Eighth Grade

By Louise St. Germain

I saw her walking toward me and each step like an angry march and her face couldn’t hide her annoyance. It was then that I knew Sister Mary wasn’t coming for me but for Robert whose desk was next to mine. There was a collective holding of breath in this eight grade class, as everyone knew exactly what would happen. They had all witnessed this fiery furnace in action before. She had no patience with the boys for the least infraction of conduct. Her fists were like jack hammers pummeling concrete when she attacked her targets. No one wanted to be the brunt of those blows.

Incredibly she got away with this behavior under the guise of “discipline.” No one ever saw the irony in the fact her behavior was far worse than the errant boy. Her blows were always hard and swift, boxing the ears red, red as her face. However one boy was exempt from ear boxing because he had a history of mastoiditis and ear surgeries. She still did not spare him any mercy and poured the punishment on his back, the thumping heard through out the room.

Today she was headed straight for Robert who always seemed to be in trouble. In the stillness her rapidly marching feet, sounded like a machine gun as each foot hit the floor. Face beet red, arms ready for the attack, she quickly approached Robert and grabbed his arm as Robert stood and braced for the attack. His six feet towering above her diminutive stature he had the audacity to speak. In a deep growling, threatening voice, so low and slow we almost did not hear him. “Don’t you ever raise your hand to me again. Don’t you ever hit me again.” With that, she dropped her hands and backed away as Robert flicked his fingers on his shirt, where she held him, in a gesture of flicking her out of his life.

In the determined softness of his speech, he finally found his voice. It appeared to echo and bounce off the walls releasing that collective breath. Tension and fear immobilized the class. That same tension and fear released Robert from his tormentor. Never again did we witness the beating punishments. In all those years who ever thought it would take but one brave soul to stand and claim his rights. Robert did and by so doing, he freed us all.