My Short Stint as Executioner, or Soup Beans Part 2
June 8, 2012 § 4 Comments
My steps echoed down the long white tiled hallway, even though I wore my new Nikes. The school was new, modern, all geometry and bright colored walls. The teacher, Mrs. Alexander, and the accused, Chris Cash, walked ahead of me. I was always a dawdler, but this time, I was extra slow. I had never been to the principal’s office before. I was one of those girls who thrived on being good, who was in the running at least for teacher’s pet, though maybe just a little too quiet to win that title. I was shy.
Chris Cash was anything but shy. He was loud and would do anything to get the whole class’s attention. He took extra pleasure in embarrassing me. My mom, who did not have a shy bone in her body, told me this meant boys liked you. I couldn’t imagine how this was true. If he liked me, which was a brand new idea to me in the sixth grade, why would he taunt me?
We had soup beans at lunch. Since my mom had grabbed a bite of my soup beans in third grade, Chris had been making a scene at the lunch table every time they were served. “Mmmm, Soup Beans!” he’d beam, mocking my mother. This day, I had had enough. I could make fun of my mother, of soup beans, but he could not. I turned my back to him, nibbled on the corn bread that came with the meal, talked maybe to Kim Copeland about ballet, or how to make ribbon barrettes, or I don’t know, fractions? There was quick movement at the table, shocked faces across from me, and a warm, wet feeling on the crown of my head. I whipped around to face him, soup beans flew out of my hair. He was bright red and laughing. He had never been happier. I loathed him.
By now, Mrs. Alexander had Chris by the wrist and was pulling him out of the lunchroom. I was crying. “Come on, Stephanie,” she said. “You’re coming too.” I wanted him to be punished, but I didn’t want to have to testify.
We sat outside Mr. Pope’s office. Mrs. Alexander went back to class. Chris made faces at me. His smile was gone. This was not his first trip to the office. Mr. Pope took Chris in first, then called me in to join them. “Do you want me to paddle him?” Mr. Pope said, looking at me through his thick, square framed plastic glasses. Tears had not stopped rolling down my cheeks, mostly because I was scared.
“Well, um,” I almost whispered. This was Kentucky, 1980, corporal punishment was alive and well in the public schools. I wanted Chris to suffer, I was humiliated, but I had never been given this kind of power before. I was a budding pacifist, I guess.“He put soup beans in my hair!” I said. Mrs. Alexander had stopped by the girls’ bathroom with me and helped me clean the pot liquor and remaining mushed beans out of my hair at the sink. Now, it was just wet. “So, what kind of punishment should I give him?” Mr. Pope asked. His black hair was slicked back as usual. He wore his tan leisure suit this time. His polyester shirt had a brown and white tree print. My heart was about to explode.“Do you want me to paddle him, or give him in-school detention?” The responsibility was horrible. Of course, a part of me wanted Mr. Pope to beat the shit out of Chris. Part of me still does. Chris looked at me, huge brown eyes pleading. I have always been a sucker for big brown eyes. “Detention,” I said.
Chris broke into a grin. He taunted me the whole way back to class; I quickened my pace to keep ahead of him. But still, I understood that my one word had saved him. Imagine thousands of them.