“How to Be a Respectable Rebel” By: Kelly Charlton


Sit up straight in the cheap metal fold out chair in front of the principal’s desk. Hold your chin to your chest, fold your hands in your lap, and lift your watery eyes toward Principal Henry as he observes you from his position behind said desk. Try not to laugh as you observe the large mole on the crown of his balding head or his fat belly that protrudes over his obese waistline.

“Do you know why you are here, Bobby?” Mr. Henry asks. His crooked teeth are stained with coffee.

“Yes.” He’s such a dumbass, you think. How did this fat slob ever become a principal? “I was caught cutting math class,” you say.

“That’s right, Bobby,” Mr. Henry agrees. “You cut class to, uh, what was it you did?” He picks up some papers in front of him and puts on his reading glasses.

“I went to the bowling alley to bowl,” you offer. Remember to shuffle your feet and rub the back of your neck.

“Ah, yes. That’s right. And Officer Scott spotted you and ticketed you for truancy.”

Wipe your eyes with your arm and slump in your chair. You’ve seen enough movies in which a student gets into some sort of trouble at school and has to put on a show to appear contrite. Now, it’s your moment to shine.

“I’m sorry,” you say. Be sure to sniffle.

Principal Henry hands you a tissue.

You dab the corners of your eyes. “ Math is so hard,” you cry. “I’m embarrassed because I’m failing, and I can’t tell my parents.”

I’m failing because Mr. Donald is a fascist, Nazi, dipshit, you think.

Henry sighs and gazes at you thoughtfully. “Well, I understand Mr. Donald is a challenging teacher, but cutting school isn’t the solution. Maybe we can look into getting you extra help with your math. In the meantime, I’m assigning you three days of campus beautification.”

“Campus beautification?”

“Yes. You’re going to meet with Larry, our janitor, after school for three days, and you’re going to help him clean. Okay?” He offers his fat, warm hand.

Shake it. Agree to his terms and be sure to thank him for being such a swell guy. Do not let him see you wipe your hand on your pants as you shuffle out his office.

The next day, Larry meets you in his stuffy, cramped office, a closet tucked in the corner of the school gym. Despite the small working space jammed with mops, brooms, vacuum cleaners, and various cleaning supplies, Larry has it pretty sweet. Somehow, he has found enough room for a small refrigerator, a color television, and a DVD player. On a small desk are stacks of current movies and magazines.

Larry looks at you, reaches into a desk drawer, and tosses you a hand towel and a bottle of white board spray. You notice his strong, dark, calloused fingers, and something inside tells you not to mess with him.

“Follow me,” Larry commands stepping from his office. You walk behind him staring at his curly, gray hair.

On the third and final day of your sentence, which consists of travelling with Larry from classroom to classroom cleaning whiteboards and emptying trash cans, he’s impressed with your custodial abilities and decides to let you handle the rooms in B hall by yourself. He hands you a set of keys. “Just find me when you are done, Bobby, and we can go home. I’ll be in my office watching a movie.” He smiles and winks at you.

Let yourself into Mr. Donald’s room and begin cracking your knuckles. Donald is a dick. He loads on the homework every night, and he refuses to give extra credit. You’re going to teach him a lesson.

Grab a white board eraser and get to work. First, erase the jumble of numbers and letters sprawled across the board. Next, grab a white board marker and write.

Act normally the next day as Mr. Donald stands at the door while students enter and take their seats. Smile at him. Say “hello.” When Johnny, the blond-haired, pimply kid behind you, begins to snicker and point, look at the board slowly and do not join in the laughter filling the room.

A message on the board reads:

Dear Students,
Please be kind to Mr. Donald today. He suffers from tiny-man syndrome and a small penis. This condition sometimes renders him insane. Please refrain from interrupting his lesson and remember…not everybody gets to be an astronaut when they grow up. Some must serve as math teachers at crappy high schools.

Thank you,

Principal Henry

Donald tries to play it cool, but his little body shakes. He faces the class. “Whoever wrote this just earned everyone extra homework over the weekend,” he states. His double chin wobbles.

Join the class in sending up a collective groan. Sit with palms folded in your lap and stare at your desk. Do not make eye contact with Donald.

“And everyone will eat lunch in my room every day next week unless…” Donald glances from student to student.

Your ears perk up. You make a mistake and look at Donald. He stares back.

“Unless what?” the long-haired, Asian girl sitting in the front of your row asks.

Donald puffs his chest and crosses his arms. “Unless the person who wrote this comes forth now and confesses.”

Furrow your brow and consider. You don’t want the class to suffer for your joke. And you don’t want to look at Donald every day at lunch. Stand up with your arms in front of you, and boldly admit, “I did it, Donald. It was me. Take me to your leader.”

Do not giggle or smile when everyone bursts out in unrestrained, raucous laughter.

As Donald calls security, wink at Kasey, the petite blonde you’ve been eyeballing all semester and get ready to swagger out to meet your fate.

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