When I turned eight, I fell in love with Miss Wright*. She was the sweetest third-grade teacher a boy could have, and I wanted nothing more than to impress her.
Just before Christmas, Miss Wright gave us an assignment. “I want each of you to prepare a speech over the holidays. It should be at least three minutes long and it must have a theme. For example, you could talk about Alexander Graham Bell. The topic is up to you. We’ll have all the speeches on the Monday we get back from Christmas vacation. Julie Adams will be first, and Jimmy Worthington will be last.”
Over Christmas I daydreamed about Miss Wright’s thunder-struck reaction when I gave the best speech she’d ever heard about Alexander Graham Bell. The night before school started again, I got the old encyclopedia out of the basement and turned to the section on the great inventor. It began:
“Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone. He also worked on several other inventions including the wheat husk remover…” I turned to the next page and to my dismay it read, “Andrew Bell was an educator born in 1753.” A whole page was missing! What could I do? Not allowing myself to become flustered, I looked in our kitchen cabinets, checked out dad’s electronic organ and carefully examined our telephone. Soon, my speech was ready:
“Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone and the wheat husk remover. However, many people aren’t aware that Mr. Bell was also the inventor of the ‘Graham Cracker.’ Although Mr. Bell was born in Scotland, few people know he was a Japanese citizen. That information is printed on his phone, which clearly says, ‘Made in Japan.’ He also invented the Bell church organ and my personal favourite: the taco, which is available at his excellent chain of restaurants known as Taco Bell…”
The next morning, I stopped along the way to talk to Jimmy Worthington.
“What’s your speech about, Jimmy?” “Alexander Graham Bell.”
“Me too. But you’re so lucky. You get to go last!”
After opening exercises, Julie Adams began her speech. “Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone.” After she finished, we all applauded, and Miss Wright gave her an A. The next speech was by Jeremy Anderson. He began, “Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone.”
Miss Wright seemed perplexed. It got worse. Before me, a total of twenty-four children gave their speeches. And all twenty-four were about Alexander Graham Bell. Still, I was confident that my speech would impress her most because no one else had mentioned his Taco Bell franchises or the Graham cracker. Miss Wright called me to the front of the class.
I boldly began, “Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone. He also worked on several other inventions including the wheat husk…” Just then Miss Wright slammed her ruler on the desk. “No!” she said. “No more. Sit down. You get an F. I don’t want to hear one more word about Alexander Graham Bell!” I was crestfallen but grateful not to be Jimmy Worthington. Miss Wright towered over his desk and put her face close to his. “What is your speech about, Jimmy?”
Jimmy looked like an antelope separated from the herd.
“What is your speech about?” she demanded.
“Bedwetting,” he replied and asked to be excused.
Miss Wright was never the same after that morning. Still, some good came out of it. I hear that Jimmy went on to become a successful urologist. As for me, I’m still trying to unveil the shocking truth behind the invention of the Graham Cracker. Wherever she is, I’m sure Miss Wright would be impressed! *names have been changed
Over the next few months we’re running some of Ray’s favourite columns spanning the past 19 years. His book, ‘The Trouble’ with Tapioca, is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org