O.D.D. Ball

By Eric Scot Tryon

“Bueller? . . . . . . Bueller?”

Calling roll on my first day as a remedial English teacher was nothing like the comatose rendition so beautifully given by Ben Stein. The students were not apathetic lethargic slugs that drooled on their desks or glared at me with thoughts of murder. Nor did my voice trickle out in a slow monotoned drawl of painful indifference. They were nervous and excited to be in their first college classroom, and I was anxious and confused to be on the other side of the desk; the room buzzed.

The first few names came out a little shaky and only one foreign last name (damn that Southeast Asia) sent me bumbling into a consonant-induced verbal seizure. But by the time I hit the S’s I was rolling. Maybe I did belong here. Maybe they weren’t sending in a remedial teacher to teach remedial students. I called out names with authority, and by golly I was going to educate!

But then I reached the final S name. The onomatopoetic serpent in my teaching garden: Lucy Strapinksy.

“I’m here!” she called out, clearly irritated.

Before I could get out the next name, she interrupted me.

“But there’s something I’m supposed to tell you.”
“Okay,” I said, “go ahead.”
“I have O.D.D.” She said it with a smile. “Just to warn you.”

First of all, what the hell is that? More importantly, is it contagious? But I glanced at her ratty red hair, her mismatched clothing, the three cell phones and four Diet Cokes lined up neatly on her desk and figured it meant just that, that she was odd. Maybe weird people finally have an official acroynymed title now. But I bit just the same:

“Uh, what does that mean exactly?”
“Oppositional Defiance Disorder.”
I was no psychologist, but I knew those words.
“So. . . you’re basically going to fight everything I say this semester?”

And so it was. I asked for black pen, she used pink. Essays were to be double-spaced, she used one and a half. Break was fifteen minutes, she took twenty. Apparently her father owned half of Southern California and contributed ungodly sums of money to the school, so not only were my efforts to boot her from class thwarted, but I was encouraged to “do what I could to pass our dear Ms. Strapinsky.”

My favorite day was one in which we were going outside to do some descriptive writing.
“Ok,” she said, “but my bodyguard has to come.”
You gotta be kidding me.
“Huh?” I asked.
“My bodyguard,” she repeated. And sure enough, I opened the door to find a dopey-looking fat kid waiting in the hallway. He couldn’t have been more than 17 and would have trouble running down a three-legged turtle. I rolled my eyes and said that he could come along. To which she replied, “Ok, but he has to stay far enough away so he can’t hear you.”
I bit again: “And why’s that?”
“Well, he’s not allowed to learn anything.”
The class, as the usually did, stared at her in wonder and confusion.
“If he learns while he guards then they’ll charge him tuition.”

I was certain I was being Punk’d. But Ashton Kutcher didn’t jump out, so I took one more look at the oaf and wasn’t too concerned about him accidentally picking up any part of my lesson.

Despite the O.D.D., I did survive that first semester. But when the powers that be called me in and asked if I wanted to teach the following semester, the past couple of months played in my head like an 80’s movie montage: I said the comma goes here, she put it over there. Papers were to be stapled, she used a goddamned purple hair clip. And when the final project was due, she turned in pictures of her with Arnold Schwarzenegger at a benefit dinner. But wait. I did have one breakthrough! On Lucy’s final exam – probably for the first time in her life – all her sentences ended with periods and not hearts.

I guess I could teach after all.

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