David is starting the ninth grade at College Park High.
What he doesn’t understand is how he got stuck in a class with a teacher
who has the worst reputation in the school.
When you start high school you find out lots of things that you never knew before. Like, when you’re in the ninth grade at College Park High School you take two periods of English and History, one right after the other, with the same teacher. That’s the way we had Social Studies at Edison Middle School. I thought things would be better in high school, but for some reason it wasn’t at College Park.
Because they’re listed as separate classes in two different sections in the course catalog, I didn’t catch on until that first day in homeroom when they handed out our room and teacher assignments. I saw that I had Freshman English second period. In room LA-121 with Mrs. Ritchie. Then I saw that I had World History and Geography third period. In room LA-121 with Mrs. Ritchie.
I turned to the guy sitting next to me and held out my class assignment card. “Why do I have Freshman English and History with the same teacher in the same room during periods two and three?”
“That’s how it’s taught here. You didn’t know that?”
“No. Jeez, that’s just like we had it in middle school. You knew about this?”
“Yeah. My brother goes to school here. He’s junior now. He told me about it.” He took my card. “Oh, shit, you have Mrs. Ritchie. She’s supposed to be a real witch. My brother warned me about her, so I made sure I had those classes in the afternoon. She doesn’t teach freshman English and History in the afternoon. By the way, my name’s Neil Theopolis.”
“Nice to meet you Neil. My name’s Dave Ramirez.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Dave.”
“So am I hosed having Mrs. Ritchie?”
“Yeah, not much you can do about it now that you’ve been assigned to her class. One thing that might help. Ryan, that’s my brother, said she bases her seating chart on where you sit the first day of class and that you should sit as far back as you can. So you need to get there ASAP third period. Let’s see, you have Algebra 2 second period. That’s in MS-109 in the Math and Science building, and Ritchie’s class is in the Liberal Arts building. You’re lucky, the buildings are next to each other so you should be among the first to get there. Of course, lots of kids will have found out about her and they’ll try to sit at the back of the room in your class. So you’ll need to bail out of Algebra and fast-walk to LA-121.”
“What do you mean, fast-walk?”
“You can’t run in the halls or on the sidewalks. You’ll get detention if you do and you’re caught. But you can walk fast. No rule against that.”
“I still don’t understand why I should sit in the back in her class.”
Our homeroom teacher came in, and Neil handed me my class assignment card. “Trust me, just do it. I’ll look for you at lunch. Are you eating in the cafeteria?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’ll see you there. For now, I’ll do what you suggested even though I’m not sure why.”
Neil grinned. “You’ll thank me.”
Homeroom was the same as homeroom at Edison. First, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then there were announcements. Actually, a lot more announcements because this was the first day of school. Then we had to stand up and say our name and what middle school we’d attended. I think that was more for Mr. Lawrence, the homeroom teacher, than for us.
My first period Algebra 2 class looked like it would be a lot of work, but I usually found math easy so no problem. I followed Neil’s suggestion and when Algebra 2 ended I rushed to room LA-121. And I didn’t get stopped for walking fast. Anyway, there were already a lot of kids in the classroom, and the seats in the back half of the classroom were already taken. I looked for a seat and took one in the fourth row from the front right next to the windows. A cute guy took the seat next to me, at my right, and I turned so I faced him.
“Hi. I’m Dave Ramirez.” I smiled.
“Hi. I’m Jeremy Trejan.”
“You did the same thing I did, get a seat as far in the back as possible. Do you know why we’re doing this?”
He looked at the front of the class. Mrs. Ritchie hadn’t arrived yet.
Jeremy leaned close to me and whispered, “I found out that her name is pronounced ‘Rich-ee’ but she’s called ‘Reek-ee’ because she’s got really awful B.O. She stinks, a combination of an old person’s smell and body odor from not taking a shower. If you’re in the front couple of rows you need to wear an oxygen mask.” He giggled.
I leaned close to him and whispered, “Are we safe back here?”
“I hope so,” he said out loud.
That made me laugh. I looked at the rows in front of us. The class had filled up and there were only two seats that weren’t taken. They were in the first row right in front of Mrs. Ritchie’s desk.
“Alright, everyone let’s get this semester going!” Mrs. Ritchie said as she walked into the room. She was old and crotchety looking, she died her hair a light redish brown, she wore a black dress like she was going to a funeral, and her fingernails were polished black. We disconvered that she wore this same outfit every day; because of her body odor, maybe even the same clothes. I knew it had to be my imagination, but I was sure that I could smell her body odor where Jeremy and I sat four rows back.
She took roll starting at the desk next to the window in the first row and asked the girl who was sitting there for her name. She stood, said, “Beth Winslow,” and sat down, just like we’d been asked to do. I could see Mrs. Ritchie checking a sheet of paper which probably had our names, then I saw her write the name on her seating chart. This process repeated across the row, then to the seat next to the window in the second row, and so on with each kid in the rows ahead of mine.
Everything had gone along okay, and we got to my row. I stood and said my name, “David Ramirez,” and sat down.
Jeremy stood up and said his name, “Jeremy Trejan,” which he pronounced ‘tray-han,’ then he sat down. Now, I’m Latino — as if you hadn’t guessed from my last name — and Trejan is also a Latino name. Jeremy pronounced his last name the way I’d pronounce it. But apparently Mrs. Ritchie wasn’t happy with that pronunciation.
“You mean Trejan,” Mrs. Ritchie said. She pronounced the ‘jan’ part with a hard ‘j’ like when you say ‘January.’
Jeremy stood up. “My family name is Trejan. The j is pronounce like the letter h.” He sat down.
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Ritchie thundered as she stormed down the aisle on the other side of Jeremy’s desk. She glowered and with her finger pointed at him. “Are you the teacher in this class Mister Trejan?” which she again pronounced with a hard ‘j’.
“In order to get you to pronounce my name correctly, I guess so. Do you think it might be a good idea for the two of us to go to the office and find out how Principal Lockwood thinks my last name should be pronounced?”
I slid my butt to the left edge of my seat. I didn’t want to be close to this confrontation. Oh my god, I would have been freaked if Mrs. Ritchie had come thundering down the aisle to yell at me the way she yelled at Jeremy. Of course, I would never talk back that way to a teacher. Besides, Jeremy didn’t just talk back; he actually threatened Mrs. Ritchie. Jeremy didn’t appear frightened of her. No, not at all.
I could see the vein in Mrs. Ritchie’s neck pulsing, her face was beet red, and there was sweat on her brow. That’s how angry she’d become.
“I think a couple nights of detention are a better choice, Mister Trejan.” Again, pronounced with a hard ‘j’.
“I don’t think my dad would think that’s an acceptable choice, Mrs. Ritchie.”
“Mister Tray-JAN, your father can come in any time he wants for a parent-teacher conference. I’ll be very pleased to explain how your INSOLENCE has created FIVE nights of DETENTION for you!”
“Oh, you don’t have to wait for him to come in for a parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Ritchie. He’s here, on campus, right now. In fact, he’s meeting with Mr. Lockwood and the rest of the College Park High School administration.” Jeremy looked at his watch. “Yup, right now.” Jeremy looked at her and paused with a snide grin, and Mrs. Ritchie seemed a bit confused.
“And what would your father be doing meeting with the College Park High School administration?” Then she smirked. “Is he some sort of salesman? Maybe he’s selling us new pencil sharpeners?” She chuckled at her attempt at a joke which was definitely unfunny.
“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Jeremy said, then he laughed and smiled. “My dad is John Trejan, the new Superintendent of the Oakview School District.”
Oh my god! I had to stifle a laugh as Mrs. Ritchie’s eyes got big and her mouth hung open. She just stared down at Jeremy and was breathing hard. That’s when I noticed her bad breath. Oh, man, talk about rank.
Jeremy slid out of his seat, stood up, and stepped back a few feet, probably to get away from the smell. I turned around and looked at him. He had a contemptuous expression and sneered at her. I would never want him to look at me that way. He glanced and me and did a quick wink with his left eye.
He turned back to gaze at Mrs. Ritchie who started to say something that sounded like, “Well maybe we….” She stopped because Jeremy interrupted her.
“Come on, then. Let’s go to Principal Lockwood’s office and I’ll introduce you to my dad. I’m sure he’ll be interested in meeting you. It’ll be fun!”
“That’s not necessary. There won’t be any detention. Please take your seat Mister Trejan.” This time she pronounced it correctly, ‘Tray-han’. “I need to finish taking roll.” As she turned she mumbled, just loud enough that Jeremy and I could hear her, “Some students are just too thin-skinned.”
Jeremy sat down and I could hear him chuckling under his breath. Damn, if I’d been him I would have been laughing out loud.
There was a lot of talking going on in class. It didn’t include me or Jeremy, but did include most of the other students.
“Quiet!” Mrs. Ritchie thundered. “Next student, stand and state your name.”
“Bonnie Wherter.” She sat in the desk across the aisle to Jeremy’s right.
After a pause to write Bonnie’s name in the seating chart, she shouted, “Next!”
And so it went until the entire class had been checked off on the roll and added to the seating chart.
So that’s how my second and third period class got started. Our class concentrated on Freshman English during second period and World History and Geography during third period.
I had PE fourth period. Yeah, yeah, you think having PE right before lunch is awful. But it’s a lot better than having it fifth period right after lunch.
When I got to the cafeteria I saw Neil waiting for me. We got in line and he asked me about Mrs. Ritchie’s class. I pinched my nose closed and said, “Thank you. You were right.” He busted up laughing. Then I told him about Jeremy and he laughed even harder. We got our lunch, found a table, sat down, and started to eat.
Jeremy walked up with his tray. “Hi, guys,” he said.
“Neil,” I said, “this is the soon-to-be-famous Jeremy Trejan, scourge of old, smelly teachers. Jeremy, this is Neil Theopolis.”
They said “Hi, glad to meet ya,” to each other, and Jeremy sat down. We talked about our first four periods and which classes we liked and didn’t like, our teachers including Mrs. Ritchie, and the four classes we had following lunch. Then we talked about ourselves, what we liked to do, our favorite sports, our brothers and sisters, stuff like that. We exchanged cell numbers, email addresses, and home phone numbers and addresses. It seemed to me that we were becoming good friends.
In fact, the story of the incident between Mrs. Ritchie and Jeremy Trejan spread through the freshman class then the rest of the student body by the following morning. It would have been cool if it had passed into the annals of College Park High School to be remembered as the time a student got back at a bad teacher. But, probably it would just be forgotten. The school year had just started, and there would be more interesting things to grab our attention.
I guess Mrs. Ritchie couldn’t be called the worst ever teacher, other than her bad body odor, bad greath, and bad temper. Thing is, she never got the class excited about the subjects. I found those two periods pretty much boring.
I’d thought she would have said something to Jeremy in a way that would offend him, or maybe she’d lower his grades on a writing assignment. I asked him about it a few times, and each time he said she hadn’t done anything.
On the other hand, I didn’t think Mrs. Ritchie would ever forgot what happened in class that day. I guessed it would have grated on her, and she’d keep looking for a way to get back at Jeremy — and our entire class.
It finally happened on the first Thursday in December. We had to write a list that had four things about our families that kids in the class wouldn’t know. They had to be related to our family history or geography. Three of the things had to be true, and one had to be a lie but had to sound like the truth. Then during the rest of the period we had to exchange our paper with the kid sitting next to us, and pick out their lie and they would pick out our lie. I mean, this is a really stupid exercise. First, how do you decide who is next to you if you’re not at the end of a row? Second, how are you ever going to pick out the lie if it sounds like the truth?
Things were pretty quiet during the first fifteen minutes of second period while we wrote our lists. But then when we started passing them to the kid next to us it got confusing. Some guys wanted to exchange with their girlfriend, some kids did the exchange but then exchanged the paper they got with someone else, and some kids couldn’t find someone to exchange with. Things got noisy and noisier. Mrs. Ritchie had to shout at us to shut up and then marched around the room to make sure everyone had exchanged their papers.
Then we all started trying to guess the lie on the paper we got. Kids were arguing, and two guys almost came to blows because one kid said that everything in the other kid’s list had to be lies because they were so stupid. It appeared that Mrs. Ritchie hadn’t expected that kind of reaction.
Mrs. Ritchie stood up. “Quiet!” she hollered. Her gaze swept over all of us, and everyone calmed down and the room got quiet.
“Alright, it’s time for each pair to come up and read their partner’s list and identify the lie. Then the partner will read their partner’s list and identify the lie. Then each will say which one is the real lie. Once each pair is done they’ll sit down and another pair will be called to come up and do the same thing. I want to finish this exercise before we take our break.”
The break she mentioned is the break between second period Freshman English and third period World History and Geography. We’d go to our lockers, go to the bathroom, chill and chat with friends, you know, do whatever.
Of course, she had to pick us as the first pair. She called out, “Jeremy Trejan and David Ramirez.”
Fine with me, that way we’d be finished early and could go out at the break between periods.
I read Jeremy’s list out loud: “The four things on Jeremy’s list are: My mother works from home; for a while my mother was raised on a cattle ranch; my father never got a Master’s degree; my father wasn’t born in the United States.
“The lie is: My father never got a Master’s degree.”
I handed Jeremy his list.
“That’s right, Dave,” Jeremy said. He read my list out loud: “The four things on Dave’s list are: I have five brothers, two are twins and three are triplets; my mother worked for Gap; my dad travels to Europe for his job; my older sister is going to UCLA.
“Your lie is: ‘my dad travels to Europe for his job.’”
He handed me my list.
“Sorry, Jeremy. It’s true, my dad does travel to Europe for his job. The lie is: my older sister is going to UCLA. I don’t have an older sister. In fact, I don’t have any sisters. My folks have six sons.”
I noticed that Mrs. Ritchie had a smarmy grin, like Jeremy being wrong made her happy. Neil had been right, she was a witch.
Jeremy turned to me and said, “At least your mother doesn’t have to worry about any of you getting pregnant.” This caused the class to erupt in laughter, and set the tone for the other readings. Everyone tried to add a joke at the end. Mrs. Ritchie was furious. Our readings and guesses were taking a lot longer than she planned. When the bell for the end of second period rang, the kids who’d read their lists got up to leave.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” Mrs. Ritchie shouted. “Get back to your seats and sit down. You need to listen to the rest of the lists. You had the courtesy of the rest of the class when they listened to your lists, you need to have the same courtesy to listen to their lists.”
Good point. I actually agreed with her about us listening to the rest of the lists.
Jaylin Drayer raised his hand.
Mrs. Ritchie asked, letting out a big, loud, sigh. “Yes, Jaylin?”
“I gotta go to the restroom, ma’am.”
“Sorry, you’ll have to wait until we’re through with the rest of the stories.”
“But really, I gotta go!” he objected.
“You’ll have to wait. Next pair, please read your stories.”
“I can’t wait. If you won’t let me go, I’ll end up wetting my pants and I’m not going to do that!”
“Sit down!” she bellowed.
“NO! I gotta go, so I’m going to the bathroom. Now!” He got up and headed for the rear door to the classroom.
“Don’t bother coming back!” she hollered, as he rushed out. “You’re out of this class, effective immediately, Mister!”
Jeremy raised his hand.
Mrs. Ritchie scowled at him. “What do you want now?”
“The district rules say that when a student says they have to go to the bathroom they have to be allowed to do that. They are given ten minutes. If they don’t return within ten minutes they are to be sent to the nurse when they do get back.”
“Well, it seems that you continue to be full of arcane school district information, don’t you.”
“Yes, ma’am. That comes from hearing about it at the dinner table. My dad talks about some of the things that he gets involved in at the district headquarters. I have a good memory, so I remember things like that. You never know when I might hear something that will turn out to be useful.”
“Well, why don’t you just be useful as you possibly can, pack up your things, and leave this classroom too? Is that what you want?”
“Then don’t spout district rules and regulations that you don’t know anything about, understand? Now, who’s the next pair?”
While the rest of the lists were being read, Jaylin returned and took his seat. When the current pair of students finished, Mrs. Ritchie walked down the aisle and stood in front of Jaylin’s desk.
“I told you that you aren’t to come back to this class. So take your things and leave,” she told him.
He pulled a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and handed it to her.
“This here is a pass from Vice Principal Brewster. It says I’m to come back to class. There’s another note too, in this here sealed envelope. I think it says he wants to talk to you after school today. But I’m not sure. I wouldn’t have read what’s on that note. That wouldn’t have been right for me to do, would it?”
“We’ll see about this!” she said as she grabbed the envelope, and stomped to her desk and sat down. “Who’s next?”
At lunch after the event with Jaylin a lot of the kids in Mrs. Ritchie’s class gathered at one of the tables, and what happened became the single topic of conversation. We all wondered what Vice Principal Brewster would tell her. Maybe she’d be fired, and we’d have a new teacher. Or maybe a substitute. Some of the kids said they wanted a substitute because then we wouldn’t have to work as hard in the class. I wasn’t so sure about that. In fact, I was pretty sure that Mrs. Ritchie would be back the next day. Jeremy agreed with me, and I figured that he should know. Jaylin agreed, and I figured he knew what was in the sealed envelope, even though he sort of said he didn’t. Some of the other kids agreed, too.
We were right. When we walked into second period the next day Mrs. Ritchie sat at her desk, scowling at us. ‘What’s she all mad about now?’ I wondered.
I saw Beth Winslow enter the rear door to the room and take Jaylin Drayer’s seat.
“Where’s Jaylin?” I whispered to Jeremy.
He whispered his reply, “On the way to class I heard he was able to switch to Mr. Gregg’s class.”
“So why’s Beth sitting in Jaylin’s seat? That’s gonna mess things up when Mrs. Ritchie takes roll,” I whispered, then I chuckled.
Jeremy just shrugged his shoulders and smiled, meaning he didn’t have a clue either.
The things that were gonna get messed up would get started right away. Mrs. Ritchie started taking roll. This was going to be fun.
Beth called out, “Present.”
Mrs. Ritchie was so busy looking at her seating chart that the sound of Beth’s voice coming from a different direction didn’t seem to register right away.
“Lionel Will….” She stopped reading Lionel William’s name and looked up. It seemed like she finally realized that something had changed, but couldn’t figure out what it was.
“Present,” Lionel said. I could tell from the sound of his voice that he had to try hard to keep from laughing.
Mrs. Ritchie looked at Beth’s seat in the first row by the windows. Of course, she wasn’t there. I guess, based on that old saying, ‘if you don’t succeed at first, try, try again,’ Mrs. Ritchie tried again.
“Beth Winslow? Are you here?”
“Yes, I’m here.”
I could tell from the way Beth’s voice sounded that she also thought the whole thing was funny.
Mrs. Ritchie looked around. Then she said, “Beth Winslow, please stand up.”
Beth stood up into the aisle next to what had been Jaylin’s seat.
“That’s not your seat,” Mrs. Ritchie barked. “Please take your assigned seat.”
“Jaylin isn’t in this class anymore. His seat is empty. I decided it would be my assigned seat from now on. You can change his name to mine for this seat.”
“Once you’ve selected a seat in my class you cannot change that seat. Move back to your assigned seat.”
“There’s a reason I can’t do that. I can explain it, but I need to tell you privately because it’s something embarrassing.”
“Well, come up and tell me. You can whisper it to me.”
Beth walked up to Mrs. Ritchie’s desk, and leaned in to whisper to her.
“Maybe she has a medical problem,” I whispered to Jeremy.
“What kind of medical problem would cause Beth to move back to Jaylin’s… oh my god, I know what the medical problem is.” Jeremy started to giggle. He brought his hand to his nose, squeezed his nose for a couple seconds, then whispered, “Mrs. Ritchie's B.O. makes Beth sick.”
Now we both had to try hard to keep from laughing.
Mrs. Ritchie had a notepad and pen and started writing. Her face was as bright red as a tomato. All noise in the classroom ceased except for the sound of Mrs. Ritchie’s pen scratching on the paper. All of us stared, silently, at her and Beth.
She tore the page off the notepad and almost threw it at Beth. Though she spoke in a low voice, the total silence in the classroom let most of us hear what she said.
“You take this to Vice Principal Brewster and give it to him. Take your things. You are not welcome in my class any longer.”
Beth took the note and carefully folded it in half, walked serenely to what had been Jaylin’s desk, picked up her book bag, and walked to the rear door of the classroom. When she got there she turned, grinned, said “Bye!” and waved. Then she opened the door and left.
Things calmed down and Mrs. Ritchie’s class got back to the assigned subjects. At lunch we learned that Beth had been assigned to Mr. Gregg’s Freshman English and World History and Geography class.
About a month later Mrs. Ritchie gave us an in-class assignment to write a two page story and turn it in at the end of second period. This is not the kind of assignment that we’d be able to dash off in what was left of second period.
“This is bogus,” I whispered to Jeremy. “I’ve got an idea. Follow my lead?”
“Okay.” He replied.
The end of second period bell rang and several kids got up to take their break.
“Only students who’ve turned in their story can leave,” Mrs. Ritchie announced.
Jeremy and I stood up. I said, in a loud voice, “I gotta go to the bathroom. I think it’s something I ate. I gotta go. This is an emergency.”
“Me, too,” Jeremy said. “I gotta go to the bathroom, and fast!”
“Alright, come up and get hall passes then go. And make sure when you return it’s not one second later than ten minutes from now.”
Jeremy and I got our hall passes and rushed out.
“I don’t have to go to the bathroom,” he said.
“Yes, you do,” I said. “And so do I. Even if you don’t need to, go anyway. You don’t want to be caught in the hall when you’re supposed to be in the bathroom.”
As we walked to the bathrooms Jeremy looked at his hall pass. “Look at the time she says we left. It’s at least two minutes earlier than when we actually left. She’s a real witch.”
“That’s perfect,” I said. "We’re going to time it so we get back to the classroom late, at least five minutes late. She’ll give us a note for the nurse. Instead we’ll go to Vice Principal Brewster’s office. We’ll complain about what she did with our hall passes. We’ll tell him that she’s been picking on you because of your dad’s job, and because I sit next to you she’s been picking on me too. Finally, we can’t stand her body odor, it’s making us sick. We’ll get out of her class and into Mr. Gregg’s class.”
“Yup, I think.”
It did work. It took a lot more discussion with Vice Principal Brewster to get him to relent and assign us to Mr. Gregg’s second and third period class. I said what pushed it over the edge was our complaint that she always seemed to give us assignments that prevented us from leaving the classroom for the break between second and third periods. Jeremy said no, what pushed it over the edge was her writing the time that we left two minutes before the actual time we left so we didn’t have ten minutes to go to the bathroom, and that he’d complained about that to his dad.
Whichever, we were moved to Mr. Gregg’s class and joined Beth and Jaylin. That filled his class, so no one else in Mrs. Ritchie’s class could switch the way Jeremy and I did.
At the end of fall semester it was announced that Mrs. Ritchie had retired. They even had a party for her, with a cake.
Jeremy said, “I gotta go to that! I’d love to find out the other teachers’ opinions about her.”
“I’m more interested in finding out what kind of cake they got her,” I said.
It was held in the teachers’ lounge. Of course, students weren’t invited, so we couldn’t go. Jeremy never found out the other teachers’ opinions about Mrs. Ritchie. I never found out what kind of cake they got her. Whatever.
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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2014 by Colin Kelly (colinian). They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. The original image is Copyright © 2014 ehrenberg-bilder | Dollar Photo Club.