Monday, October 16, 2006

Joan Petronelli The Demon Teacher Of P.S. 131

In the fall of 1955 when I was eight I started the 4th grade and had as my teacher a very pretty but emotionally unstable young woman by the name of Joan Petronelli. Now Joan was a small very goodlooking Italian woman straight out of Brooklyn by way of hell. She had short red dyed hair, a cute little chubby face, and a nice shape with perky tits. She wore lots of perfume that I can to this day sometimes still smell at the oddest of times, like riding the subway, taking a shower or eating lunch at a diner. She had a terrible temper with a voice to match that temper. I didn’t like her and found her to be scary and unpredictable. One minute she would be all sweet and nice, but then if something didn’t go her way or some poor kid didn’t do the right thing or gave the wrong answer all hell would break loose in that classroom lined with children’s drawings and the 1955 air would be shattered by her loud screaming, foot stomping and sometimes face slapping of some hapless Dick or Jane. She was also fond of ear pulling and cheek pinching. Once her own mother came to school to talk to her about something. Her mommy seemed like she was a nice Italian woman who probably cooked real good Italian food. She had black hair like my own mother. Joan generally left me alone because she thought I was cute, and she liked cute kids (especially cute boys) and because I drew real nice pictures, and she loved real nice pictures. But if you weren’t cute or couldn’t draw real nice pictures you had better look out. She was especially hard on the less attractive kids in the class, with fat boys being her favorite target. She pretty much left the girls alone but once screamed at Eleanor Boyer because she called another girl a fruity fag. I had no idea what that meant, but Joanie sure did, and let the little lumpkin have it big time. “Don’t you ever use that word in here again Missy” Do you know what that means, well do you.” She screamed at poor little Ellie as tears welled up in her eyes. “No Miss Petronelli I don’t but I heard my brother say it the other day and I didn’t know it was a bad thing.” Well now you do, so take yourself to that corner and you will sit there until the end of the day.” Little did I realize that Ms. P was an early gay liber. Maybe someone she knew was a fruity fag, a brother perhaps or an uncle lurking in that dark murky closet of 1955. Who knows. I do know that I sure hated going to school and was absent from her class for 45 days that year from Oct. to June. I can only imagine the excurses I came up with to get out of Joanie’s class. She was always pinching my cute little cheek, which I hated, and one day I had enough and told my mother that she had hit me. “She did what?” My mother said, nearly choking on her Raleigh cigarette. “Well we’ll just see about that.” The next day as I sat at my little desk I looked up and saw my mother through the glass opening in the classroom door. I was shocked, as I had no idea that it was open school week. But it wasn’t and my mother wasn’t there to find out how I was doing in my studies. There she was all dolled up in her black alpaca coat, her hair nicely permed and brushed and her lips brightly painted red. She started to bang on the glass until Joan looked up and and saw her. My mother was silently beckoning her with her finger to come on out. Joan looked confused and a little frightened by seeing this woman who looked a little bit like her own mommy silently mouthing “come out here.” Joan got up from her desk and said to the class “I’ll be right back.” And out she went to meet her waterloo by the name of Roz. The class was very quiet and I could see but not hear my mother as she silently screamed at Ms. Petronelli. And what I later learned my mother had said to Joan was “If you ever touch my son again, I’m going to break your Goddamn head.” Or something like that. Joan was turning white, my mother red, and finally she left and Joan came back in and was so sweet and nice for the rest of the day. My mother was one tough cookie when it came to protecting her little jewel, her pride, her joy of joys. Later that term poor Joan had a nervous breakdown and was gone for the rest of the year. Yippee we all shouted and jumped for joy our little feet barely touching the ground. However our happiness was short lived because the teacher replacing Joan was so much worse. If Joan was from Hell, Miss Goldfarb owned it. She screamed and scared us kids like Joan never did and we all hoped and prayed that our Miss Petronelli would be delivered back to us. This alas was not to be, and we were stuck with this piece of shit until June. However Joan did return the next year and my friend Howard was unlucky to find himself in her class. There she was all rested after her vacation in the looney bin, and there was poor Howard who she took an immediate and intense dislike to. She made his life miserable and he would complain all the time about her to his mother who did nothing. When my mother would meet his mother in the street she would lecture her soft and sometimes not so soft to do something about Miss P. But Howard’s mother was way too passive and timid to do anything about Joan, so he had to put up with her putting him in the corner practically every day and making fun of him in front of the whole class. He couldn’t do anything right in her eyes, and he would have horrible nightmares at night, waking up his whole house with his wailing and shrieks. “Don’t kill me Miss Petronelli I promise I’ll do better the next time.” He would yell. Finally his mother could take no more and decided to go up to school to talk to the principal. However on the day when Howard’s mother was suppose to go up to meet with the principal she got a phone call from him telling her that there was no need to come as Miss Petronelli had been hit by a garbage truck on the way to school and was dead. That night our mothers took us out to our favorite Italian restaurant where were had a great dinner and a nice time.


Blogger Alex Gildzen said...

talk abt surprise endings! wowzer...

8:51 AM  

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