Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Discovery

Back in 1980 or so, I started working on a long Bildungsroman called Teacher, Teacher, Burning Bright.  (Apologies, of course, to William Blake, whose poem "The Tyger" suggested my title: Link to poem.) The typescript swelled to about 800 pages.  I sent it off to one publisher, who sent it back so fast I thought I must have mailed it to myself.  Then I put it on a (swaying) shelf and forgot all about it.

I had written it on an old Kaypro II, an early-bird computer that used a machine language called CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers), a language replaced by MS-DOS and then Windows.  I had to save my work on several 5.25" diskettes, which are long, long gone now.  But I did have a single printout that's been sitting in a fat notebook on a (swaying) shelf in my study since, well, since 1982 or so.

Lately, I've been scanning the pages, saving them as .pdf files, converting them to Word, cleaning up the formatting.  I don't know what I'm going to do with it all (I've got only about 80 clear pages so far).  We'll see.

It's the story of a young teacher named--very cleverly--Horace Mann, whose family background is a bit weird and whose history is--oddly--very much like mine.  (What a coincidence!)  Anyway, last night I formatted some pages dealing with Horace Mann's elementary school years, and I came across this passage that I thought I'd "share" today.  It's all one massive sentence that summarizes what what Horace Man learned in elementary school.

Excerpt from Teacher, Teacher, Burning Bright ...

Despite his teachers' patent favoritism, however, he generally completed all his assignments and learned what he was supposed to: how to make change, alphabetize, use guide words in a dictionary, write in cursive, divide decimals, that Nobody Likes a Smartypants, what a fireman does all day, who Ralphe Bunche, George Washington Carver, and Booker T. Washington were (though on a Pop Quiz he mixed up the latter two), Snowball Throwing on School Property Will Be Severely Dealt With, the difference between to-too-two/there-their-they're, how to Read for Main Ideas and Key Details, how to write a Friendly Letter and a Business Letter, the names of the planets (he could not think of Pluto without imagining Mickey Mouse 's dog), what a turtle eats, what a llama looks like, the difference between an oboe and a clarinet, how to calculate a percentage/a square root, that you call a fat person "pleasingly Plump," that Beauty Is Only Skin Deep, that when you copy from someone 's paper You're Only Cheating Yourself, that when you pull a chair out from under someone you could paralyze them, when you shoot a rubberband you could put out someone's eye, when you push someone's mouth down on the drinking fountain you could knock all their teeth out, when you trip somebody you could give them a concussion, that when you knock yourself out by blowing on your thumb you could die, that punching someone in the nuts could Ruin Their Married Life, that putting a tack on someone's chair could give them blood poisoning, that stabbing someone with a pencil could give them lead poisoning, that pulling a girl's hair means you like her, that running in the hall is dangerous, that not paying attention is rude, that talking with your neighbor Will Not Be Tolerated, how to write with ink, that gum chewing is a Sign of Ill Breeding, that it's "i" before "e," except after "c," or when sounded like "a" as in "neighbor" and "weigh," that if you're good after lunch you get to hear a story, that if you "fess up" after you do something you don 't get in as much trouble as you do when you lie, that you should always lie except when the teacher is positive you did it—then you should "fess up," that when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking, that any number multiplied by zero is zero and that any number multiplied by one is that number, that Squanto Saved the Pilgrims, Lincoln Freed the Slaves, Washington Crossed the Delaware, the Boy Saved the Dike (Horace Mann, looking for cracks in the school wall, filled one with his finger; the fire department was finally able to extricate it with Crisco and a quick yank), spitting on people can give them polio, how to make a Christmas candle from a milk carton, a turkey by tracing your hand, that little chewed-off bits of big green erasers can be thrown clear across a room, that when you give your mom a plaster cast of your hand-print she cries, that "l" means pee and "2" means BM, that "BM" means bowel movement, that "bowel movement" means poop, "Stop, Look, and Listen, before you cross the street / Use your eyes, use your ears, and then use your feet," that We Took Land Away from the Indians, that chicken fights Have No Place on the Schoolyard, "Helen had a steamboat  / Steamboat had a bell / Helen went to heaven / Steamboat went to / Helen had a steamboat," that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, how to play rhythm sticks/flutophones/autoharps, dodgeball/kickball/Drop the Handkerchief/Red Rover, Red Rover/Farmer in the Dell, that the Principal keeps a Rubber Hose in her desk, that You're Not Supposed to Throw Rocks on the Playground, that only Commies tackle from behind, only Bullies punch girls, "I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, / And what can be the use of him is more than I can see. / He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; / And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed," how to get under your desk when an atom bomb falls on the school, that tigers turn into butter if they run around a tree fast enough, "Ooey Gooey was a worm / Ooey Gooey loved to squirm / He squirmed up on the railroad track / Toot!Toot! / Ooey Gooey," that a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing, that Recess is a Privilege and Privileges Can Be Rescinded, that when you say "Can I?" do something the teacher says "I don't know—can you?" (so you have to say "May I?"), that you should always say "Billy and I," not "me and Billy," the Pledge of Allegiance, that you don 't put your feet on things at school because You Wouldn' t Do That at Home, the Seven Basic Foods, "the violin' s ringing makes 1o-o-o-o-ovely singing / The clarinet, the clarinet, makes doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-det. / The horn, the horn, just sneers with scorn. / The timpani's two tones are always the same tones: 5-1, 1-5, 5-5-5-5-1," that School Is No Place for Horseplay, that Panama Hats are made in Ecuador, "The worms crawl in, The worms crawl out / The bugs play pinochle on your snout. / The pus flows free, like whipping cream, / And me without a spoon," that school milk is always warm, how to blow a wrapper off of a straw, that even Ants Have a Right to Live, that Merthiolate burns and Mercurochrome doesn't, that not washing after Number 1 or Number 2 could give you a bad disease, what a dirty joke is ...

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