The New Kid

The New Kid

Dictionary of Texisms:

Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers – fidgety, jumpy.

It only took Jackie McLanahan three weeks to become a standout in our class. And not in a good way.

If I had to come into a classroom full of strangers, I’d be nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers. I think I would lay low for a while and try to get to know the situation. I expected Jackie McLanahan to blend in with the quiet girls, the ones who never raise their hands when Mrs. Kleiner asks a question, and never ask questions of their own, and try to make themselves invisible when Mrs. Kleiner is calling on people at random. Well, that’s what I would do, anyway. Jackie McLanahan took a slightly different approach.

Mrs. Kleiner was at the blackboard talking with Texas pride about our glorious state, as she often did, and how Texas was Number One in oil, gas, cotton and just about everything important, when Jackie raised her hand.

“Yes, Jackie?”

“Texas doesn’t have a Broadway musical named for it, but Oklahoma does.”

(Did I mention that Jackie came from Oklahoma?)

“Thank you, Jackie,” Mrs. Kleiner said, sarcastically. “I guess other states just have to grab their little bit of glory wherever they can.”

Jackie’s face flushed. She raised her hand again.

“Yes, Jackie?”

“It says in the Bible that pride is a sin.”

“Yes, but what does that –“

Then Mrs. Kleiner stopped, because she realized the answer to her own question, and she didn’t much care for it. This time it was her face that colored.

“Thank you, Jackie,” she snapped. She stared intensely at Jackie, who stared back just as hard. It was almost like two wrestlers circling each other, looking for a weakness.

Finally Mrs. Kleiner turned away and resumed the lesson.

Apparently, that was round one. Within another week it was no holds barred and Jackie was walking the well-worn path towards being branded a juvenile delinquent. There were testy exchanges in class, with Mrs. Kleiner telling Jackie she had a bad attitude and lacked respect. By week three, Jackie was forced to miss recess every second or third day, so she could do the homework she hadn’t turned in.

Missing recess was a regular punishment, for boys.  But a girl? It never happened.  Not only that, but the boys who got punished were usually the real dumbbells, the ones who had trouble spelling “cat” if you spotted them two letters.  Jackie was no nitwit. If anything, she was too smart for her own good. The prospect of having our first female juvenile delinquent added an undercurrent of excitement to class each day.

On the face of it, Jackie was an exact opposite of me.  I always did all my homework assignments, Jackie did some or none. I was one of Mrs. Kleiner’s favorites, Jackie her least favorite.

So much for first impressions.

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