Posted by: The Amoeba | August 19, 2007


Surely, dear reader, somebody, somewhere, at some time, has sat beside you in a time of strain or crisis and advised you to stop pretending, speak your mind, “let it all hang out”. Now, I know that the people who utter such things in my presence intend them as words of comfort and support. But, for me, whose options as a model were severely limited in my best years, which are long ago and far away, the idea of letting any of it hang out, never mind all of it, is a guarantee of cold sweats and sleepless nights.

Besides, it’s always seemed to me that to let things hang out is an open invitation for somebody to come by and chop them off. I sympathize with Shakespeare’s melancholy Jaques, to whom all the world was a stage. With the dawn comes the rising of the curtain, and you’d better have your costume on, your greasepaint applied, ready to pound the boards.

Nowhere, I reckon, is the tension between performance and reality greater than in teaching, where every curse has a consequence, and there are thirty little tongues ready to wag about it. “Guess what I learned from the teacher today!”

For example: one fine hot day in Las Vegas, Quilly was running around her classroom, doing what teachers do in classrooms full of rambunctious fifth graders. And doing it in footwear that’s appropriate for a fine hot day in Las Vegas. Open-toed sandals. Now those of us who are used to climates like those of Maine don’t wear open-toed sandals. There are too many things that can happen to toes in Maine that prohibit the wearing of open-toed sandals. Frostbite, for instance. In July. But I am told, with some measure of confidence, that to wear shoes and socks on a fine hot day in Las Vegas is a recipe for disaster. You will either wind up without feet, or you (and the rest of the county) will wish you had none.

So here is Quilly in her sandals, working with a group of kids in her classroom. And another bunch asks her a question. One that half of the rest of the room hollers for an answer. “I can do that!”, Our Heroine proclaims, and she jumps up and makes haste for the whiteboard in the front of the room.

Whereupon her toes had a fundamental disagreement with an iron bar, belonging to a particularly obstinate and inconsiderate piece of classroom furniture. Her toes lost.

And the pain, Mr. Cosby, was tremendous. So was the urge to ionize the atmosphere. But … all those innocent children …

Perhaps you’re old enough to remember those dialogue balloons, when old-time cartoon characters like Popeye had had enough of too much and started cursing? You know, like this one? Anyway, if you can imagine those characters spoken out loud …


With a supreme effort, Quilly stifled the words that begged for expression, replacing them with sounds that conveyed the emotion but spared the ears of all those innocent children.

Or so she thought. Until she looked into her classroom and saw thirty pairs of eyes, looking up at her in shock and horror.

Little Gardenia spoke for the entire class:

“I know what you really said, Ms. Amsden. And it was bad.”

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. LOL! OC? Don’tcha wish you’d been a fly on the wall?
    I do! GREAT story!

  2. oh my! OUCH!
    and LOL 😀

  3. I’ve been told that radio and television news announcers go through rigorous training to eliminate swearing even in their daily lives, so that dropped papers or a stubbed toe won’t surprise them! (And I know of a radio announcer whose training didn’t stick and who was fired after she knocked something off her desk on-air and expressed herself a bit too freely about it.) I’ve occasionally burst forth with something in front of my teenaged classes that I didn’t intend; they always find it very amusing.

  4. My father, also a teacher, would curse around the house over dropping a pen. I have heard it so often, when I drop something I can hear it in my head and pray I do not say it aloud. So far, my kids have not heard it but I am sure there will be a day….

  5. Hmph. Well if they know what she said anyway, she should have just said it. lol Okay, maybe not.

    Great story!

  6. Melli – given Quilly’s usual response to all things insectoid, I think I’m a lot safer hearing where and as I am. 😉

    I’m thinking I might give the Quill some more appropriate footwear before she starts her next classroom session, Polona. Steel-toed boots, perhaps.

    Once upon a time, Siobhan, I did radio announcing, and I didn’t get any special training. Knowing which seven magic words would get your station fined, and you fired, was plenty of incentive for discretion. Mind you, I was in the smallest of small markets. The big-timers probably get more care.

    I had that image in my mind constantly when around my own kids, Lori …

    Everyone pretty much knew what Groucho was saying with things like “innuendo and out the door” too, Brig. But the guys with the sack don’t come …

  7. Too funny… out of a babes mouth …. smiles.

  8. I have an “all purpose curse word” that I’ve put into my repertoire. It works to vent frustration and break tension. It spills from my mouth of its own accord in place of something more vile. It is “poobumwee!”

  9. Partially the reason I almost always wear sneakers, even throughout the summer. My toes are much too vulnerable.

  10. Yeah, I’ve got a good idea what Ms Amsden said and Gardenia was right, it was real bad. Top tale though.

  11. My 1st thought reading that was Gram would wash Ms Amsden’s mouth out with soap for saying that word… lol

  12. Welcome, T. And yeah, you’re right …

    That’s Australian for #†@&#!^%$!!, is it, Mumma? Seems rather tamer than my experience of Melburnian …

    Silver, you remind me of the Cosby routine “Mind and Body”, where Bill is going through his house in the dark. Mind: “I know my way around this house!” Toes (disgusted): “No. Turn the light on. We’re not going through this again.”

    Thanks, Bazza. The line that got to me was that the whole class figured out what she said …

    Quilly says “she probably would have”, Brooke. And from what I’ve heard, if she was alive today, every TV set within hearing would be shorted out from the washing.

  13. Encourage Quilly to wear bare feet. Toughens ’em up… although you might not like how they feel in the very latest of the evening.

    The teener’s first words were a religious invective that I am certain he learned from Herself (she used that phrase every time she’d bang her head on the low-hung semi-chandelier in our old apartment.

  14. I’m glad to see you writing again. I’ve got some steel toe boots I could lend her. I really do.

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