I’m sure you already know by now, this isn’t going to end well…
It was a simple assignment: read a non-fiction, historical book and write a book report on it. What I found bizarre about this was that although it did not make a significant percentage of our grade, failure to complete it would supposedly result in an automatic “F” for our final class grade. Mr. Johnson, our history teacher, was known for the sincerity within his humor, which made me cock my head in curiosity at the new assignment.
Of course I had to say something.
“So let me get this straight,” I began as the entire class pivoted in their chairs to look at me in anticipated amusement. “Even if we have a good grade, you’re gonna flunk us for not doing ONE assignment?”
“No,” he answered. “YOU’RE going to fail yourself.”
“For ONE assignment.”
“Even if we have an ‘A’ average.”
“Even if you have an ‘A’ average.”
There was a tense silence as I stared at him, struggling with uttering the words, “that’s bull”, which I had enough sense not to say to a teacher. Still, the look on my face easily betrayed me, making my defiant thoughts obvious.
“I’ve got an ‘A’ average, Mr. Johnson.”
“Which you will keep, as long as you do the book report. And why are we even having this discussion? As much as you write and as much as I have to tell YOU to put your paperback books back in your pocket, this shouldn’t even be an issue! Can we get back to class please? SIR!”
Everyone laughed, but he was right. I loved writing. I loved reading. In fact, the biggest challenge for me in every class throughout my school career was writing someone else’s book report to make it convincingly reflect their respective style of writing. And I got paid well to do it.
Yet and still, I found his latest project to be as challenging as it was ridiculous.
Not seeing a point in continuing the conversation, I kept silent for the remainder of the class period.
“So can I pay you to do my book report?” a classmate asked me as we walked through the hallway to our next classroom.
“Sure. You got a book in mind or do you want me to pick it?”
“Pick what you want. I don’t care.”
That was one of three book report requests I received that day. It was easy enough because I had read quite a few books that I could easily have chosen from to cover. Although my genre of choice was Sci-Fi/Fantasy, I had plenty short, student-level books I’d read. All thanks to my father’s mandate that we learn about known (and unknown, particularly African American) history. In fact, I had just finished a book about Wyatt Earp. Mainly because my father had all but accepted a job opportunity in Dodge City, Kansas. He had lived there for a short while in his early twenties and was still in touch with the pastor, who had long since been his spiritual advisor.
Two weeks later, my customers turned in their class assignments, as did everyone else. I stared at Mr. Johnson with my “You’re full of sh**” face as he collected the reports and began the class period.
Nobody fails you for one assignment. He’s bluffing. It’s not legal.
I finished the grading period with an “A” average, initially proud that I could show that off with the other A’s and B’s in academic grades, accompanied by the S’s (satisfactory) and U’s (unsatisfactory) in citizenship grades because of my unruly, disruptive antics, especially in the final three classes of the day.
The hard part was walking home on Report Card day, with my results in hand, having looked at my results like all the other curious kids had. You could tell by the looks on the many faces – ranging from joy to complacency to dread – what each student had discovered about their own, individual performances.
It took me 2 hours to make the 15-minute walk home.
“WHAT IS THIS? ALL A’s, B’s and one ‘F’ ?!?!?” my father yelled in thunderous anger. I’d heard him yell before, but the shock, compounded by rage was a volume and intensity quite different than what you’d usually hear on Report Card day in the Davis house.
“Dad, I don’t understand! I had all A’s!” I answered in desperation (any and all bass, wisely removed from my voice).
“Then what’s this ‘F’ that I’m looking at?”
“He told me that if I didn’t do the assignment, I’d get an ‘F’ in his class!”
“A book report,” I said softly with my head down.
“A BOOK REPORT?!? YOU DIDN’T DO A BOOK REPORT??? AS MUCH AS YOU READ, YOU DIDN’T DO A BOOK REPORT?!?“
“I DID do the book report. In fact, I did SEVERAL book reports and got PAID for them.”
Not an answer that would help my case. Not at all.
“Then why am I looking at an ‘F’?”
“Well, I had it in my hand, but I kinda thought he was bluffing and with my grade average, I thought I’d still get an A- or B+.”
Silence. Nothing but breathing. Darth Vader-style. Heavy breathing, sync’d with the increasing tempo of my heartbeat, loud enough for you to dance to.
“Let me get this straight,” he began with lowered volume. “You DID the book report. Took it to school. HAD it – in your hand…
…but decided NOT to turn it in because you thought he was JOKING??”
(Years later, I would come to learn just how much my father sounded like actor Samuel L. Jackson. Or vice versa.)
“I honestly did. I finished it, but I thought he was just saying that to scare us.”
There was no convincing enough lie for this discussion. Sometimes, the pathetic truth is your only viable option.
“So you just decided you gon’ make history in History class, hunh?” he muttered through the low, maniacal laughter, developing in his throat.
Laughter is never good.
At that point I decided that silence was as golden as the glow my brown booty was about to produce. All I could do was stare in stupidity, fear and sadness as the bell-like dinging sounded from his rapidly emerging belt buckle and 60-foot leather belt. It was clear that he was through dancing around the inevitable.
I’m sure you all know what dance he did next.
…and I’m sure you know what dance I did as well…
…and as for my booty…
…that night, as always, it did indeed glow.
The following semester, a student approached me on the way to the lunchroom, followed closely by a group of students with huge grins on their faces, some of them laughing. It was obvious they’d all come from the same classroom.
“You took Mr. Johnson’s History class, right Kenny?” he asked amidst the giggles.
“Yeah, so?” I replied as the chuckling continued, increasing with my answer.
“Mr. Johnson gave us a special book report project today and told us it was a mandatory assignment. When we asked him what would happen if we didn’t do it, he said, ‘Ask Kenny DAVIS!!!!’ AhhhhhhaHaHaHaHaaaaa!!!”
And they wonder how serial killers are born.
Like what you just read? Leave a comment below and share this post with a friend who could use a laugh or two. And don’t forget to sign up at the bottom for first notification of future blog posts from Kenny’s Camera, Cooking & Crazy Confessions!
Thanks for reading!