Froggy's Class
by Sharan Strange

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South Carolina, 1969

She was an old maid, Froggy was,
and she was mean, with bulging eyes
that strained more when she got cross,
and a lumpy sack of gland-swollen throat.
We thought her some crazy crone who
took delight in chastising the innocent.
Her classroom seemed our punishment,
as we were dubbed the smart ones.
But among our bunch the usual stunts
were devised, and her madness was
the antidote to our attempts at anarchy.

I mostly don't remember her abuses--
except the shrill, cracking voice
that harangued us daily, or the hard-rapped
satisfaction of a ruler across the knuckles--
but in them she was democratic.
She also favored the word nigra,
which made Tina Fogle snicker
and eye me triumphantly.  One day reciting
vocabulary, Stuart Williams, brilliant-haired,
the class sweetheart--whose liberal parents
no doubt had drilled its pronunciation--
corrected her, loudly enunciating nee-gro,
amid a chorus of halfhearted mimics.
Froggy bristled, glared at his cheerful
nerviness.  I loved him for it.

Then after the year-end spelling test, which
I alone aced, she railed against my all-white
peers, summoned me to stand before
the knuckleheads she said (or warned)
might someday fall victim to my supervision.
On the last day, silently driving me home,
she pushed a heavy bound notebook
into my hands, and I--out of discomfort
at being alone with her, and shame at
my squalid, small house--scrambled out
of the car, barely caught will make something
of yourself and college and proud.

"Froggy's Class" appears in ASH



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The Redneck Review 2007