Hold on there, you with 911 on speed dial, I’m just being dramatic, not confessing to a major crime. My eighth-grade year was an eventful one, for it was that same year that I poisoned my English teacher.
It was a dark, dreary, overcast morning and, for English class that day, we were going to be watching a film reel on an old play written by some Shakespeare guy. My teacher (technically, he wasn’t really mine because I think he belonged to the school board since they had acquired him as an orphan in the 1930s) would waltz into our classroom (again, it wasn’t really ours, as the District owned the school and we just visited the place on the weekdays, but this is going to be a long story if you keep making me clarify these little points) every morning with his cup of coffee in hand, however this one day he realized he had forgotten something after getting to class. Upon leaving to retrieve that which he was missing, he left his cup full of coffee unattended on the big desk at the front of the room. Sadly for him, it was within reaching distance of me, and that was a big mistake. Correction, two big mistakes. Well, possibly, one big mistake and one lesser mistake with the potential for significant repercussions.
Now, either coincidentally or by a twist of fate, a nearby classmate of mine had recently started using a fountain pen for writing his school work. Not one of the fruity fountain pens made out of a huge gay feather from an endangered species of smelly bird, but one with the fat ink cartridge on the inside. Seizing the opportunity for unobserved mischief, I snatched the pen from his hand, held it over the steaming cup of coffee, and gave it a short, abrupt, downward stab into the air.
Ever do something evil and then realize that it worked better than you wanted it to? Well, oh my, this stream of ink came squirting out of the nib of the pen and only partially hit the coffee surface. The bulk of it landed on the inside, outside, rim, and handle of the cup, and it splashed all over the desk, the desk pad, and every single sheet of paper in between. You know that hollow, yawing, tingling feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when reality yanks your chain and you prepare yourself for the hurt you know will soon follow? Me, too. Right then, I felt all of that and a whole lot more.
You see, the English teacher wasn’t one of those frilly little poetry-reading turds living in constant peril of being carried away by a strong breeze. No, this guy was pretty rugged, and he carried himself with the stature and disposition of a prison guard. He was also the vice principle of the school, and there were rumors he had previously killed a student over a troubling matter of a late assignment. I knew I would be next, exactly one second after he returned and discovered the layer of inky goo all over his cup and desk. In a panic driven by terror, I grabbed a wad of paper towel from a nearby roll and started quickly cleaning up.
The lights were off in the room, in preparation to watch the film thingy, and it was difficult to see exactly where all the dark blue splatter had settled. Ink doesn’t come out of paper and wood very well by frantically rubbing it with more paper. Then there was the cup. My initial instinct was to toss it out the window and pretend like he had forgotten to bring it to class. I quickly practiced my best, What cup? look and found it somewhat less than convincing. So, I engaged Plan B: flip the pen over, stick it in the coffee and stir with great vigor. One, two, three stirs in, and I hear, “What the hell are you doing to my coffee?” in a loud booming voice emanating from a silhouetted figure in the doorway.
Busted. There was no way to make it look like anything innocent, accidental, or even remotely understandable. Without attempting to respond, I immediately backed away like a cat with wet feet standing on a hot electric griddle. The lights were off in the room and the teacher couldn’t really see me all that well, not from the door and not with the contrast of the light in the hallway. I coolly sat down in my chair and said nothing. He marched brusquely to the front of the room, lifted and examined his cup, and momentarily sent me a scowling suspicious look that punched a hole through the darkness. After a heart stopping few seconds, he dropped the sinister stare and we proceeded to watch the film. He sat off to the side of the room, quietly drinking his cup of ‘coffee.’
At the end of the class, the lights came back on. The teacher stood and said a few words about the nature of the timeless genius of Shakespeare, and returned his presently empty cup to the desk. Now, for sure, I was fully expecting he was going to die soon from ink poisoning. Maybe that’s the part that makes it a felony—the expectation of someone dying as a result of something you have done. Or, perhaps it is the watching in silence and doing nothing to warn your potential victim. Either way, the lights came back on and the ink that was clearly everywhere became so much more visible. I knew he saw it and recognized it for what it was, for he was neither blind nor stupid. In addition to the broad scatter pattern across the wooden desk surface, the ink was all over the inside bottom and outside of his cup, smeared upon his lips and tongue, and when he spoke I could even see it on his front teeth. All I could do was wonder if he would die before or after he killed me.
Much to my surprise and relief, he never said a word to me about the incident. At the end of the class, he just picked everything up (not, like, the whole room everything, just the stuff that he came in with—don’t be stupid) and walked out. Then I felt really, really horrible. On the inside. The ink had somehow stained my soul and I experienced a confluence of guilt and shame very deeply; but, then it went away.
Of course, I realize now the ink was non-toxic and he was never in any real danger of dying from it. I imagine he’s dead now, though, because it has been nearly 30 years since that day and he wasn’t a young man back then. Still, I never tried to poison anyone after that. I had learned my lesson: Even though it may seem like it would be a laugh and a lark to poison someone, it really isn’t a nice thing to do. It might just make them angry.