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Confessions of an Honest Liar
by Andrea Della Monica

I learned to lie and cheat in Catholic grammar school.

And I did so with utter conviction.

Mrs. Russo, my 8th grade math teacher, would collect our tests, grade mine, and, at the end of class, hand them to me sealed in a big manila envelope. The expectation was that I would mark the rest, using mine as a guide for the correct answers. Since I usually scored no lower than a 98%, the task was relatively easy.

Or so I thought.

The first few times I handed them back all corrected the next day. No thank you required. In Catholic school it was a privilege to do the teacher’s job without pay. You were special if you were chosen for this elite task.

Mrs. Russo would roll my name after her tongue, “Annnndrea,” in a operatic baritone. I would come up to the front of the class and take the envelope.

I never told my classmates. There was a tacit acknowledgement among the few who suspected. No one asked for confirmation.

After a few weeks, the arrangement took a shadier turn.

The students for whom she tutored for extra money after school were marked by her. Strike that. They were altered, to achieve the desired result: not only a passing grade, but a score that would ensure those tutoring dollars were being well spent.

Our mini-conspiracy seemed as familiar as my brown loafers but as uncomfortable as my wool uniform skirt. However, this was not grist for the confessional. “Bless me Father for I have sinned…” There was no amount of Hail Marys or Our Fathers to achieve absolution.

It was Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where forgetting certain circumstances tested well on the streets.  And as I mentioned I was a good student.

My guilt melted as quickly as Jahn’s ice cream parlor’s banana split paid for by Mrs. Russo.

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