a story by Melanie Makovsky

January 1994 

The Sign, Ace of Base 

We’re sitting here in English diagramming sentences, and everyone has to participate. It’s the most boring activity ever, yet I am incredibly nervous. Everyone has to participate, and we are reading the sentences out loud, adding the appropriate punctuations and identifying the parts of the sentence, one sentence at a time. Ms. Carn is calling on us systematically, snaking vertically through the rows of desks. I’m not nervous because this is a hard thing to do, because it isn’t. We’ve been learning parts of a sentence since third grade, adding new parts each year for the last five years. But I know that if I do mess up, someone will laugh, especially if it’s something simple.  

And the line is ticking my way. I’m only the second person in the second vertical row from the door. And…..here we go….my turn. 

“Rebecca’s grandmother likes to knit, sew, and crochet. The subject is Rebecca’s grandmother. The verb is “likes.” The full predicate is “likes to knit, sew, and crochet.” “To knit, sew, and crochet” is a prepositional phrase.”  

And..,yep, there it is. The snickering, everywhere around me. What did I mess up this time? As I look around, a number of students are laughing silently, a few are snickering, and one is repeating “crochet” over and over, and that’s when I realize what I did. I didn’t say “crochet.” I said “crotch it.” And I’m mortified. It will take weeks for this to stop being a constant joke, with me as its butt. I can hear the voices already, saying “crotch it” under a mimed cough or sneeze. Boys yelling, “hang on, I gotta fix my crotch it,” in the halls as I walk by. There is nothing, no mistake at all, that I could make that would be overlooked. This is junior high. That’s how things work here.  

I do have one saving grace, though, I think. Because I’m “gifted” I am with the same group of students for every class, every day, so we’re a bit isolated. Chances are pretty good that the “crotch it” incident won’t be interesting enough to get around to the general ed students. The other “gifted” section will probably hear about it, but at least it’s not a whole school thing. And at least the guys on my bus, the ones who look at me and see a floating set of tits, won’t know this happened. That’s not a fire I want to add fuel to.  

And then, just two days later, I am rescued from the shame of the “crotch it” incident when my friend Amy, who’s also in my classes, makes a similar mistake. While taking turns reading the answers to a fill in the blank worksheet in history class, Amy mispronounces “gentiles,” and the entire class roars with laughter. “Crotch it” won’t stick around much longer now.  

Junior high is weird.