Late Summer always brings thoughts of a new school year about to begin, and for my friend Delbert Earle, that always brings thoughts of Miz Pirtley. She was his senior English teacher, and Miz Pirtley’s favorite saying was, “Delbert Earle, if you ever stop acting the fool, you might amount to something.”
Delbert Earle thought he was quite the dude in the Fall of his Senior year. He was playing halfback on the football team, going steady with a girl so cute she made him blush every time he thought of her, and headed toward graduation. Well, hoping he was headed toward graduation.
Delbert Earle was the class cut-up, always the center of attention, and something of a practical jokester. Whenever Miz Pirtley found something in her desk drawer that wasn’t supposed to be there, she knew exactly where it came from. She found a good many strange things in her desk drawer that Fall, many of them alive and wiggling.
One afternoon, a warm and lazy Indian Summer day begging to be enjoyed, Delbert Earle was standing on top of a desk in study hall, leaning out the window, talking to his girl. Miz Pirtley passed by in the hall, saw Delbert Earle, and moved faster than anybody had ever seen Miz Pirtley move before. She grabbed him by the ankles, gave a mighty shove, and threw Delbert Earle clean out the window into a nandina bush.
Then Miz Pirtley got up on the desk and looked out the window at Delbert Earle.
“What did you go and do that for?” he asked, his pride more damaged than his body. (The worst part was that his girlfriend laughed. Loudly.)
“Delbert Earle,” Miz Pirtley said sweetly, “I was just acting the fool, and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Delbert Earle turned out all right. He’s got a good job and a nice family now, pays his taxes, never misses voting in an election, and speaks pretty good English. He’s acted the fool a few times in his life, as we all have. But a few times he’s started to and didn’t, and the reason he didn’t was that he thought of Miz Pirtley.
One of these days soon, as Summer becomes Fall, Delbert Earle plans to go by the school and thank Miz Pirtley. But he plans to stay clear of the windows.