed out of school for the day? This would surely be the end.

But nobody said a word. Could it be that they recognized how stupid the whole thing was and how the school overreacted. Is it possible that my mother never even told my father? I don’t know.

Overall, it turned out to be a pretty good day. Got off from school, didn’t get in trouble, and learned a new word. Mr. Myerhoff was back the next day and all was right with the world.

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