“I’ve had all that I can take,” I told my captive audience as I outlined my plan to run away from school. “School is too hard, and we need more recess time!”
This wasn’t entirely true. School was a breeze, and we often raced around the playground until we wore ourselves out and were begging to get back in the warm building, so an increase in our monkey bar antics allotment might just be too much of a good thing. But I was bored. And I secretly suspected that my first grade teacher liked my classmate Heather better than she did me, because Heather never got in trouble for anything. Just last week I had been reprimanded for using the wrong pencil on a standardized test because it might not be a #2. Who were they kidding with all that Scantron machine talk? This was a case of sheer discrimination, and it was time to show The Man that he couldn’t push me around just because I weighed under 40 pounds. And that went double for Ms. Hinton, the tyrant of the 1st grade.
So I lifted my fist in the air and cried, “Who’s with me?” only to be met with blank stares and serious misgivings that hadn’t been voiced the day before when I had hatched the broad strokes of our flight from oppression. Now that it was time to execute the plan, the troops seemed lacking in morale. And if there was one thing I knew, the last thing you wanted when fleeing a hostile prison camp was a bunch a crybabies weighing you down. So I struck off alone as any good martyr should.
I made it over the elementary school borders with ease. The sentries were busy sipping their coffee on the wooden bench in the dead center of the playground, leaving the perimeter unguarded and easy to breach. The only question now was my destination. Since infiltration deep into the woods in order to form a new nation of six year olds was out of the question, I opted to visit my dad down at the feed store instead. Looking back on it, I’m not sure why I expected such a warm reception from the patriarch of my clan.
The hike was less than a mile, but even three laps around a football field seem interminable when your legs are less than 30 inches long. I huffed my way up the loading dock and plopped into one of the few folding chairs scattered around the office of the feed store, while Dad confronted me with a “What are you doing here?” salutation that seemed lacking in ceremony for a heroine who has just tackled an unjust dictatorship and overcome. Of course, I barely had time to explain my presence before Mrs. Clair, the lady who worked with the smarty-britches fourth graders on their reading skills, came roaring up in her Oldsmobile and proceeded to extinguish the glory of my triumph with words such as “runaway,” “ringleader,” and “ulcer-inducing shenanigans.” I’m sure every great leader has felt misunderstood at some point or another, but my father used his belt to remind my backside that future coups instigated against the local elementary school government would be subject to extreme penalty of the law.
Extradition was also part of my rehabilitation program, and within 15 minutes my father and I sat before the principal who seemed more amused than furious. Thank God for that. I was returned to my containment cell as the focal point among the 24 other inmates, since I now bore a scarlet R on my chest. Ms. Hinton was a hard one to read that day, and she kept one eye on me for the rest of that year.
Years later, whenever my dad would chuckle about the time his daughter ran away from school, he always added what the principal had told him when I departed for class that day. He told my dad that he probably should whip me, but he just couldn’t. “You see, James,” he said with a smile, “I ran away from school six times in one year.”
So I guess I had a fellow renegade in high places. We rebels have to stick together.
© 2014 – Traci Carver