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101 uses for a bad egg

While I was in line at the grocery store, I heard this voice,this pained needle-like voice,like an irritated morning alarm clock buzzer,coming from the next line over. Standing there were two very nicely dressed older people. They were trying to hurry along the cashier, as the Packer game was starting in three minutes and it was the sixteen-year-old cashier’s fault that they chose the busiest grocery shopping moment of the weekend in which to pick up their smoked salmon, brie and Doritos.

The woman was one of my arch nemeses.

I don’t have much white-hot hate in my life, but she really fans the coals of my most bitter ire. In truth, I’m probably over-reacting. You be the judge

She was my honors English teacher during my junior year in high school.

Her name is Ms. Mangoe.

Not really. That’s not her real name, but it’s close enough. It’s also appropriate because her overly-permed rich lady hair was the color of the flesh of a slightly rotten mango. She usually matched her blush to this color, creating an artless stripe on either side of her face, giving the appearance of having gashes along her cheekbones. As if she had somehow sprouted gills. This was particularly attractive when she would wear a Hazard Cone Orange full-body jump suit, like an escapee from a prison work crew. I used to imagine that she would be the worst kind of female prison inmate, harsh and uncaring, doling out her attention like cigarettes to her favorites, snidely sneering to show disdain to the underlings.

Prison and high school are disturbingly a lot alike.

She hated me. Or rather, she ignored me. I was not worth her attention. I did not toe the line. I did not come from an exclusive zip code. I was not a cute perky high school girl. I did not type my assignments. I did not lust over Emily Dickinson or Anne Bradstreet. I thought (and still think) that ‘The Red Wheelbarrow” is a cruel thing to plant on 11th graders, who after spending a semester trying to read into obscure 17th century text start looking in symbolism where there is none.

She used to give out ‘class participation points’. She felt that everyone had to speak in class at least once in order to gain a C for the day. More participation earned more points. No participation garnered a zero for the day, fewer points than if you had been absent. This isn’t too terrible, right? Except that you can’t control whether you got called on! She would only call on her favorites, sometimes seven or eight times in one class period, ignoring the plebes who tried desperately to gain their one participation point in order to simply tread water.

Because of my last initial, I sat in the very first row by the door. The second the bell rang signaling classtime, she would stand there to collect assignments. One time, I could not find my assignment immediately, as I had just made it to class (my previous period was far across campus). She made a rather dramatic show of waiting and sighing for thirty seconds at the top of the row and then moved onto the next row to collect their papers. At that moment, I found my assignment and brought it up to her. She waited until I was standing next to her and then moved to the next row. I simply put my paper onto the pile in her hands.

‘Too late.’ She said, not looking at me, handing the paper back.

She then addressed the class about how if we expect to make it in college, we need to be better organized. She was really doing this for our benefit, you see.

Another time, she handed out our midterm exam. Seven single-sided sheets. After writing extensively, regurgitating all of my brain guts onto the page about transcendentalism, Herman Melville and the like, I finished my test first and brought it up to her. She raised her perfectly drawn eyebrows and flipped through my test, lips pursed. She looked at the back, said nothing and then placed the test into a manila folder. I sat back down. And waited. And waited. And all around me, people wrote on their papers. It turned out that she had more test questions on the back of page seven.

Yes, page seven was the only page which had questions written on the back of it.

And to her,it appeared that even though I had scads and scads of opinions about ‘The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’, onomatopoeia, and Robert Frost, I had no opinion,not even a smidge of thought about Romanticism, Edger Allen Poe, or ‘The Rape of the Lock’.

I was no slouch. Let’s just get that out in the open right now. English is my passion. I love words. I love reading. I love literature. I was taking senior lit classes when I was a junior. I was not a slacker English girl.

She used to delight in making herself look smart. She’d ask us these questions that she hadn’t covered in class. I sometimes think that she had the pomposity of a spurned professor and perhaps she was bitter that she was stuck teaching the dregs of education in a public high school.

Once, she asked ‘What is the literary technique in which an author shows an evolution of a character, such as an initiation to adulthood.’ Silence. Crickets were chirping in the background. She gloated, superiority glowing down upon the blank stares of a class of juniors.

Then I tentatively raised my hand. Despite the fact that she never called on me, I was still giving it my best shot, unwilling to back down. She looked at me and then continued to peruse the class of twenty students.

‘Anyone? Anyone?’

I cleared my throat.

‘Very well’. Weetabix.’She said, benevolently indulging me in what she knew would be incorrect.

‘Rites of passage?’ I said softly.

‘No it’s…what?’

‘Rites of passage?’ I repeated, nervously and unsure.

She looked annoyed. ‘Yes. Rites of passage. Now, as I was saying…”  and then continued on her tirade about James Fenimore Cooper.

Across the room, my friend Fern was squeezing her legs to prevent herself from peeing her pants. She said it looked like Ms. Mangoe had swallowed a bug.

She never wrote down my participation point for that answer, either. I don’t have to tell you that if one of her two golden students in the class had pulled that answer out of thin air, the clouds would have opened and a holy light would have bathed them in the undying platonic love of Ms. Mangoe and God, who were, in actuality,o ne in the same.

She told my mother at teacher conferences that I was not college material.

When I, along with Fern and our friend Michelle, tried out for the English Academic Competition team, figuring it would boost our grades, she dropped us from the team without telling us. She had them announce the members of the team over the loudspeaker instead.

Ms. Mango sucked.

Despite this, I still managed to go to college. I still managed to major in English. I still managed to love literature, although I hate Emily Dickinson with a passion, as she reminds me of Mangoe’s lusty lectures on the thin, asexual waif. I think she identified.

Two years later, I participated in a questionable act of anarchy against Ms. Mangoe.

It was my freshman year in college. I was home for my high school homecoming,as was Fern and many of our high school friends. We must have been hanging out with another of our friends, Ms. Tschuss (name changed to protect the barely innocent) and Tschuss mentioned that she knew where Ms. Mangoe lived.

Death to the Literature Tyrants!

I had a flash of brilliance. Back in June,when I had been baking a cake for my graduation party, I was cracking an organic egg into the bowl of cake mix. It was rotten and it was, to this day, one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. The yolk was actually black, covered with a sick yellow crust,like the surface of the moon. I gagged and threw the cake mix into the garbage disposal. It was one of the eggs that my hippy mother got from a local farm. Because I didn’t want to put them in the garbage where they might break open and stink up the entire house, I put the entire dozen (minus one, natch) on the back porch, where it sat through one of the hottest summers in recorded history. Remarkably, the eggs were still sitting,untouched, on the back porch that October. They looked so very innocent, although their shells looked more translucent, as thought the fetid evil inside them was eager to escape.

Kelly (another wronged Ms. Mangoe survivor and whose name I’ve also changed), Fern and I waited up,giggling,until 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Stealthily, we crept up the ritzy streets of Ms. Mangoe’s neighborhood,where she lived with her husband, the District Attorney. (Yes, we were inordinately stupid for college freshmen.). Kelly carried an industrial size pack of plastic forks, Fern carrying a twelve-pack of toilet paper, and I carried the carton of foul ovarian bombs. From a distance, I imagined that we looked like some kind of strange processional…a kind of Three Wise Kings of Mayhem. We had to stop every forty feet for a burst of quiet giggles, the kind that make your bladder weak and trembling and ready to burst. There is something about the need to be quiet that makes a normal teenager erupt into the most hysterical laughter imaginable. I doubt that I’ve ever found anything funnier in my life.

There we did unspeakable things. Unmentionable things. Horrible things. Unladylike things. Illegal things For this reason, no one ever suspected that it was us. I mean, we hadn’t been inflicted by Ms. Mango in a year and a half. Suspicion would immediately fall upon the students who had Ms. Mango THAT school year or possibly the seniors who had Ms. Mangoe the previous year. Never would she suspect three college girls. Nice girls. No one saw us. No one ever knew. Until now.

To be fair, we were thoughtful vandals. We did not, for instance, do anything that would stain paint or concrete or injure plants. We did not do anything to the unlocked Porsche in the driveway, although we did lace toilet paper around the steering wheel to show that we could have done something to it. We were, instead, more creative. We hid eggs where someone ELSE would break them, like under the rubber boot scraper or the back wheel of the tire. In my memory, which is filtered with the fog of poetic justice, I am thinking that we recited Keats and Longfellow and other incredibly boring poets as we twirled amidst the fork-filled lawn, but I think that would have made us laugh too hard and then we would have peed our pants with wild abandon.

The next morning, at 11:00 AM, we drove by carefully,to survey the damage. It was gone. All of it. All 100 forks. All of the eggs. All of the toilet paper. Gone. It was as if the previous night had been an elaborate Id-inspired dream.

So that’s my evil past. That’s my black secret. My dalliance into the wrong side of the law. And I never did know what happened when she saw it. It was as if it never happened.

So,standing there in line, I wanted to walk up to her and say ‘Hey,remember me? I’m that poor-assed girl from the wrong side of Mason Street whose literary aspirations you did your damnedest to quash and you know what? I’m a writer. I have a degree in English. I received a distinction in the major. And not one of my professors ever would have not accepted an assignment because it was forty-five seconds late’.. BITCH!’

But I’d already had my revenge. Instead, I rested certain in the knowledge that she was gaining new enemies as I watched the cashier squint her eyes and silently burn.

But that right there…that’s why I have bad karma. Right there.

Dear Law Enforcement type people,

The above was a work of fiction…yeah, that’s right…fiction! I never would have dreamed of vandalizing anyone’s home! Nah! Not me! I’m a very upstanding citizen and I pay taxes. Lots of taxes. More than my share. And might I add that I wear my seatbelt almost all the time? And my car registration is up to date? And I have the fancy conservation license plates that cost $15 extra a year on BOTH of my cars. So just remember that if you are getting any ideas about any of the people mentioned above. It was all a dream.

And every word of this is completely made up.