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She never expelled me; Mrs. Shipman knew something of hard luck. 

Her paddle smacked against my backside soon after I smashed

a classmate’s head into a shiny white urinal. He was one of the few

who’d pick fun of my clothes. While others cheered, I saw naked red


spurt from a gash above his right eye, then Mrs. Shipman twisting through

the boy’s room stall like a tornado of blue business suit and perfume- 

snatched me by the hair and marched me through the gray corridor:

her black shoes clacked cadence on the polished tile as Dr. King’s face

watched fascinated from the wall.  A man my parents told me


inspired riots.  I lost count of how many times the wood cracked

my bottom, but she knew the need for pain to meet adrenaline, and the truth

that I was never born to be that blood crusted kid…except that day. 

She never expelled me; Mrs. Shipman knew something of self-esteem.