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Rumors of My Death

I had the same English instructor both my sophomore and junior years of high school. She was my favorite teacher of all time, but had two minor character flaws. First, while should could list every proper noun from Tess of the D'urberville, she had a habit of forgetting or mixing up the names of her students. Second, she was a bit cynical about the capacity for Today’s Youth to give a rat’s ass about Great Literature and those who write it.

On December 2, 1987, this teacher opened every class with the announcement that James Baldwin had died. But, as was her wont, she phrased this in a “probably not of interest to you, but FYI” kind of way. She also got her names confused. “I’m sure none of you knew this, and few of you will care, “ she reportedly said, “but last night Matthew Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France. Okay, so let’s pick up where we left off in Macbeth.”

It wasn’t until fourth period – when I, sitting in the second row, shouted “Hey!” at the announcement – that she realized her error. But by that time she had already reported my death to most of my peers. And that, combined with word-of-mouth rumor mongering, left me insisting that I was alive and comforting the bereaved for weeks thereafter.

Posted on August 27, 2002 to Storytelling