|Me: Bottom right. |
My Nemesis: Top Left.
I really did.
I just wasn't . . . quite/ever . . . good enough.
Maybe I should explain.
Our grade five teacher, Mrs. Herbst, she of the blue hair, was a stickler for math.
And math facts.
Actually, she was a stickler for most school work, but especially for anything to do with numbers.
She devised many and various methods for teaching said facts.
Quizzes. (Not to be confused with tests. Quizzes were shorter in length and supposedly carried less weight. And were jumped on you without notice. Yikes! Just FYI.)
Games . . .
And this is where our story starts . . .
Our class sat in desks in several long rows.
Mrs. Herbst would call the names of the front students in the two outside rows.
“Kathy and Margaret, please pay attention.”
Actually, I must confess that I don't know if those two girls were ever actually pitted against each other in Mrs. Herbst's devious little exercise, but they were two of the smartest girls in the class and I thought this sounded good.
Moving on . . .
The girls would take a deep breath and sit up, ready for what was coming.
“Seven times six!” Mrs. Herbst would bark out crisply.
“Forty-two!” Both girls would shout out together, nearly in unison.
The teacher would nod and smile.
And call out the names of the students seated just behind the first two.
“Five times nine!”
Slowly, she would work her way around the room.
Getting closer and closer to me.
“Six times eight!”
“Four times nine!”
“Five times six!”
Finally, she would be looking at the students seated directly in front of her in the two center rows.
One of whom was almost purple with anticipation.
Okay. Me. I was almost purple with . . . you get the picture.
The other was Kenny.
Mrs. Herbst would inhale.
My heart would stop.
“Nine times nine!”
“Eighty one!” Kenny would say, softly, before she had even finished the last word.
And just as I was drawing a breath, ready to shout.
“Rats!” I would say.
I knew the answer! I did!
That rotten Kenny beat me again!
I would sit back in my chair and glare, narrow-eyed, at the tall young man seated just opposite.
Next time, Kenny. Next time.