Fourth Grade

Third grade, da whole second semester, Andrew kept telling me, “I hope I no get Miss Sato. I hope I no get Miss Sato. I hope I no get Miss Sato. She da meanest teacha in da fourth grade, maybe da whole school.” Even da teachas know she real strick, so we bettah behave bumbye you going end up Miss Sato’s class next year. Ho, I donno who dat, but awready I no like go Miss Sato’s class.

Next year, me and Andrew stay in Miss Sato’s class. At first, she nice. Den litto by litto she come mo and mo mean. I no tink Andrew went recess fo one whole month cause he wear slippahs to school and he no mo one slippah pass. Supposed to wear shoes unless you get slippah pass from da nurse cause you get one injury. Stink toe jams no count. I donno if Andrew even get shoes. But he no care. Andrew said Miss Sato talk talk talk about da rules da whole recess. She can talk and write da math problems on da board. She can talk talk talk about what she tinking, nevamind Andrew stay dere wit his head on his desk. “Math next period, den art. I no like art cause da damn kids no follow da directions. Mandarin teacher coming in. Waste time, kids not going learn anyting. And I gotta stay udderwise da Mandarin teacha cannot handle da wild ones. Right, Andrew? Waste time. Nee how mah? Who going remembah dat? Da kids cannot even speak English and you tink dey going talk Chinese? You tink I like to have you in my room at recess, Andrew? You have shoes. I know you have shoes. Not every day you can wear slippers. You don’t have sprain. You don’t have broken toe. You have dirty, filthy feet. That’s not an injury. You hear? Andrew?” She probably tink Andrew sleeping cause no can tell if he sleeping. Even in class he look like he sleeping all da time.

“And Andrew, you need to go to bed early so you don’t sleep in school. School is for learning, not sleeping.”

Mostly we no like her put our name on da board math test time. Gotta finish in tree minutes. Da school colors Green and Yellow, but we know what dat stand for: Green is Smart. Yellow is Stupid. If you no pass, you get put on da Yellow List. Means you gotta take da test again next time. Times table. Da stupid list. Division. Stupid list. Add subtrack. Stupid list. Pretty soon almos’ da whole class name on da board on da yellow side. We gotta take da test ovah until we pass. One time, aftah I miss um by one point, Andrew tell me da secret, “Miss Sato no change da test. Jes memorize da ansas and write um down. No need do da problem. Das how Andrew stay Green. Thirty-six, sixteen, sixty-four, forty-nine…

Miss Sato get da pointer stick, supposed to get da rubber tip on da end but one time Andrew went steal um jes fo see what she going do. She pointing at da ansas to da math test: tak…thirty six, tak…sixteen, tak…sixty-four, tak…forty-nine. She look at da pointer. Look on da floor. Andrew stay laughing, da rubbah tip rolling around his desk. Everybody stay laughing litto bit. Miss Sato look up and swing da pointer down like one samurai, whoosh! She look at errybody and say, “No recess!”

Andrew like Sadie Kong. All da boys like Sadie cause she show you her panty sometimes if she like you. All da girls hate her cause all da boys like her. Andrew always ask, “What color your panty?” He said Sadie da only girl in class dat wear one bra. I donno how he know. Sadie tell “Uh-uh” and ack all hoo-hoo. She do her workbook but she look up fo check if he still looking. Andrew still looking. He drop his pencil so he can see undah da desk. I drop my pencil too. She jes huff, “No boddah me,” but reach under da desk and look around fo check if Miss Sato looking. Next ting you know, Sadie stay counting off her crinolines under her desk. Me and Andrew counting too. “…four, five, six, seven…” Miss Sato looking at us! Shet. Sadie flap her skirt down. Shet. Andrew said one time was “twelve and purple.”

When Mae Obata bring her one giant catteleya orchid from home Miss Sato come all happy and put da ting behind her ear, pull da bobby pin open with her teet’, and pin up da purple flowah almost as big as her head. Mae clap her hands and tell, “You look so pretty, Miss Sato.” Miss Sato get one Kleenex, dab her lips and look at da whole class making sure she turn so dat errybody can see. She look younger, but to me, even more mean. Sometimes she ask Mae to lomi-lomi massage her back aftah lunch cause Mae da biggest strongest girl in class. She can beef if she like, but she cry easy. Nobody going tease Mae or make her cry.

Andrew stay laughing laughing laughing at one book in da library.

“What you laughing at?” I ask him.

“Try look dis book about optico illusions. Whachusee? One old lady or one young lady?”

“Young lady,” I tell. Andrew tell me look again. He point his fingah at da pickcha, tracing one big nose wit one bump.

“Ai! Old lady!”

“Who dat remind you of?” Andrew ask.

“I donno. One old witch. J’like…j’like…”

“Miss Sato!” we tell at da same time. I went trace da picture on one folder paper and keep um in my folder. Anytime I get minus points, I look at my picture and I smile at Miss Sato. I see da old lady, but sometimes I see da young lady and I wondah if das da same lady: old lady, young lady. Same, same.

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