Monday, April 15, 2013


One of the kids in my first grade class took our teacher’s shiny, new magic markers and flushed them down the classroom toilet, causing a massive plumbing crisis. It was a big overflowing deal.

I don’t know why the kid did it. Because he/she was a crumb?  Because there was a toilet and it had a flush handle? Because magic markers are evil?

I never understood it. Not then and not now.

The unfortunate result of the above vandalism is that the principle came into our first grade class and gave us “the talking to.” It was probably the finest speech I’ve ever heard on civic responsibility, the evils of clogged drains, and the importance of feeling guilt for misdeeds. He threatened us with not being allowed to use the classroom potty—ever again, amen.

Halfway through his lecture I broke down weeping uncontrollably, thinking that I should, would, must confess to a crime that I had not committed. I wasn’t guilty. But I felt guilty.

I felt like something you’d flush down the toilet.

To my knowledge the guilty party was never caught, and I know for a fact that the only one who broke during the principle’s big talk was the skinny, little freckled girl in the third row—me.

What I learned that day in first grade is this 1) that a single wicked person can clog the toilet up for everyone 2) that angry officials don’t have much in their quiver except angry words, silly new rules, and finger pointing to get to the bottom of the clog, and 3) the only kids who ever really feel bad about bad stuff happening are the good kids.

I still think about that kid, and it makes me so mad because it was so unfair. And it’s still so unfair that one or two or a handful can create situations that wind up punishing us all. Shame on them. 

Linda (Sad and Mad) Zern      



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