Mr. Griswold’s Eulogy

Let me, Poe's good friend, deliver his eulogy.

Mr. Keane looks like Gordon Lindsey, I told my dad in 1961.

Gordon Lindsey was the owner of the local mortuary, the one we kids tip-toed  by on our way to school. Mr. Lindsey grew red roses and calla lilies in the front yard of the white home. Ionian columns flanked each side of the front door. Dark green awnings shaded the windows from the sun.

Why do they care about the sun when the people in there are dead, I often thought and sometimes expressed to my friends, as we scooted past the house.

At least Gordon Lindsey has some life in him, my dad observed. On Wednesdays, at our Rotary Club meetings, he comes alive and jokes around, just like you, Cheri.

My heart swelled with love and satisfaction upon hearing my dad’s tacit acceptance of my jokes. Dad’s subtle nod, whether by comment or eye contact, validated my very existence.

I hate Mr. Keane, I told my dad in 1961.

Hate is a strong word Cheri.

Well, I do and nothing you or mom say will make me change my mind. My mind is made up and that is that, I added for emphasis.

The next day, I slid into my desk and waited for the bell to ring, signaling the start of another mundane day of 6th grade.

Good Morning, students, said Mr. Keane in Gregorian chant.

Good Morning, Mr. Keane, we parroted back.

Why, Mr. Keane wasn’t keen at all! Out on the playground, I began schooling the slower kids first.

Hey, Mike, did you notice that Mr. Keane isn’t keen?

Mike came close to me, looking deeply into my brown eyes.

I get it, he said, as if a large padded mallet had just hit his cranial gong.

Back in the classroom, I thought, Mr. Keane is an oddball with no humor. I didn’t mind odd, but humorless people scared me. Math instruction began. For once, he left his desk. His bony pointing finger touched down on my lousy math paper like a scythe. He jiggled chalk in his hand, a ghostly extension with four other thin white fingers.

He moved about our classroom like Mark Twain’s undertaker in Huck Finn.

“ He was the softest, glidingest, stealthiest man I ever see; and there warn’t no more smile to him than there is to a ham.”

I was the type of ham you wanted in a classmate, suspicious of overarching authority, sneaky, and sometimes, funny. That Mr. Keane and I were heading for a clash was inevitable.

Because life in Mr. Keane’s classroom was akin to life in a mortuary, I felt an anointed need to plan a prank of grand proportion. At lunch, as I took more treasured marbles –steelies, cat-eyes, and purriesfrom the 6th grade boys in our daily game of Ringer, and as my sock of marbles drooped heavily with those jewels of victory, I hatched the plan.

The strategy was simple: In a show of collective action, all 32 of us will shut our math books loudly at the same time (upon my signal).

Out on the softball field during lunch recess, I revealed my plan to Mike.

Tomorrow during math, I will cough twice. All of us will flip our books closed in a unified whonk, I carefully explained, hoping Mike would get it. At that moment, a fly landed on my hand and with one swat, I killed it.

Wow. You’re quick, Mike observed.

Thanks. I know, I said with my customary humility. You tell the boys; I’ll tell the girls.

That night around the dinner table, my little brother Steve wrapped his dinner in a napkin, fried liver with bacon,  and stuffed that ticking olfactory bomb into the hutch’s drawer behind his chair.

I saw his transgression but kept it to myself. In light of my own plotting, I’d wait for that piece of meat, rich in iron, to ripen into a bad smell in our dining room. Then, Stevie and I would both have something to look forward to: annoying those in control.

The next day at school during math, we executed our prank: I coughed twice and 32 hormonal brats slammed their math books shut in unison.

Mr. Keane, who taught from behind his desk, jerked his head up in surprise.

Then, ominously, he slid his black-rimmed reading glasses down his thin nose.

Who planned this silly joke? He asked without any hint of amusement.

Well, if no one comes forward, then you all shall pay for your disrespect of me and of mathematics (especially fractions). Instead of reading you  Sherlock Holmes after lunch, I will choose a scary story, sure to bring a confession to the table.

After lunch, Mr. Keane read Edgar Allen Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart.

My own heart began to beat harder, so hard, I was sure Mike, Dede, and Christine could either hear or feel the thumping.

No one budged when Mr. Keane put The Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe down on his desk.

Class, you all  have committed a grave error today. He looked at me.

That sound! That cacophony of rudeness! Why, that slap to my face and my position have upset me greatly. To this histrionic statement, my adrenal glands delivered to my heart a shot of momentary satisfaction.

For one of you, the one who orchestrated such a dull distraction, this little trick will be the final nail in your coffin.

School ended and I walked home, past Gordon Lindsey’s mortuary, home to the House of Usher, where I knew a crack had already formed in the dining room wall.

During dinner, my father had one thing to say:

Who the hell stuffed the liver in the drawer?

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, On fiction, People and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Mr. Griswold’s Eulogy

  1. tsblock says:

    Mr. Keane reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge! I get a great visual image of him by the way that you describe him. If you have not seen the recent new version of A Christmas Carol, I highly recommend it.

  2. Cindy says:

    And to this day I thought I was the only Block sibling smart enough to wrap food (sometimes already chewed) that I could not bear to swallow, under the famous dining room hutch. I sat in front of it with my back to the drawers and would lean over and slide it away. Filet of sole that tasted fishy and the famous liver and onions! I too was reprimanded days later after each culinary transgression. Maybe I picked it up from my older brother!The marble recollection of purries, cat-eyes was keen—except you omitted the amazing “clearies “!

  3. Cheri says:

    Clever, Cindy Lou.
    And were you admonished?
    Were you a marble aficionado?

    Clearly (or should I say, clearies), I ignored you for many years.

    The writing process purges the truth.

  4. Richard Manchester says:

    Complete, beautiful and innocent, Cheri.

  5. John T says:

    If the now-fifty-something you, could meet Mr Keane and Mr Lindsay as they were in 1961, how would they come across to you, and what would you say to them?

    Food for a blog post, don’t you think?!!!

    • Cheri says:

      Hello John,

      Mr. Lindsey, the mortician: I met him several times when I was an adult. He had a weak handshake. I believe some call it a fish handshake. He was small, thin, and kind.

      Mr. Keane, the humorless teacher who taught from behind his desk: In my 38 years of teaching, 26 in the public school sector, I have met more Mr. Keanes than I care to count. Why people like him go into teaching has always been one of those mysteries for me.

      Were he to have been in a faculty meeting with me, I would have observed a small man, a spiritless man who corrected papers during the meeting and who never added anything to the conversation.

      And yes, I like your idea of looking back at some of my childhood “characters” from a 50-something (boy are you kind…) point of view.

  6. Kathy says:


    I enjoy reading your posts so much. You take me into your world with such ease and enjoyment. Your stories always make my day….even when they are about scary, grouchy people 🙂 I missed you and am so glad I found you again!

  7. Brighid says:

    I have been away from your blog for a bit so it was great to catch up. When I worked in the system I met too many of that type of “teacher” as well.

  8. Cheri says:

    Hi Brighid,

    Happy New Year to you. I enjoy your comments, as well as your blog.

    I try to focus on those teachers who inspire me, but the Mr. Keanes of the teaching world do so much damage, that I cannot help but condemn their methods.

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