By Jim McCarthy
Our fourth grade teacher’s name is Miss Proper and she lives up to her name. She always tells her students at the beginning of the year, “We will all strive to do things properly in Miss Proper’s classroom.”
Then she goes overboard about proper spelling, proper grammar, proper manners, proper this, proper that and she rubs it in all throughout the day. It drives you crazy but I have to admit that she’s actually a really nice person and one of the best teachers in the school. Anyway, my sister Annie and I like her.
Every year Miss Proper’s class publishes a monthly newspaper and Miss Proper holds a writing contest to decide who will be the editor. This year everyone in the competition had to write a story that teaches a lesson. Nine students entered the contest including my sister. Most of the stories were pretty bad but a few were ok.
For instance, one kid wrote a story called Purple Horror about Earth getting invaded by purple aliens who wanted to turn all humans into slaves. They almost succeeded except it turned out that the aliens were all terrified of dogs. The aliens actually got to the point where they were making the President of the United States walk the ramp up into their spaceship when suddenly the president’s dog came running out of the White House barking like a total lunatic and the purple aliens went nuts with fear and immediately left Earth, never to return.
The lesson: Sometimes forgetting to close the front door could save the earth. Everyone laughed at that except Miss Proper.
And there was a pretty good story called Lawrence the Line Cutter about a kid named Lawrence who was always cutting in line and causing all kinds of conflict. The behavior finally ended when they made him eat lunch for a week with the school principal who spent the whole period talking non-stop about his happy childhood on the farm. By the end of the week Lawrence’s brains had been pretty much sucked out of his head and he became the politest kid in school. The boy that wrote it said that the lesson of the story was to always carry ear plugs. Everyone died laughing except Miss Proper.
Well, Annie wrote a story called, Crash!, about these three brothers who started a club but were constantly arguing about how to build a clubhouse for it. So finally they just decided to split up and each build his own.
So the first brother finds a huge bunch of hay that fell off a farmer’s wagon and weaves it together with twine to make his clubhouse.
The second brother notices a whole bunch of sticks lying around in a vacant lot and weaves them together for his clubhouse.
And the third brother goes to the library and reads books on construction. Then he enrolls in an architecture class and draws up blueprints and goes to work day and night on the construction of his brick clubhouse.
Well when they were all finished the hay and stick structures that were built by the first two brothers were so beautiful and artistic that people came from miles around to see them. A world-famous photographer even came and paid each brother five hundred dollars to allow him to photograph the unique little houses for use in a new book of photos. And after the book became a best-seller a Hollywood producer paid them each fifty-thousand dollars to let him use their houses in a new movie. Then after getting to know the two brothers he liked their laid-back personalities and wit so much that he paid them each a million dollars to star as themselves in the movie.
Meantime, the sleep-deprived, obsessed third brother used improperly mixed concrete in the construction of his brick house and while he was installing the roof the whole structure caved in with a spectacular crash. Luckily no one was hurt. Several months later the town issued a summons and fined him $500 for violating an ordinance forbidding the presence of an abandoned derelict structure that poses a threat to public safety. He was then ordered to pay a company $10,000 to have the thing completely demolished and removed, after which he was hired as the groundskeeper for the mansion that his two rich and famous jet setting brothers had recently bought.
The lesson of the story: Don’t always believe the lessons of old worn-out fairy tales. Annie won the contest and became the newspaper editor.
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