Once upon a time I was a little boy, a little dutch boy who lived in a small village, behind a dike close to the sea. I was not the little dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike to hold the water at bay, if it had depended on me and my finger, than Holland would've drowned long ago, besides my finger was ordained for greater things, but I didn't know that yet. I was a nice little boy and in school sat behind a nice little girl with long blond hair. When she moved, and she moved frequently, her hair brushed over the top of my desk and this time it bothered me, or perhaps I wanted to tease her, so I grabbed her blond locks and pretended to drive a horse, hop horsey hop, which was fun.
Girls, even little girls, can really be fun, but real mean as well. Alie, pronounced Ah – lee, did not like to be my horse and turning around slapped me across the face, which was definitely not funny. The teacher, who must have seen her whopping me, did not give her a detention, but me, which I thought was not quite fair.
So, here I sat, after the class had left, all by myself in the empty room, waiting for the teacher to hand me my punishment. He gave me one hundred lines to write - 'I must behave myself like a gentleman in class and out.'
I started the lines according to a system I had invented at a previous occasion, by writing one word at a time thirty times underneath each other. First the word I, next must, followed by behave, but was horrified to find that the sentence was too long for my note book. What now?
It was too late to change my system, but then I hit upon a brilliant idea, all I had to do leave a few words out of the sentence, and I knew exactly which ones, and my problem would be solved. I deleted 'like a gentleman,' the meaning of the line would not suffer extensively, and the teacher would probably not notice. But he did.
Now, my teacher was a nice man who I liked very much because he was a really good story teller who just that morning had told us about how the Jews were caught between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea and how that scared the wits out of them and had shouted at Moses 'What have you done to us, now that we all either get killed by the soldiers or drown.'
My teacher not just stood in front of the class like a pillar when telling a story, he sat on one of a students desk in the front of the class, with his legs on the seat, so he was facing us, that way it looked as if he was one of us, anyways we thought so and paid a great deal of attention, in fact we hung on his lips, if that makes sense, so please you be quiet too.
“And Moses spoke to the scared and upset crowd 'Fear ye not,' but the Jews seeing the army swiftly approaching were shaken with fear and scolded Moses 'Why did you bring us here? So we all die in this godforsaken* place? Do something, can't you do something at all? Where is your God?'”
The best part was when my teacher stood up, right on top of the desk seat, his outstretched arms almost reaching the ceiling when he yelled, imitating Moses, 'BE QUIET YOU,” to the angry crowd. He jumped off the seat to grab his card stick, jumped up again, pointing the stick over our heads and roared “In name of the Lord, 'LET MY PEOPLE GO!'
Now we were trembling, hunkering in our seats, but my teacher was not finished yet, he stepped off the seat, put the stick away and said in a calm voice now,
“Boys and girls, you know what happened after? God made a path through the sea, to let His people go.”
I never forgot my teacher and neither the story he so vividly related, and it was like an echo from the past to me when in the sixties black people started protesting singing 'We shall overcome' and 'Let my people go.' Fast forward fifty years and the mightiest country in the world is led by a black president! But I forgot all about my punishment lines. Sorry about that.
My teacher did see my deceit. Did I tell you that he was a nice teacher? Well he was.
“Nice try,” he said,“ some of my former students used two pencils held together to write two lines at the same time. That is why I make the lines extra long, it confuses them. Now what about you? I don't want you to write the whole thing over again but I do want the words you left out from you - but only ten times, not a hundred, on one condition - I also want you to show me how good your penmanship is. Deal?” I wrote the deleted words like a gentleman, ten times as good as I was able to. My penmanship had markedly improved.
What? Did I forget to write about the gypsies? You're right, I got too much involved about the story of my teacher. Some stories do that, well, you'll have to wait for the next one. Promise!