Nerd Class


Back in the 1980’s I was given the gift of teaching the Chapter I program students in English.  This was done because Mrs. Soulwhipple was not only a veteran English teacher, but also the superintendent’s wife.  She was the one gifted with all the star kids, the A & B students, the ones that would be identified as the proper kids to put into our nascent Gifted and Talented Program.  That meant that I would get all the kids that were C, D, & F in most of their classes, the losers, the Special Edwards, the learning disabled, the hyper rocketeers of classroom comedy, and the trouble makers.  And I was given this gift because, not only was I not a principal’s or superintendent’s wife, but I actually learned how to do it and became good at it.  How did I do that, you might ask?  I cheated.  I snooped into the Gifted and Talented teacher training, learned how to differentiate instruction for the super-nerd brain, and then used the stolen information to write curriculum and design activities for all my little deadheads (and they didn’t even know who the Grateful Dead were, so that’s obviously not what I meant).    I treated the little buggers like they were all GT students.  Voila!  If you tell a kid they are talented, smart, and worthy of accelerated instruction… the little fools believe it, and that is what they become.Aeroquest ninjas

Even the goofy teacher is capable of believing the opposite of what is obvious and starts treating them like super-nerds because he actually believes it.  I soon had kids that couldn’t read, but were proud of their abstract problem-solving skills.  I had kids that could enhance the learning of others with their drawing skills, their singing ability, and their sense of what is right and what is wrong.  I had them doing things that made them not only better students for me, but in all their classes.  And I did not keep the methods to my madness a secret, either.  I got so good at coercing other teachers to try new ideas and methods that I got roped into presenting some of the in-service training that all Texas teachers are required by law to do.  And unlike so many other boring sessions we all sat through, I presented things I was doing in the actual classroom that other teachers could also use with success.  The other teachers tried my activities and sometimes made them work better than I did.


Yes, I know this all sounds like bragging.  And I guess it probably is.  But it worked.  My kids kept getting better on the standardized tests and the State tests that Texas education loves so much.  And Mrs. Soulwhipple was still the superintendent’s wife, but she did not stay a teacher forever.  She eventually went to a new school district with her husband.  And guess who they started thinking of when the question of who would be the next teacher for the nerd classes was considered.  That’s right, little ol’ Reluctant Rabbit… that goofy man who drew pictures on the board and made kids read like a reading-fiend… me.

So, a new era began in Cotulla.  In addition to still getting to teach all the deadheads (because they weren’t going to trust those precious children to anyone else, naturally), I began teaching at least one edition of Mr. B’s famous Nerd Class every school year.  We actually assigned long novels and great pieces of literature for the kids to read and discuss and study in depth.  Novels like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt were read.  We began talking about “big ideas”, “connections to the wider world”, and how “things always change”.  We began taking on ideas like making our world better and how to help our community.  Kids began to think they were learning things that were important.  We did special units on Exploring Our Solar System, The World of Mark Twain, Finding the Titanic, and The Tragedy of Native American History.  And we spent as much as a third of the year on each.  I am myself cursed with a high IQ and a very disturbing amount of intelligence.  I am the deepest living stockpile of useless facts and trivia that most of my students would ever meet in their lifetimes.  And even I was challenged by some of the learning we took on.  That’s the kind of thing that makes a teaching career fun.  It kept me teaching and meeting new students and new challenges long after my health issues made it a little less than sensible to keep going.  And if I manage to tell you a few Nerd Class stories in the near future, then at least you stand a chance of knowing a little bit about what-the-heck I am talking about.  So be prepared for the worst.  I am retired now, and have plenty of time for long-winded stories about being a teacher.



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Late Autumn Rains

20151128_092151It is raining again in Texas, and cold enough to make the leaves turn red and yellow and orange.  The cracked and useless swimming pool is filled with rain water.  The sky is gray. El Niño  is here for a visit.  And he is not a well-behaved little boy.

I am confined indoors again by arthritis pain and breathing difficulties.   But I don’t mind.  I can travel by the wings of my imagination.  Things in my world are soaring once again amongst the clouds… and dancing like kites in the wind.

I have not taken any depression medication in six months, and I seem to be happier for it.  We have hot chocolate to drink and… mmm… pumpkin pie.  The cool winds are a reminder of what is was like as a boy in Iowa in the 60’s and 70’s.  Thanksgiving now past… Christmas coming…  I haven’t celebrated those holidays in 20 years, my wife being a Jehovah’s Witness, and I myself still identified with the congregation… even though my faith is somewhat stumbled… not in God himself, but in how men make pronouncements about what to think and what to say and who to be… in the name of magical rewards that the universe is not capable of delivering.  No higher power will step in to rescue us from our fears and misfortune.  That is not what God is there for.  He does not ask for slavish devotion, or rituals, or the sacrifice of your firstborn son.  That is superstition.  He only offers the chance to live, and laugh, and… love.  It is the only reward I need.  I do not fear the coming winter.  The weather may erode my mountain fortress and the rains may eventually make the rivers of life to drown me, but I have lived, and loved, and laughed.  And not even God can take that away.

I am sorry if this sounds somber and depressed to you.  I hear a different music than that.  I hear a resounding joy.  And even if I die right this minute, I am happy, for all is complete.  “Whether or not it is clear to you… the universe is unfolding as it should.” (The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann)

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Who Am I?

space cowboy23

“Who am I?” the Walrus said,

“I have to know before I’m dead.

And if the Cosmos will not say,

I’ll ask again another day.”

“You are a simple Disney clone,”

Said Cosmos when we were alone.

“You draw and color with your brain,

And tell some stories despite the strain.”

class Miss Mcover

“You taught a while in the Monkey House,

And learned that students like to grouse,

But in the end will love your class

And will give you medals made of brass.”


“And your poems are filled with Angel words,

Both quite profound and yet absurd,

Because your mind soars far away

On winds of wild romantic play.”

“I guess that I can live with that,”

Said Walrus as he grew quite fat.

“And Mickey is the name I write

To sign my pictures in the light.

And that is all I have to say

To write myself in the crazy way.”


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Cardinalis_cardinalis,_Northern_cardinal,_male,I_JAG308  I must post upon this holiday because I am trying to post every single day of 2015.  I am only 35 days away from completing that goal.  And, though I have been in poor health and struggling through each and every day of the year, I like to think I am like the cardinal, the little red bird that never flies away when the winter comes.  I am thankful that I have made it this far and that my family is alive and healthy.  I am thankful that I have completed a teaching career that I can feel proud of.  I am thankful that life is full and rich and full of the resonating music of the great symphony of existence.

And I am thankful that the cardinals are winning.

In Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals won their division, won 100 games, and showed a solid character as the best team in baseball even though they didn’t win the World Series.

In Football, the Arizona Cardinals won 11 games last year.  This year they are already 8 wins and only 2 losses.   Things are good for cardinals fans.

And as an added bonus this year, the Iowa Hawkeyes are undefeated and ranked #4 in the nation.  Things are good for my Elmer Maiter, too.

So, I am thankful for the success God and the universe has afforded me.  Things besides sports are important too.  By the way, I am thankful that someone will even bother to read this post.  It is evidence that as a writer, I have reached the stage where I am no longer totally ignored by the world.  So I am also thankful for you.


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The Terrible Strip Poker Game That Sealed My Fate


Any time you try to play Russian roulette with girlfriends, especially two girlfriends at once, especially especially two girlfriends who don’t like each other, you have to expect at some time or other, a gun is going to go off.  This happened to me during a card game.  And it was fatal.

Now, I should warn you, the innuendo in this story is R to X rated.  But the truth is neither of these two young ladies became my wife (although my wife is actually more like Ysandra than she is like Abby… a fact I probably should not reveal because I promised never to write a post like this about her).  I never consummated anything with either young lady, though in the course of five years of this double-trouble relationship thing, I had way more opportunities than I am comfortable with.  And I really don’t know if Ysandra would be upset or happy to know that she was not the first young lady I ever saw naked.

The trouble began when I said yes to Abby’s plan to have a card party at my place.  It didn’t seem like such a terrible idea at the outset.  Card parties were a thing on autumn or winter nights in the Midwest, and both Abby and I had family experiences with card parties.  Abby diligently invited others to attend.  She offered a tepid, half-hearted invitation to Ysandra… out of a sense of duty, I suppose.  She also invited Mother Mendoza to play cards with us.  Now, Endira Mendoza was the older sister of the 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Evangeline Delgado, and she had been a Catholic nun before taking a job in Cotulla to teach 7th grade Science.  Everyone called her “Mother” or “Mama” because she loved all her students like they were her own children.  And she disciplined them that way too.  “I am fed up with this nonsense!” was the phrase that her students dreaded because the use of the paddle was not banned in Texas schools in those days.  What could go wrong with a party that included everyone’s “Mama”?

Well, I didn’t know everything about the situation before I committed to the party.  Mother Mendoza looked upon Abby as the wild and carefree little sister that she always wanted and never had.  And Abby could do no wrong in her eyes.  So, apparently, she was actually in on the plot.

Ysandra never actually said no to the card party.  She just didn’t show up.  She and I had talked about the possibility of buying a house together and living together.  But she insisted she had been married and divorced for the last time in her life.  She had no intention of going through that again whether she ultimately decided whether she loved me or not.  And, while I had done her bidding and gotten in contact with the American Naturist Association in Tampa, Florida, and discovered there was a club near San Antonio, I had never actually done the naked tent-camping thing that we had discussed.

So there were only three of us at the card party.  We had the requisite soft drinks and snacks.  We had a small table to use and plenty of chairs.  And I had a pack of playing cards that I had bought at the local grocery store.  But, oh no… My cards were not to be considered.  Abby had been to a novelty store in San Antonio, and she had purchased some very special cards.

“We have to use these,” she said.  “I bought them just for you and for this card party.  Endira was with me.”

I should have realized what was going on as she pulled things out of the brown paper bag she brought with her.  They were pornographic playing cards.  Each and every one had a picture on it that would turn me bright purplish-red.

“We are going to play strip poker!” Abby announced.

I immediately looked to Mother Mendoza for the expected, “I am fed up with…” but it never came.  Endira just sat there with an embarrassed grin on her Catholic nun face.  Remember, Abby could do no wrong in her eyes.  And besides, I later learned that Abby had won her over with the temptation of getting to see me at least partially naked.  Loneliness can work strange magic even on the most virtuous of maidens.

“Urm… ah… I can’t possibly do that…” I mumbled, unable to contain my shame, and my knees visibly shaking.  “Can’t we play gin rummy or trump or one of the other card games we talked about?  I may have some UNO cards.”

“No.  We have to use the playing cards I bought, and there will be prizes if I win the gin rummy game.”

“Well, okay… I guess…”

So we played a hand of the most embarrassing game of gin rummy of my life.  I could barely stand to hold my cards in my hand, let alone look at them long enough to plan a winning strategy.

“Rummy!” she cried eventually, laying down a run of 2, 3, 4, and 5 of hearts matched with three Jacks.

“Oh, uh… another hand then?” I timidly said trying to avoid… you know.

“Oh, now, wait a minute, Mike.  You promised me my prize.”

“Um, I may have some pie in the refrigerator.”

“No.  My choice.  I bought you something.  You are going to model it for us.”

I could not speak.  She reached in her brown paper bag and pulled out a male g-string.  I am not going to tell you what happened next because I may have fainted.  Suffice it to say that everything in this story is true… except I changed the names.   Any lies that are part of this story are lies of omission.  There are certain things I can’t tell you even thirty years later.

Ysandra forced me to reveal every little detail about the card party on a later date, and she got one of the best laughs of her life over it… at my expense.


I eventually said goodbye to both of these young ladies.  Between the two of them, although I later realized that I didn’t love either one of them, they managed to ease up my self-imposed sexual repression to the point that I would be able to marry when the next real opportunity came along.  Abby moved on to a job in San Antonio where she became something of a hero-type teacher when she ran down and karate-chopped a purse snatcher trying to steal school-event money from her after an organized bake sale.  Her fiance was with her when she stopped by my apartment to tell me about moving to South Carolina.  He witnessed her giving me a hug and a kiss to say goodbye.  I understand the two of them had two beautiful little blond-haired daughters, and were both still teaching the last time I had word.  Ysandra decided she was never going to change me enough to suit her.  And we parted ways about a year after Abby left.  I actually bought a year’s membership in a nudist club, but I never had to use it before she left me.  I wanted to part as friends, but she emphasized that she wanted me to be happy, and she was sure if I ever found a wife, that she would not appreciate Ysandra as a close female friend.  The last I knew she was still single, still living in Cotulla, and still getting her way about everything there at the center of the universe.

Life is like that.  You juggle two girlfriends at once, you are bound to drop them both.  But it turns out for the better in the end.

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Double The Trouble (Juggling Girlfriends – Part Two)

Disclaimer;  Believe me, I know how dangerous telling a story like this is when the parties being talked about have the potential to turn into Glenn Close Fatal Attraction level stalkers, but the fact is, I have changed the names and fictionalized just enough that they might not even recognize themselves, and they never really liked me that much any way.  Thirty years later they will have forgotten all about me, and my paranoia about it is merely the symptom of old age and looming insanity.  (At least, I pray that it is so.)

Superchicken at the Beach xx

As I got to know Ysandra better, I learned that some women are particularly self-absorbed and even downright mean.  She was a pleasant enough person to talk to, and I had been attracted to her dedication to education as a no-nonsense sort of teacher’s aide.  But she had a dark side.  She believed that she was more or less the center of the known universe, and we, who had the privilege of orbiting about her, owed her what her little black heart desired.  She liked to go places and do things that cost plenty of money.  She liked me to pay for it.  And this I gladly did even though a teacher’s salary was not exactly lucrative in the 80’s.  We went to Austin together quite a bit.  My parents lived in a suburb of Austin at the time, and she had a sister in the city with whom she could stay.  We went and saw The Phantom of the Opera when it came to the Frank Erwin Center.   I don’t regret spending the time and money with her, broadening my social horizons and learning how to live larger than I ever did as a lowly country boy from an Iowa farm town.  But there were surprises too.

Ysandra’s sister and husband lived in a rather unique apartment complex.  It was a fortress-like five-story affair on Manor Road with a gate where you had to speak through a sliding panel and give the name of the resident who invited you to enter.  The reason it was so secure was because it was an entirely clothing optional establishment.  They were nudists!  And I was still a sexually repressed little prude dealing with my secret issues of shame.  Ysandra had all kinds of yucks and giggles at my expense whenever I had to drop her off or pick her up there.  She was not dealing with issues, and didn’t mind naked people… or even being naked in public herself.  I turned bright shades of red-violet in the presence of young women not wearing any pants.  Thank goodness my parents lived fairly close, and I didn’t have to stay there too.

After the first time we visited Austin like that I was forced to explain to her about my secret problem.  She was slightly sympathetic to my discomfort, but firmly believed that what was good for her was good for everybody, and insisted the way to overcome fear was to confront it.  She put me on a path of accepting the inevitability of becoming a nudist myself.  It was supposed to be the cure for me, and she intended to enforce it.

Now, this is supposedly a story of two girlfriends at the same time, and Ysandra was fully aware of Abby, the Reading teacher.  She accepted that Abby lived next door and was a rookie teacher who needed guidance.  She felt about her about what you would expect an alley cat to feel about another alley cat that was eyeing the same canary in a cage.  Ysandra spread all kinds of nasty rumors about Abby in her Spanish-speaking gossip circles, and those came back to bite me a couple of times when I may have been the source of the vicious half-truth.  (In my defense, it didn’t seem like a vicious detail when I told Ysandra about it.  The devil was in the presentation.)  I had to learn to keep the relationships separate.

And keeping things separate was hard because Abby had very little in the way of self control.  I could not tell her about the secret that neutered me because it would almost instantly slip and become public knowledge.  She enjoyed life in a very sensual way.  She wore the shortest of shorts, the tightest of dresses (even in school), and she wore her considerable bosoms like a pair of headlights, lighting up everything male with testosterone in it ahead of her.  She was almost child-like in her feigned innocence.

I told her from the very beginning that Ysandra was my girlfriend to try to curb her enthusiasm a little.  It didn’t work.  She apparently respected Ysandra, and feared her slightly.  But that wasn’t enough to keep her from visiting me late at night, watching my TV and eating my food and making plan to go places with me without regard for how all these things might look to the First Baptist Church Ladies whose fundamentalist Christian values might get us both stoned to death. And I was too intimidated by my own reactions to her to tell her stop and leave me alone.

So, I will leave this perfidious narration here for the time being and save the story of the fatal strip poker game for the next post in the series.  And I must say, I did actually turn red with embarrassment writing this post, so that next one will probably make my head explode and be the end of me.

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Juggling Girlfriends (a horror story)

I do not know if you know this about me or not (I’m guessing you probably don’t because most people in the world couldn’t care less about my personal life) but I once had two girlfriends at the same time.

The Chase

It is the kind of thing that Tony Curtis can make look cool.  But Mickey can’t.  You see, the whole nasty, sordid matter happened completely by accident, and I did not do any of the terrible things I did… well, intentionally.

To understand how this all happened, you have to understand that I was about as awkward a hobbledehoy ( as it is possible to find in a modern world no longer considered Victorian in nature.  I had been molested as a child, and had my share of issues.  I made the character of Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory look like Don Juan by comparison.


I truthfully did not understand why young women would be interested in befriending me.  I had a pronounced tendency to address my need for female companionship that was not of the sister-variety by chasing after women I knew for certainly would only respond by running away from me screaming bloody murder.  There are mutant women out there so mousey that you can’t even look at them without making them flee.  That was the type I set my sights on.  I needed to try… but I also needed not to succeed.

Ysandra was definitely not in that category when I first laid eyes upon her.  She was working at our school as an instructional aid, mostly helping translate Spanish into English and vice versa for the ESL students who didn’t understand more than ten or twelve words in the language I was hired to teach them.  For three years she was in and out of my classroom, translating and helping, and making my life generally easier, though she was in the other English teachers’ classrooms more than mine.  I don’t know why I automatically assumed that if I worked up the courage to actually ask her to go on a date with me, she would run away in terror.  But I could not have asked her that question without assuming it would be exactly like that.  I was not courageous in the face of success.  I had been on three dates before that point in my life, and they all proceeded from the fact the woman involved was afraid to commit to anything more than letting me pay for her movie ticket and sitting two seats away from me with an empty seat between in the movie theater.  I would not have been able to handle it otherwise.  But Ysandra, it turned out, was not like that.  She was an aggressive Hispanic woman with an agenda.  Divorced once already, and determined never to let a man make her do anything she didn’t want to do ever again.  But there were things she wanted to do that would make me nauseous and even faint.


At the same time as Ysandra’s terrifying acceptance of me, I was busy mentoring the first-year Reading teacher across the hall.  Abigail MacNutly was a robust blond girl from Wisconsin who had gotten her first teaching job in deep South Texas, and was in for the same kind of slam-a-frying-pan-in-your-face sort of culture shock I had experienced three years before.  I discovered, to my chagrin, that this out-going, vivacious, and enthusiastic young lady not only had a lot in common with me and needed to rely on me to make her way in the world of teaching, but she also lived in the apartment next door to me.  And she had no compunction whatsoever about knocking on my door late at night and asking to borrow something for her apartment with no furniture in it, and then inviting herself to watch TV with me in my apartment.  You know what all the old ladies in the neighborhood that watched both of us constantly would say about that!  And when I tried to tell her that I was not comfortable with that arrangement, she would use her thousand watt smile on me and convince me that I was too nutty to be believed.  She even told me that her grandmother (whom I met when she moved into the apartment next door) had told her she needed to marry me so that she could settle down enough to make her life work out better than her mother’s had.

So, here is the set up for a horror story of monstrous proportions.  I was a child-man with serious issues about the concept of intimacy.  I suddenly, within the space of a week at the beginning of a new school year (1984-85) had acquired two girlfriends.  One I had thought I was chasing, and one who was obviously chasing me.  It has the makings of a long and totally unbelievable tale that I not only can’t complete in only one post, but can’t possible get away with not telling.  So be warned…


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