I wasn’t exactly the kind of kid who gets in trouble a lot. On summer afternoons, I rode my bike to the library and read in the park. I was on the honor roll. I wore penny loafers. My most transgressive activity was my penchant for reading banned books. Not exactly rule-breaking-outlaw stuff.
So it was surprising to my parents when one day in sixth grade, I came home from school with a disciplinary referral from my teacher. Her chief complaint? My persistent, pigheaded disrespect for authority. I trudged up to my father and requested his signature on the bottom. When he read the slip, his lips slowly pursed into an angry scowl, and his face flushed with rage. “What the hell is this?” he asked. It wasn’t just the detention that he was angry about, it was the cause. I could have been caught smoking cigarettes in the boys’ bathroom, and he wouldn’t have been as angry as he was that I had somehow shown cheek to an elder. He launched into a ten-minute lecture on the importance of rules, and enumerated the various privileges I was sure to lose for months on end.
During his tirade, I could barely get in a word edgewise, but if I had been able to, I would have told him to look at the back of the slip. In his anger, he had forgotten what day it was—April 1—and, sure enough, on the back of the slip, in my teacher’s delicate handwriting, was written “April Fools’!” Ha ha—great joke, Mrs. McCreery. The whole thing was a prank, and my father was so fooled by the ruse that he failed to question whether a child who sang show tunes in her spare time would really act out as the class cutup.
For those ten minutes, it was the worst trouble I’d ever been in, and I didn’t even do it.
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