This teacher when I was in third grade, her name was Mrs. Nichols. She was pretty fat and loved God so much that you had to go to her house on Tuesdays for Bible lessons, except when my father found out he told the principal and they stopped her.

On Valentine's Day we had to make valentines according to her rules. Mrs. Nichols said you couldn't write all the cards to one person, and also you couldn't eat the white paste which they gave out from a large pot. But we all wrote valentines to Barbara Rippisi anyhow, because all the other girls were ugly. It wasn't that much fun cutting up the doilies, but we did it. There was nothing else to do.

We spent all of Monday making valentines, and put them in a cardboard box with a slot in it in front of the room. On Valentine's Day, the girls acted great wearing dresses, but we wore dungarees because luckily it was gym day. Mrs. Nichols opened the box with a switch blade she had taken from Frankie Kinch the first day of school, and she gave out the valentines. Barbara Rippisi got way more than everybody. She thought she was real crude, too, because her pile was so big. Then Mrs. Nichols said to open them, and we did and I got about 10, a couple of which were pretty funny. Like, "Roses are red, violets are blue, you're a jerk." Peter Thompson sent that one to me. He had a front tooth which turned black and fell out where he got struck by a swing.

Of course, we boys had only made a couple of valentines each, some dirty ones and then one serious one for Barbara Rappisi. So the only ones the girls got were from the girls, except for some skull and crossbones we had made which said "Death" inside. Sheila Daniels didn't get any at all, and she was crying.

The reason everybody had to open their cards was so the greatest ones could be pinned around the blackboard. But Barbara, who had around 50, wouldn't open hers. She said a valentine was private, and she was taking them home. I wasn't that worried, because I hadn't signed mine. There was no way she could trace it to me. I wiped the fingerprints off.

Boy, was Mrs. Nichols mad. The whole rest of the day was a regular funeral. All the girls were moping around and not talking to Barbara, and Sheila puked on her dress from getting upset. When it was time to go home, Mrs. Nichols told a bunch of us boys she hoped we were proud of ourselves.

See, there were three third grades, and we had the worst one for sure. I walked home with Louie Gaydosh, whose mother was a teacher, and I asked him what we did wrong. I just couldn't understand it.

Lou said it was because we ate the paste, and a kid had once died from it in Mrs. Nichols' class a long time ago.