You were such a good teacher to have in 12th grade.  It was your first year
teaching.  I had you second semester for English class, final period.  You were
the last teacher I listened to before college. You may not remember the final
week, letting me skip my report on Updike's "Rabbit, Run."  I loved the book
but didn't feel like sharing such thoughts with the others.  A few minutes
before class, I handed you a note that said, "I have a horrible sore throat.
May I skip my report?"  You studied my face and then mouthed, "Okay." 
I stood in front of your desk, blushing, waiting to hear again about growing up
with a stuttering brother.  Maybe you would have told me about him if I hadn't
hurried back to my seat.

That day, as other students shuffled up to give their reports, I listed my top
20 favorite movies, trying not to think about the fact that college probably
wouldn't have teachers like you. You gave me an A for the class even though the
report should have counted as 10% of my grade.

If you had shaken your head, most likely I'd have gone up, all trembly, and
talked about Harry Angstrom, a/k/a Rabbit.  I probably would have blocked on a
few words, but the other students likely wouldn't have noticed or just figured
I was nervous.  That's the thing about my stutter.  It rarely manifests as the
Porky Pig kind.  Most people chalk up my blocks to being scared or deliberate
picking out words.  They wouldn't believe how much time a person can spend studying
the thesaurus.  Sometimes, though, with vocal cords locked up enough, knowing
all the words in the Scrabble dictionary doesn't help.

Did you know Updike stuttered?  I hear at readings he asked the audience not to
shout words if he blocked.  His father blamed the stutter on Updike having "too
many words to get out all at once."  Now that I know about his affliction, I
plan to re-read "Rabbit, Run."  I seem to remember Rabbit's old basketball
coach, Tothero, being introduced as someone who pauses before speaking, adding
weight to his words.  Yeah, sure it does.  

Ms. Adams, I never thanked you for letting me skip the report.  So, thank you. 
Of course, I hope your brother is doing well.  

If you are still teaching, are you still so nice? 


This story is the third "What I'd Say" piece I wrote.  I am a lifelong covert stutterer.  I never had a teacher like Ms. Adams in high school.  Or maybe I did, but I never took the chance to find out.  I've only told a handful of people in my "real" life about my stutter.  So, as I'm writing this, I'm thinking about my decision not to publish these "stutter" stories under a pseudonym.  My brother, a man much smarter than me, once said (after reading a "stutter" story of mine) that (and I'm paraphrasing) stuttering removes one's sense of self.  How can an adult feel like himself, let alone an adult, when he fears saying his name or address, things that go to the very heart of who he is?  I think that's why I find the topic of stuttering in fiction so interesting.  After 37 years of hiding behind other words, I am now writing about it.


What I'd Say To Ms. Adams - Dave Erlewine (c)


Copyright 2009