THE TICKETS

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Kino-Endo, gave us raffle tickets for good behavior. By the end of the semester, some kids had 100 — enough for a huge stuffed animal — and others had 10, which yielded them a Snickers bar.

I had -27.5 tickets.

It would’ve been lower, but Mrs. Kino-Endo ran out of the blue tickets, which negated the positive red tickets. And even then, she would borrow a blue tickets from her favorite students, rip them in half and give me a piece.

But I wasn’t a bad kid. I just lost a few tickets here and there. I got minus one tickets for having to pee in the middle of class. I got minus two tickets for accidentally farting in the middle of the spelling test. And I got minus five tickets for taking all of my blue tickets and secretly stacking them on her desk, trying show her what I would do if I were the teacher. Unfortunately, she found out it was me because I was the only person with so many blue tickets.

I could’ve just thrown my blue tickets out. But I didn’t get that smart until third grade, so instead I spent my time figuring ways of avoiding more blue tickets. Didn’t work, though. Once, after school, the principal gave all the students red, white and blue Bomb Pops. I savored every bite while sitting on a playground bench, waiting for my mom. While wiping my mouth with a napkin, I leaned the wrong way and half the frozen treat slipped to the cement. Tears built up in my eyes — I really wanted the rest of that popsicle. Behind me, Mrs. Kino-Endo was looming. She saw the drop and she saw my tears. She walked over to me, gently put her hand on my back and said, “Alvin, please don’t trash out beautiful playground. That will be minus two tickets.”

In Sunday school that week, the pastor’s wife taught us about the devil. She asked the class if we knew where the devil lived. One kid said hell, but I said, “At school. My teacher is the devil.”

At some point, I stopped trying to avoid tickets and I began spiting this woman. The best defense is a great offense, so I realized I needed to make her scared of me — I began plotting. But I needed a partner in crime, and the only other “bad kid” in class was an angry boy named Frank, who happened to live close to me. One day after school, I invited Frank over and I told him my secret plan. He agreed to help.

As Frank left my house, he cracked open a locked desk drawer in my garage — a piece of furniture I was never supposed to touch. But Frank nonchalantly fingered through the items in the drawer and found a sword-shaped letter opener. “Awesome!” he said. “This is payment for me helping you.” Fair enough, I thought. I carefully shut the drawer, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice. (They never did.)

The next day, I came to school ready to execute our plan. When recess began at 10:30 a.m., Mrs. Kino-Endo went to the classroom door and, as always, she divided the four-square balls amongst her favorite students.

While she was distracted, I went to the supply cabinet and looked for Elmer’s Glue. There was none. So I improvised and grabbed a glue stick. I tossed it to Frank, who was standing by Mrs. Kino-Endo’s desk, and he smeared the glue all over the teacher’s chair. Mission accomplished.

I went to recess and, 15 minutes later, I came back. Mrs. Kino-Endo was sitting in her chair. I looked over to Frank so we could share a moment of pleasure, but he wasn’t there — probably late from recess again, which was nothing new.

The class settled down, still no Frank, and Mrs. Kino-Endo said, “Class, please be quiet. I have an announcement to make.”

Silence.

“We had an incident,” she said. “It involves a student taking a prank too far.”

More silence. Mrs. Kino-Endo stared down at her desk, somberly, and added, “The police are here to investigate, so they may be asking you guys some questions” — she paused and looked right at me — “There may be some students expelled.”

Tears exploded out of my eyes. I whimpered. I didn’t mind losing a thousand tickets, but expulsion? If I were expelled, my parents would spank me so hard that farting during the next spelling text wouldn’t be possible. If I were expelled, my grandpa would disown me because I wouldn’t get into Harvard, which was his dream since I was in kindergarten. And the police were here! And they probably wanted to shoot me!

Mrs. Kino-Endo saw me crying, but she said nothing. She probably had little pity for a felon like me. She was probably thinking about buying a whole new roll of blue tickets, just so she could glue it to my desk.

Occasionally, my classmates were called outside to meet with the cops, who were probably asking about my whereabouts before recess. I waited to be arrested.

Finally, it was lunchtime and I got some tater tots — a decent last meal. That’s when a cop came over and talked to me.

“Are you Alvin?”

“Yeah.”

“I have a few questions I wanted to…”

“I AM SORRY! I DIDN’T MEAN TO!”

The cop said nothing.

“I didn’t mean to do anything bad to Mrs. Kino-Endo. I didn’t know she…”

The officer stopped me. “You’re not in trouble. Calm down. I just wanted to know,” he said, reaching into his pocket, “if you had ever seen this before.”

He pulled out a sword-shaped letter opener.

“Uh, uh, no.”

“OK, that’s all.”

“What, uh, what happened?” I asked.

“Turns out one of your classmates thought it would be funny to threaten some girls with this thing. Crazy, right? Well, you can get back to lunch.”

Frank never came back to school.

The next day, Mrs. Kino-Endo split up Frank’s tickets amongst her favorite students. I did not get a single one.

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