1969: GERRY, The Rat Boy
This is the story of the craziest kid I ever taught who also taught me a valuable lesson; that lesson being that I wouldn’t love every kid I ever taught – and some would be out of their damn minds. Getting your eyes opened in the very first year of your teaching career – starting on the very first day of your teaching career – was more of an education than I ever got taking the education courses that I needed to get certified in New York State.
Okay, let me set the mood. I came out of college with three majors (literature, history and philosophy) and decided that I didn’t want to work the business world where I had been fired many times and so I went into education. I wanted to be the best teacher that ever existed and also become a world famous writer. That’s a character trait of mine – I always want to be the best I can be at whatever I try – be it basketball, baseball, boxing, teaching, writing, and casino advantage play. I was filled with fire and with insane ideas I had learned in the education courses I took the summer before my first teaching assignment. I actually thought I could reach every kid I taught. It never dawned on me that there would be some kids I didn’t want to reach or even touch for that matter, Gerry being one.
That first class was huge, thirty-seven 7th graders. Now some of you may have forgotten what 7th graders look like. They’re a disconcerting amalgam of adult and infantile characteristics; mature bodies with elementary school heads sitting atop them; or little kid bodies with adult heads; or diminutive creatures with huge feet, or somewhat proportional bodies hosting teeth so monstrous that it’s a wonder any mouth could accommodate them. If a normal 7th grader is a wonder to behold, imagine what a wacko one looks like.
And Gerry was wacko.
He sat in the second seat of the middle row. I didn’t see him at first because he was so little even the little Korean kid (Peter Kim) who sat in front of Gerry actually obliterated Gerry from view. Gerry tended to hunch over and he looked like a bizarre crossbred rodent – part rat, part ferret, and part squirrel – with teeth that would do a chipmunk proud. To this day I fondly recall him as “Rat Boy” because when I first glimpsed him I thought, “Jesus, that kid looks like a rat.”
I realized as I took attendance that first day that something was amiss. When I called out his name instead of the standard yo’s and here’s, I heard growling noises coming from his area. I looked over to see who it was and I saw Rat Boy growling into his notebook. Actually he was growling while eating the cover of his notebook.
“Excuse me,” I said, “notebooks are for writing in, not eating.”
“Ignore him,” said Peter Kim. “He’s crazy.”
“You shouldn’t say that,” I said in my best adult tone. Keep in mind I was a just-turned 22 year old and my mind was filled with the unreal educational idiocy that a 12-year-old kid couldn’t be Looney-Tunes. “We should respect each other,” I concluded.
“I respect him,” said Peter Kim. “He’s just crazy.”
I glanced at the rest of the class. No one seemed to care in the least that Peter called this poor, shriveled rat-kid crazy or that, in fact, the kid was crazy. Indeed, a few kids nodded in agreement.
I decided to move on.
“In any case, Gerry, I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat your notebook,” I said lamely.
Gerry looked up and I saw his eyes for the first time – beady, bloodshot, rodent little eyes. He looked at me as if I were a piece of cheese. Then he put his head down and continued eating his notebook. I didn’t really know what to do so I let it ride.
If Gerry had confined himself to only eating his notebooks and assorted other classroom products, this story would be about some other kid. As any veteran teacher knows, kids will eat assorted school supplies, sometimes in great quantities, including pen tops, pen tips, pencils of lead or graphite, paper, hard or soft book covers, book bindings of string or glue, and some kids will go as far as to nibble on film strips or the edges of their desks. In short, a kid’s culinary palate can easily handle the mundane aspects of the normal classroom menu. If a kid isn’t learning, he’s eating.
But Gerry took his Epicurean treats into the realm of the unique. Several days later, as I was teaching a particularly boring lesson on subject-verb agreements, I heard a snap, snap, snapping coming from his area. I figured he was eating another pencil since he had eaten several #2 soft pencils in prior days. So I didn’t pay it any mind. However, the snap, snap, snapping continued and occasionally I’d hear a little flutter, flutter, flutter – at least in the beginning of the snapping.
Finally I looked over Peter Kim’s shoulder to see what was going on. Gerry was eating a little bird – it resembled a destroyed Tufted Titmouse. He had snapped, snapped, snapped the little thing to pieces on his desk and he was devouring little snippets of wing and leg. There wasn’t much blood because he hadn’t yet gotten round to the underbelly, but his razor-sharp incisors gnawed away like mad. By this time the bird was mercifully dead.
The other kids in the class ignored him; an unusual thing as you all know because kids, even big, high school ones, will use anything as an excuse to justify an assortment of groans, whelps, catcalls, farts, burps and other noises in order to annoy their teachers and diminish work time. But not when it came to Gerry. No sir, Gerry could have been eating an African lowland gorilla and the kids would have pretended nothing was out of the ordinary. You see, Gerry the Rat Boy was truly, magnificently crazy and the truly, magnificently crazy can silence any forced craziness even 7th graders adopt. No one wants to mess with the truly crazy – that’s why we put many of them away in hospitals.
Of course, I didn’t let him finish his meal; it would have ruined his lunch. I took the bird away and threw it out the window. Being a first-year teacher, I thought the principal would be helpful. He wasn’t. He told me that all the students had “individual needs” and that I should try to meet those individual needs. I tried to explain to him that short of opening an ornithology workshop in the class, I didn’t see how the feeding frenzy of a Rat Boy came under the province of subject-verb agreements. I ended the conference by sarcastically showing the movie Rodan, about giant birds that eat Japan, to the class.
This principal, Dr. Denton, and I never got along after that. I alienated my first principal within a few days of starting my first teaching job, not a good thing to do.
In the following weeks Gerry ate an assortment of flora and fauna, furniture and fixtures that could have earned him a lasting spot in The Guinness Book of World Records. And all of us in the class ignored him.
Until he started eating himself.
That’s where I drew the line in the sand.
I’m not kidding, one day Gerry started to nibble away at himself. It would have been an interesting, albeit bloody, experiment to see how far he could have gotten. He was pretty skinny so he probably could have finished himself in a week. But I didn’t let it go that far. Even back then I had some standards.
He jabbed a Bic extra fine point pen into his hand and nibbled off the pieces of skin that separated. He slurped up the blood and ink as he did so. Now, him eating himself didn’t bother me the most but the noise did. Do you have idea of what it’s like teaching “The Tell-Tale Heart” and in the background there’s a constant gnashing and slurping? Not an easy feat, I’ll tell you.
So I walked over to him and grabbed his hand – not the one he was eating since that was all bloody – but the one he was eating with – and said, “Now, Gerry, it’s impolite to eat yourself in class.”
And with a fierce growl, he bit my hand!
I tried to continue with my lesson – since I was one of those teachers who thought his lessons were important – but Gerry had a strong hold. I guess I should have seen it from his point of view, which is what you learn in education courses; repeat after me, no one is responsible for his or her own behavior. Hey, I had this big, meaty hand and Gerry had this skinny, almost bony hand – which would you rather eat? But at the time the pain was rather intense for me to see his side of it. All I wanted was to get the Rat Boy to let go of me.
So I yanked and yanked again and yanked yet again as strong as I could and he released my hand from his mouth. I was bleeding. Even though my hand was no longer in his mouth, his teeth were chopping away – like those monsters in the movies that are killed but their skulls keep snapping away trying to eat the hero and heroine.
I grabbed Gerry by the throat, gently of course as he was a student and I was a teacher, and said, “I think you should see the school nurse.”
Before I could utter another syllable, Gerry jumped up and out of my grasp. “I’ll die first!” he screamed and ran to the window and before anyone could stop him, he opened it and jumped out.
Unfortunately, my classroom was on the first floor. Gerry plummeted all of three feet. I could see the top of his little rat head at the windowsill. I reached out, grabbed him, and hauled him back into the classroom. I then carried him to the nurse’s office, right across the hall from my classroom.
Now the nurse, Mrs. Delaney, was a kindly woman, always on a diet. She was eating her lunch at her desk, her daily custom, from an assorted array of Tupperware containers. I informed her that Gerry had been eating himself, then tried to commit suicide by jumping out the window. She looked kindly at Gerry, put her fork into her Tupperware container, and rang for the principal.
By this time, Gerry sat in a chair, growling softly, and eyeing the nurse’s Tupperware container. Could he still be hungry? What an appetite this kid must have, I thought.
Seconds later the principal arrived. He asked me what was going on. I related the story. The principal looked at Gerry, no longer growling and looking innocent as a lamb (well, innocent as a lamb that looked like a rat) then back at me. “It seems you didn’t heed my advice,” he said. “You have to individualize instruction and meet the needs of the students.”
“The kid was eating himself, Doctor Denton, eating himself! Should I have given him some salt? And then he bit me!” I held out my left hand to show him where Gerry had taken a small piece of my hand. (If you ever meet me, ask me to show you the scar.)
“You probably provoked him,” said Doctor Denton knowingly.
“He’d eat you if given half a chance,” I said.
“I am sure it is not half as bad as you make it sound,” he said.
Gerry saw his half a chance. He grabbed the fork from the nurse’s Tupperware container and in one, smooth, swift motion plunged it through Doctor Denton’s gray, thin, pinstriped, polyester suit jacket and into his back, just next to the shoulder blade. The one thing you should know about polyester is that it doesn’t absorb blood as well as good old-fashioned cotton or corduroy. A big, red blot appeared almost immediately on the principal’s back, the fork still embedded there.
The principal picked Gerry up – and none too gently I might say – and carried him down the hall to his office. What a sight – the principal barreling down the hallway, Gerry hissing as he hung over Doctor Denton’s shoulder, with the fork sticking out of the other side of Doctor Denton’s back.
Then the bell rang and hundreds of junior high kids streamed into the hallway with Doctor Denton making his way through them – and none too gently either – as he finally staggered into his office.
I wish I could tell you that the story ended here. It didn’t. Of course, Gerry did not come back to class that week, or the next, or the next. The following week, Doctor Denton told me to meet him in his office after school. We had some clashes in the three previous weeks, even without the presence of the Rat Boy, and I thought he would read me the riot act as he had every week since I started teaching there – or fire me (which he ultimately did during my second year at that school). So I went to his office after school.
“Mr. Scobe,” he said (everyone called me Scobe or Mr. Scobe and when I taught in high school two years later I was called King Scobe – a title I feel I deserved). “I think I’ve been wrong about you – well, somewhat wrong, not totally wrong. But in some things I might have been wrong. Well, in one thing I might have been wrong.”
“And that one thing is?” I asked.
“I thought you weren’t able to reach each and every student – for example that Gerry child. But evidently you do.”
“Thank you,” I said. What the hell was he getting at?
“Yes, I was just on the phone with Gerry’s mother. She says Gerry has really taken a liking to you.”
“Yes,” he replied. “A real liking. That’s why we want you to home tutor him.”
“Gerry’s mother says that he can relate to you.”
“We’re both mammals (a rat, a human),” I said, then added, “Well, I guess that’s nice but…”
“Oh, no buts about it. We’ve had our problems, you and me, but for me to ask you back for next year, I have to see some evidence…”
“That I’m crazy enough to go to that maniac’s house?”
“I would not put it that way,” said Doctor Denton.
“What way would you put it?”
“To be an educator requires a true commitment to the students.”
“I should be committed if I went to his house,” I said. I think one of the reason’s Dr. Denton didn’t like me is that I said what I said without too many “educationese” filters blocking out what I really felt. Also I had a fistfight with him – but that came in the second year, when he fired me. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“Okay, I will ask you one more time, will you home tutor Gerry?”
We eyed each other over his desk. I didn’t want to get fired and Doctor Denton could fire me just like that since I had no tenure. After all, my wife didn’t work – in fact, she only worked for a couple of months in all our 18 years of marriage because she didn’t like to work. I knew she was home, reading a murder mystery where some husband who lost his job was probably brutally slaughtered by his wife, and I knew that there was only one answer to Doctor Denton’s question.
“Hell, no,” I said.
“Then I am going to terminate your employment here,” he said.
“Just kidding,” I said. “I’d be delighted to do it seeing as you’ll let me finish out this first year and start a second year, yes?
“Of course,” he said. “We always want to see fine, young teachers get a chance to establish themselves. And you will also get fifteen dollars per hour to tutor him too.”
I nodded yes and shook the principal’s hand, thus sealing my fate. I would actually enter the lair of the craziest kid I would ever teach.
When I returned home that evening, I informed my wife that I was going to the house of Gerry the Rat Boy to home tutor him the next day. After checking to see that our insurance was paid up, my wife said, “Sure, fine, go. We could use an extra fifteen dollars a week.”
I didn’t sleep well that night. I realized that I might have made a very big, perhaps fatal, mistake. This kid had shown himself capable of eating anything – including himself. What would his parents be like? A rodent doesn’t crawl too far from the family tree, does it? Maybe this family did this every year. Maybe they were cannibals and once a year ordered out for a teacher to dine on. Maybe they wanted me as a snack? Yes, please send over Mr. Scobe as we would like to dine on him tonight.
I woke up in the middle of the night in a profound sweat. The next few hours might very well be my last on earth.
I then woke my wife up. “Honey,” I said. “I might be facing death tomorrow.” She mumbled something. “What was that? What was that you said?” I asked.
“Increase your life insurance,” she mumbled and then fell back into a deep sleep.
That day I taught my classes but my mind was elsewhere. It didn’t really matter because my students’ minds were elsewhere too – as they almost always were every day anyway. I kept thinking I had never had a book published – or even an article – and now I would die never having completed my destiny to be a great writer. Damn! The hour was approaching when I would go to Gerry’s house.
And the fatal last bell of the day rang.
After the students exited the building, I went to my car. Doctor Denton stood proudly in the parking lot waving goodbye to the buses, then he saw me, and shouted, “Good luck today Mr. Scobe!” His smile looked as if he were hoping I would be killed and eaten!
I turned the key in the ignition and then prayed. At that time I was an atheist but that didn’t matter. I prayed to every god whose name I had ever heard of because maybe one of them was up there listening and would see me through this ordeal.
Now Gerry lived in a relatively rural area of Long Island with no sidewalks, no street lights, houses tucked into the woods so you couldn’t see your neighbors and they couldn’t hear you if you screamed as a knife was being plunged into your heart because you were stupid enough to show up to tutor the Rat Boy who was now ripping away at your body, tearing large chunks of your stomach out and eating them raw and Oh, my God! I thought to myself, as these visions passed through my mind. Then I said in a whisper, “Scobe get a hold of yourself.”
I found his house. It looked almost normal if you ignored the little gravestones on the front lawn; yes, little grave markers covered parts of the front lawn of the property. Each one had a little something written on it in Gerry’s weasely scrawl. I read one. “Here lies Ralphie, a good puppy.” I read more. “Here lies Dino, a good lizard.” “Here lies Bubba, the good blue bird.” “Here lies Alphonse, a good friend.” I hoped Alphonse hadn’t been a human. A thought flashed – would a grave marker say next week: “Here lies Mr. Scobe, a good English teacher”?
Put this out of your mind, I said to myself. I took a deep breath and went to the front door. I lifted my hand to ring the bell and saw that my hand shook like mad. What am I doing here?
Then I heard a man singing, beautiful singing too, “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Beautiful singing; great voice.
I rang the bell. Several heartbeats later, the singing stopped, and several heartbeats after that the door opened. I don’t know what I really expected to see – probably some demented looking adult with wild, unkempt hair and pointy teeth wiping his face with claws – so it surprised me to see a normal looking man of about 40, maybe five-foot six inches tall, dressed immaculately in a tuxedo jacket, frilly tuxedo shirt, and black bow tie. Probably this must have been the man I heard singing. I later found out that this man was a professional nightclub singer of some renown which was unfortunate because he was shot dead in a mob hit while he sing “My Way.” Indeed, before me stood Gerry’s father.
He smiled, “Mr. Scobe?”
I had almost relaxed as I smiled back (Whew! He’s normal!) and almost uttered hello when I realized something was wrong, seriously wrong. Oh, yeah, this nightclub singer, immaculately dressed from the waist up – but if you looked lower, from the waste down he was naked – he’s stark naked! – with his, with his…microphone hanging there for all to see and that “all” was actually only me.
Now I don’t know about you but when someone is exposed in front of me I want to look. Well, I don’t mean I want to look, I mean I have an irresistible urge to look. It can be a man, a woman, a wildebeest – if their naked self stands before me my eyes keep going to you know where. I fought it this time. But my damn eyes wanted to look down. So instead I put my head up and kept looking at the sky.
“You Mr. Scobe?” he said once again.
“Uh, yes,” I said, looking at the sky.
“Come on in,” he said, swinging the door wide open. “Gerry’s waiting for you.”
I started to walk in but bumped into the side of the house because I was still looking at the sky. It’s hard to see where you are going with your head pointed heavenward. So I angled my head down a little, just a fraction, so I could get through the doorway.
“You got a stiff neck?” Gerry’s father asked.
“A stiff what!?” I reacted terrified.
“I asked if you had a stiff neck,” he said calmly.
“Neck, God, great,” I said.
“What?” he asked.
“No, no, my neck is fine…I have…a…a nosebleed,” I lied. “I get them all the time. It’ll go away.”
“You know what’s good for a nosebleed?” he asked.
“Singing,” he said.
With his microphone hanging there like that I wasn’t about to sing a duet with the man, so I said, “No, no thanks, I’m in a bit of a rush…ah…I have to pick up my wife at work.”
“My wife is in the kitchen. She wants to meet you before you go upstairs to Gerry’s room.”
“Okay,” I said, “which way?”
“To your right and down the hall,” he said and I could see out of the corner of my upturned eye that he was indicating the direction with his hand.
“Thanks,” I said, then turned right and walked into the wall.
“No wonder you get nosebleeds,” he said, “you’re always bumping into things.”
“Yeah,” I forced a laugh, and thought, And as long as you don’t bump into me, I’ll be all right.
Get a hold of yourself, one part of me thought, the man is normal, almost. He has a wife, a kid, he’s normal.
Oh, yeah, right, he’s normal, the other part of me thought, sure he’s normal. You idiot! His son is Gerry the Rat Boy. The man probably doinked a giant rat to produce him!
Shut up, my first part said to my other part, Get this over with by just walking down the hall into the kitchen and meet his wife.
Oh, Lord, and what a wife she was! She could have been four wives. She was a tall woman because even though she was kneeling on the kitchen floor praying she seemed almost as tall as me. She had to weigh 500 pounds if she were an ounce. Five hundred pounds in all directions too – a Mount Kilimanjaro but with this molehill of a head (there’s that rat theme again), a teeny-tiny head sitting atop a flesh mountain. She chanted incantations about Satan and his demons swarming around her. “Get away! Get away! The Lord Jesus Christ of the Last Supper and the Cross and the Resurrection says to get away from me Satan!”
Her mole-head turned to look at me. At first it was as if I weren’t there. Maybe she thought I was one of Satan’s demons, but then she smiled and struggled to lift her mountainous bulk. She sweated profusely, with some little flecks of foam in the corners of her lips. Gerry had eaten pens, pencils, furniture – his mother had eaten a house!
“Mr. Scobe?” she panted.
Please don’t eat me! I screamed inside my head. Please don’t eat me! God, don’t let her eat me! I’ll believe in you if you get me through this!
She trundled towards me. “Are you okay?” she asked. Her voice coming from that monstrous body was soft and feminine. I came out of my trance.
“Yeah, yes, I’m okay, yeah, fine, okay,” I said.
“Have Satan’s hordes and legions gotten to you?” she asked sweetly.
“No, no, I think I have indigestion,” I said.
“I have that sometimes,” she cooed and then she angled her mole-head heavenwards, “but the good Lord cleanses me as does a physic I take each night.”
“I’m in a bit of a hurry. I have another kid to tutor after Gerry,” I lied and for effect looked at my wrist. I wasn’t wearing a watch but I looked at my wrist as if I were. Actually I didn’t know what I was doing, but as I looked at my wrist I thought: My time is running out.
Then I heard loud singing coming down the hall, which meant Gerry’s father was heading this way.
“Can’t I go tutor Gerry?” I pleaded.
“I must first rid you of all the demons that surround you. You have many demons in you young man,” she chanted.
“I really don’t have time for that,” I said looking at my wrist again.
“Everyone has time for the Lord,” she answered sweetly.
Just then Gerry’s father entered the room. My eyes shot to the ceiling.
“Still have that nosebleed?” he asked.
“No,” said Gerry’s mother, “he is looking to God to rid him of his demons.”
“Oh, ho! ho! ho!” guffawed the father.
“James,” said Gerry’s mother, “how many times have I told you not to walk around the house like that?”
Oh, good, I thought, she’s going to make him put on the rest of his clothes.
“Now take off your good clothes immediately,” she said.
“Yes, dear,” he said and left the room.
“My husband doesn’t believe,” she confided in me.
“Oh,” I said. I wanted to say, you mean he doesn’t believe in wearing pants?
“He doesn’t believe in Satan and his onions,” she whispered.
Onions? Satan and his onions? She meant minions, but I didn’t bother to correct her. If a woman that big wanted Satan with onions who was I to argue?
“Gerry? I’m here to tutor Gerry,” I said.
“First, we must pray,” she said and before I could respond, she wrapped her giant tree limb of an arm around me, squeezed me tightly into her bloated body, and started screaming, chanting and praying as if the world were about to end. I can’t remember what she said, what she shouted, what she chanted, but as she shouted and chanted her mouth became full of spit and she spat in my face a Baptismal fount of saliva. When she finished, she released me and I staggered into the kitchen table. Just then Gerry’s father re-entered the room.
“Boy, you really do bump into things,” he said.
I closed my eyes. Why had I come here? Oh, yeah, to save my job.
“I’m here to tutor Gerry,” I said. Actually I think I croaked it.
“He has to pick his wife up soon,” said the father.
“I thought you had to tutor someone else?” asked the mother.
“Both,” I said. “I pick up my wife and then I go and tutor someone else.”
“Gerry’s room is upstairs,” she said.
“Okay,” I said and started to walk. Where? I had no idea, since my eyes were closed, as Gerry’s father was totally naked now. I slammed into the refrigerator.
“Maybe,” said Gerry’s father, “you bump into things because your eyes are shut.”
“I’ll lead you,” said Gerry’s mother grabbing my hand, “as the Lord leads me away from carnality and into the light!” Gerry’s father rolled his eyes and itched his balls. Yes, I had looked!
At the bottom of the stairs she let go of my hand. I noticed that she had a chair seat on a metal railing that went up the side of the staircase. She sat in the chair. It creaked like crazy. She pressed a button and up she went. God, don’t let the whole staircase fall down! I climbed the stairs behind her.
We walked down the hall to Gerry’s room. The hall was dark and musty. Things have died in this hallway, I thought. We stopped at Gerry’s door.
“I will knock three times,” said Gerry’s mother. “On the third knock he will open the door and you count to six and then go in.”
“Count to six,” I repeated.
“Six,” she repeated.
Gerry’s mother knocked once, paused, then knocked twice, paused, and then knocked the third time. She turned around and ambled down the hallway back to the stairs. She walked much faster going away from Gerry’s room than she had walked going to Gerry’s room.
Gerry’s door swung open slowly. I was alone, alone and entering Gerry the Rat Boy’s room. Maybe I should have let Doctor Denton fire me.
He had huge furniture in his small, cramped, foul-smelling room – a giant armoire with swinging doors, an oversized desk from the 1940s, a large, murky fish tank that hadn’t been cleaned since Noah’s flood, and on the walls hideous pictures from newspapers and magazines of traffic accidents and murders.
I was standing in the center of the room, but where was Gerry? “Gerry?” I asked hesitantly. No answer. “Gerry, are you here?” I heard a movement behind me and just as I turned, a body came hurtling from the top of the huge armoire.
Gerry landed half on my shoulder and half on my back; his mouth open and about to take a chunk out of my arm – the same arm whose hand he had previously bitten. I spun around fast and grabbed him by the throat – none too gently I must say – and then pulled him off me and held him at arm’s distance. The kid couldn’t have weighed more than seventy pounds. With my hands on his throat, with his feet dangling in the air, Gerry smiled. “Hi,” he growled. “He ha, ho, ho, who.” (What the hell was that?)
“I’m going to let you go,” I said. “But if you attack me I am going to beat the shi…I am going to beat you to a pul…you get the idea?”
Gerry nodded as best he could and I released my grip on him as I put him down so his feet were on the floor. Gerry smiled (he looked even crazier when he smiled); this was the happiest I had ever seen him. Maybe he liked to be strangled?
His beady, blood shot, rat eyes looked at me strangely.
“Wanna see my skull collection?” he asked.
“Not now,” I said.
“Wanna see my dead fish?” he asked. “They are all skeletons.”
“Not now,” I said.
“Wanna see my moth collection?” he asked.
“No, no,” I said, “I am here to tutor you.”
“You hungry?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “Let’s get this over with, okay?”
“You wanna play?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“I like you,” he said. “You’re the best teacher I ever had.”
“Get your books and let’s get started,” I said.
“I don’t have books,” he said with a slight smile.
“The school was supposed to send you two copies of all the books on a list I gave them,” I said.
“They did,” smiled Gerry. God, his teeth were sharp. Did he go to the dentist and have them filed? Would a dentist do that – file some kid’s teeth like that?
“So where are they?” I asked but I knew where they were. They were where other books, pens, birds, bugs, frogs and assorted pieces of furniture were – digested.
Gerry the Rat Boy now started growling in very low volume. His cheeks started to twitch and his eyes started to glaze over. “So what you wanna do,” he asked in a whisper.
I wanna get outta here, I thought and then I said, “I want to get out of here!” And I literally leapt out of his room and ran down the hall to the stairs. I didn’t turn around to see if Gerry was chasing me – I certainly could outrun a rat. I ran down the stairs. I could hear Gerry’s mother praying in the kitchen – a mountain praying to Mohammed (okay, to Jesus). I could hear Gerry’s naked father singing into his microphone in the living room.
I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. I just catapulted out the front door, through the front graveyard, and jumped into my car. I drove off like a demon – or Satan and his onions.
Three months later, Doctor Denton called me into his office. “Good news, Mr. Scobe. Gerry’s coming back to school.”
“Shit,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” said Doctor Denton, “he’ll be drugged.”
“Strong drugs I hope,” I said.