There were a lot of complaints regarding Miss Pulchrid, but never enough hard evidence to fire her. She continued on year after year, like a shiny brown beetle, with little, inspecting, dissecting eyes. Miss Pulchrid did not like teaching, but did enjoy dishing out punishment for misbehavior. She delighted in tricks of verbal cunning (“It’s nice,” she’d think, “to see students dumbfounded and to get other students to laugh at them.”)
On tuesday, at the beginning of the eight o’clock class for Modern Literature, as Miss Pulchrid was writing the Statement of the Day on the blackboard, there was a faint mumbling behind her. She turned swiftly, but not fast enough to catch the culprits. She asked, rather sharply, “Who is talking?” There was no response from the twenty-five seventeen and eighteen year boys and girls. Smiling ever so slightly, Miss Pulchrid directed her beady eyes at Mary Smith, sitting far back in one of the rows of brown desks, who, under her cape of golden-flowing hair, was totally absorbed in her Mickey Spillane.
Then, in a steel-edged voice, “Mary Smith, you are talking.” Mary raised her head, looked straight at Miss Pulchrid and replied, “No, Miss Pulchrid, I am not.” Miss Pulchrid’s eyes gleamed as she said, “Well, you are now. Write the sentence which is on the board fifty times as punishment for contradicting.” Blue-eyed, gentle-faced Mary stood up, and without a quaver in her soft and thoughtful voice, said, “Your statement that I was talking contradicted a fact, the fact that I was not talking. This you knowingly did. The implication is that you are not a lover of truth. I suggest [here Mary turned to her fellow students] that those who are brave enough to agree with me follow me now to the principal’s office, where I will demand the dismissal of Miss Pulchrid.”
After a completely stunned moment Miss Pulchrid shouted, “How dare you! So you think you’re so smart!? Well, I’m the smart one here, not you! Who are you to think for yourself!? I will flunk you right now! And I will flunk anyone who follows you!” But it was already too late for Miss Pulchrid. Mary reached into one of her pockets, pulled out a small, gray tape recorder, held it up for all to see, then clicked the OFF button. As Mary calmly walked to the door, one by one, slowly at first, then faster, all of the students stood up and followed her out of the classroom and down the hall.
Miss Pulchrid sat down at her big black desk, clenching her hard little fists, staring before her, wondering what had gone wrong. Above and behind her, on the chalkboard, stood, in big bold letters, the Statement of the Day: THE DETECTIVE STORY IS AN EXTREMELY LOW, CAPITALISTIC FORM OF LITERATURE, FIT ONLY FOR MINDLESS INDULGENCE.
Mary had left her book face up on her small brown desk. The title of the violently colorful paperback, beneath the author’s name, Mickey Spillane, was “I, The Jury”.