Wednesday, January 6, 2010


“Battle of Bull Run?” tried Bud, nervously.

“Sorry,” said Mr. L. “Question goes to team two. What was Sherman’s movement through Georgia called?”

“Um... march to the sea?” asked Fleur.

“Got it,” said Mr. L, with some satisfaction. “Team two advances by one.” With that, Mr. L moved the little magnetic marker up the board.

Tension was thick. Today, the American History class’s last exam of the year was taking the form of a competition between two teams... and the winning team was going to get the higher grade of the two. It’s a handy trick for getting otherwise bored kids to focus and engage, you know?

“Fleur, you got it, so you pick the next question,” said Mr. L, gesturing at the numbered slips of paper taped to the board.

“Um... number eleven.”

“Number eleven: who instigated violence before elections in the South during reconstruction?” recited Mr. L. “Charlie?”

“The bags. I mean, the baggers. The moneybaggers. I mean, the teabaggers. The whatever-bagger-people.”

“Nope,” said Mr. L. “Question goes back to team one. Who instigated violence before elections in the south during Reconstruction?”

“Battle of Bull Run?” said Bud, with some trepidation.

“NO!” cried Bunny. “Sir, that doesn’t count. It wasn’t his turn!”

“All right,” said Mr. L, reasonably. “Bunny, can you answer the question?”

“It was the CARPETbaggers!”

“I’m sorry, but no. That’s a fumble, so it goes back on the board. Team one will choose the next question. Lite?”

“Um... 23,” said Lite.

“What did the Southerners call other Southerners who supported Reconstruction and the Union government?”

“Carpetbaggers!” shouted Charlie.
“NO, you dumbass!” cried Bunny in agony. “Carpetbaggers were from the NORTH, not the south!”

“I’m sorry, but ‘carpetbaggers’ is the wrong answer,” said Mr. L. “And please, watch your language, Bunny. Question goes to team two. What did the Southerners call other Southerners who supported Reconstruction and the Union government? Schlitz?”

“Be fucked if I know,” said Schlitz.

The room erupted in laughter.

“That’s enough of that, Schlitz,” growled Mr. L. “Any more profanity, and someone’s getting out of school early. Does anyone on team two know?”

“They were called, ah, scallops,” said Heathcliff.

“What?” said Mr. L.

“Ah, um, scallops... scalpers... skateboards... scalpbaggers... um... something LIKE scalpbaggers... “

Mr. L. waited patiently.


“Clock is ticking,” said Mr. L.

“Aaahhh..... scallops... scalar... SCALAWAGGERS!”

“The word is “scalawags,” and it is correct,” said Mr. L., moving another marker on the board. “Heathcliff, it’s your call.”

“Number thirty.”

“What was the importance of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac? Bud?”

“Battle of Bull Run?” said Bud, brightly. He was met with a collective moan and a smattering of thrown paperwads.

“Nope. Back to team one. Darla? What was the importance of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac?”

“Ah,” said Darla, who had not been paying the slightest attention, “carpetbaggers?” Another moan, and another few paperwads came her way.

“And no one gets that one, so it goes back on the board,” said Mr. L. “Bud, call me a number.”

“Number nineteen. And it’s Battle of Red Bull!”

“Number nineteen. And the question is ‘at what battle did Stonewall Jackson face off against General Pope at Manassas?’ And what did you say?”

“I said it’s the Battle of Red Bull!”

“And that would be wrong. And the question goes to team two: Stonewall Jackson versus General Pope at Manassas? Anyone?”

“BATTLE OF BULL RUN!” screamed Bunny.

Bud’s jaw dropped several inches. “I SAID THAT!”

“No,” said Mr. L., “you said ‘battle of Red Bull,’ which was incorrect. To my knowledge, there are no American Civil War battles named after popular sports drinks that supposedly give you wings.”

“Aaw, that ain’t RIGHT, man! I had it earlier!”

“And if that had been the question, you would have been right earlier. Bunny, the next question is yours. Number?”

“Number seven!” crowed Bunny.

“Where did General Lee surrender to Northern forces? Trisha?”

“Um... animal house... no... it starts with an A,” said Trisha. “A-house. A-house. A-something-house....”

“I need more than that,” said Mr. L.

“I’m thinking. A-house.... A-house... A-house..... dang, I don’t know. I mean, I know it, but I can’t pronounce it.”

“Try,” said Mr. L.

“Anaphalactic house?” tried Trisha.

“I’m sorry,” said Mr. L. “Charlie?”

“Aaaah,” said Charlie, who’d been paying no attention whatsoever. “What was the question again?”

“Where did General Lee surrender to the Union forces?”

“A-house,” said Trisha, helpfully.

“A-house,” said Charlie thoughtfully. “A... COURT.... house.... a-courthouse, alamo courthouse, android courthouse...” Charlie rose from his chair, and began to pace nervously in the aisle.

“Is that your answer?” asked Mr. L.

“NO, no, no,” muttered Charlie hastily. “A-courthouse... alamo... alcohol... apollo... apple.... approximate... approximate... it was like approximate...”

“Clock’s ticking, Charlie,” said Mr. L.

“I know, I know... Approximate courthouse... approximate courthouse?”

“I need an answer now, Charlie. Is that your answer?”

“No, no,” said Charlie, sweating, and furiously pacing. “It sounded a little like approximate courthouse...”

“NOW, Charlie--“


The room erupted in laughter. Charlie realized what he’d said. In a rage of embarrassment, he flung his notebook to the floor and screamed, “Aaaww, SCALAWAGGERS!!!”

I couldn’t teach any more after that. I was laughin’ too hard. The correct answer is “Appomattox Court House,” by the way.

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