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What Did You Say?
by Eric Miller

Something very strange happened in Mrs. Applebee’s second grade class one Monday morning which took the curl right out of her striking, gray hair. Andy McConnell kept telling her to “shut up.” It was so unlike him, so out of character, and just so off-the wall.

“Excuse me, Andrew. Did you say what I thought you said?”

“Aw, shut up,” he replied.

“Andrew, what is the matter with you? You know better than to speak to me, or anyone, like that!.”

“Aw, shut up.” he said again.

Grabbing him by the ear, Mrs. Applebee dragged him to the principal’s office, where in answer to the principal’s questions, Andrew kept repeating his now familiar three word response. The principal, beet red with rage, picked up the phone and called his mother, who laughed convulsively at what he had to say.

“You find this funny?,” the principal screamed, now purple with rage.

“Oh yes, very funny, indeed,” Mrs. McConnell replied, between laughs.

“Well then, apparently the source of the problem lies more with you than Andrew.”

“Yes, it does,” Mrs. McConnell admitted. “Please allow me to explain. You see, we took Andrew to see my amateur theater group’s production of ‘Mrs. McThing,’ a farce by Mary Coyle Chase from the early 1950’s. In this play, a witch casts a spell over a boy that transforms him from being very well-behaved to being very pugnacious and inappropriate. The boy constantly tells the adults around him to ‘Aw, shut up’. I knew that Andrew was mesmerized by this character, but I didn’t realize that he hadn’t let go of his bond with him. I apologize for what has happened, and I assure that it will never happen again.”

That evening, Mrs. McConnell called Mrs. Applebee to apologize for Andrew’s behavior.

“Oh, no apology is necessary. It’s the explanation that was needed. Now that I understand the context of everything, it is quite amusing.”

“I have an idea, Mrs. Applebee. What if my theater group puts on a performance of the show at school, so everyone can see it. After the show, we can have a discussion about what’s real, what’s not, and how to appropriately deal with the two.”

And a few days later, the show went on, and no one got a bigger ovation than Andrew, who played the role on stage with which he had been so enamored.

However, when school opened the next day, the sounds of  “Aw, shut up,” reverberated throughout the halls. All the teachers and staff were outraged by the epidemic spread of the bad behavior, but no one could turn the tide.

Amid the chaos, Andrew McConnell got up from his desk, walked out of the classroom, and walked into the school office. He picked up the microphone for the loudspeakers and spoke. “This is Andrew McConnell. Please listen to me. I will only say this once, and I never want to hear it again. Aw, shut up.”

You could hear a pin drop, and you still can.