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The Major Maladjustment
Not known for his stellar grades or classroom behavior, seventh grader Richie was told to wait behind when the class bell rang. Mrs. Landon wanted to talk to him.
He thought back over the last hour and nothing unusual stood out that would warrant an after class lecture, well, none in his book, that is. His sarcastic comments interspersed was standard fare. His joking with those around him was to relieve the tension and boredom. And his fidgetiness? He was a boy and that’s what boys do. Certainly they were not afterclassable events. But he was soon to find out what something was.
Richie sat in the first row closest to the door. It was also the row closest to the Teachers’ Lounge where you had to cut through the wall of cigarette smoke just to enter. It was why the NO STUDENTS ALLOWED was prominently posted on the door.
All the students had exited and some of the boys patted Richie on the shoulder knowing they had received similar lectures during their time in her class. Of course, they were expecting to hear every detail of the encounter later. They’d stay behind and listen outside the classroom except Mrs. Landon shut the door.
Mrs. Landon, a tall and mid-40s straight-haired blonde, closed her attendance book and walked over to the lectern. She put her hands on both sides and squinted at Richie. It seemed obvious she had a prepared speech just for him, but she was taking her time revealing it.
“Richie,” she said. “What is your major maladjustment?”
Richie stared straight ahead, not knowing how to answer because he didn’t know what the phrase meant.
Whatever it meant, though, it wasn’t good.
He was trying to dissect the phrase even as she approached him, her heels clopping closer. By the time he reasoned the phrase essentially meant, “what’s your problem?” she tossed another statement his way.
“You disgust me.”
After she said it, Mrs. Landon disappeared into the Teachers’ Lounge.
That phrase he understood, but it didn’t settle with him. She gave him no context for correction or even what he had done that upset her so much. Rather than have a dialog about what disgusted her about him, she opted for a smoke in an adjoining room.
Now Richie had two questions to answer, semi-related to Mrs. Landon and her heart-to-heart: “Could he go now?” and “What would he say to the next teacher on why he was late?”
He thought about those two questions as he stared straight ahead. The class bell rang, indicating he was already late for his next class. Richie got up, grabbed his backpack, and walked out of Mrs. Landon’s empty classroom, pondering her terse words.
On the way to his next class he would certainly think of something witty or clever to say about why he was late.
On the other hand, “I’m sorry I was late” with no excuses offered just might be the new leaf Richie was wanting to turn over anyhow.
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