Friday, March 27, 2009

Moments with Joey – Vocabulary

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. EARLY AFTERNOON, FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM. The teacher is sitting at the back table going over vocabulary words with his students. They are checking off their definition and sentence to ensure that they make sense before heading home to do their posters for the evening. The teacher checks off nearly the whole class as a boy, age eleven, comes to the back table holding a small slip with his vocabulary word on it.

JOEY:
I can’t find my vocabulary word means.

TEACHER:
What’s your word?

[Joey pauses, thinking.]


JOEY:
Mass-a-cree.

TEACHER:
Mass-a-cree? Do you mean, massacre?

JOEY:
Sure, that sounds right.

TEACHER:
So, have you looked it up in the dictionary?

JOEY:
[Spoken quietly] Well…kind of.

TEACHER:
Kind of? How do you ‘kind of’ look it up in the dictionary?

JOEY:
Uh, then not really.

[The teacher reaches behind his desk and grabs one of the red, Webster’s Dictionaries. The boy looks at it. From his expression, you would think that he’s never seen one before.].


JOEY:
I don’t think massacre is in the dictionary.

TEACHER:
What makes you think it isn’t?

JOEY:
I couldn’t find it.

TEACHER:
You didn’t look, remember?

JOEY:
Oh yeah, but what if it isn’t in there?

TEACHER:
Tell you what…I’ll look for you, however, if I find it, I’ll charge you…let’s say…two hundred pushups for all my hard work?

[The boy snatches the book from the table and begins to madly flip the pages toward the M section. After a minute, he points to the entry.].


JOEY:
I don’t understand what the meaning is really saying, Mr. Z.

TEACHER:
[Verbatim reading of the dictionary entry] 1: The act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty. 2: A cruel or wanton murder. 3: A wholesale slaughter of animals. 4: An act of complete destruction.

So, what do you think the definition is? Can you tell from any of the meanings given?


JOEY:
It means…to…kill people? [Pause] Cool…but gross, too.

TEACHER:
Usually the death is performed in a horrible way, without mercy. Of course, the word is used in other ways too.

JOEY:
Like, ‘I massacred my food?’

TEACHER:
[Shaking head]. No, more like, ‘We massacred the other team when playing basketball.’ In that case, it doesn’t mean death at all, but just beating the team by a bunch of points.

JOEY:
Yeah, it would get blood all over the gym floor if it was the other type of massacre, wouldn’t it? So it would be like saying that ‘we slaughtered the other team,’ right?

TEACHER:
Yeah.

JOEY:
Cool.

SCENE 2, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM.
The class is gone with the exception of Joey. He is sitting at the back table while the teacher is finishing up grades. The boy is digging through the bucket of crayons and is selecting the colors he intends to use on his vocabulary poster.

JOEY:
This crayon is broken.

TEACHER:
Broken? Did you break it?

JOEY:
No, I mean that it’s broken…as in it doesn’t work.

[The teacher glances up and notices that the crayon is white. Joey is grinning sheepishly].


TEACHER:
It’s a white crayon, Joey.

JOEY:
Ah…then that’s why it doesn’t show up! I colored the whole page with it…it only took me a second.

TEACHER:
I bet it did.

[Pause].


JOEY:
I stink at drawing people.

TEACHER:
You do?

JOEY:
But not stick people. I can draw them really good.

TEACHER:
So draw stick people.

[The boy shrugs and spends the next several minutes drawing in silence. He finishes the wagon on his poster as well as the clouds of smoke. He stares at the paper for a few moments.].


JOEY:
I stink at drawing people…will you draw some for me?

TEACHER:
Sorry, my people would look far worse than yours.

[The boy sighs and stares at the paper again.].


TEACHER:
Maybe if you draw them behind things, it would be easier. Like draw somebody’s legs from behind the wagon, like they’re lying back there.

JOEY:
Like the wagon just ran over them! Awesome!

[The boy draws several ‘parts’ of people on his picture and finally looks at it.].


JOEY:
I should probably draw horses, too, right? Only, they’d have to be dead horses because the Indians who killed the people in the picture would have killed the horses, too. [Pause]. Did you know that I’m part Indian, Mr. Z?

TEACHER:
So, are you planning to scalp me?

[Joey considers this for a moment then shakes his head.].


JOEY:
Probably not, I’d get expelled from school and have to retake the fifth grade.

TEACHER:
[Spoken with a mild sarcasm] Sorry to hear that happen…

JOEY:
Hey, my horse looks like a big dog! Hey, do you think they ever used dogs to pull wagons? [Answers his own question]. Probably not, but in my drawing it looks kind of like a dog…[Chuckles to himself].

TEACHER: You might want to hurry up; I’m leaving in a few minutes. I’ve got to get home.


JOEY: What are you going to do, Mr. Z? Hang out with your friends?


TEACHER: I don’t have any friends. Well, I used to have two, but they were both imaginary.


[Joey puts his crayon down and stares hard at his teacher].


JOEY: Don’t worry, Mr. Z. You don’t need friends.


TEACHER: I don’t?


JOEY: Nope. You’ve got ME! Forever and ever and ever and ever….[Joey slowly fades out his own voice and adds an echo-like sound effect.].


TEACHER: Well, I guess I’ll just have to count my blessings then.


JOEY: It’s better than getting massacred, Mr. Z.


TEACHER: Yep, it probably is…


Fade to black.

3 comments:

Gerb said...

Mass-a-cree. Forever and ever... I love hearing what comes out of this kid's mouth. How fun would it be to hang out in his brain for a day and see how it works?

Kris said...

I'm hoping you consider me a friend!

annette said...

I didn't see the "horse" in the picture. Did I miss it?

I wonder where he got the idea of indians killing pioneers?

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