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In the mid-seventies when I was in 6th grade I went to a private Christian school; Heritage Christian School on the north east side of Indianapolis. The school was very conservative as I’d bet it still is today. There was a lot of “Jesus this” and “Jesus that” going around. Sixth grade is tough enough. But throw in Jesus and it gets even tougher.

I had Mrs. Bearclaw as my teacher. I don’t remember how to spell her name but it did sound something like “bear claw”. Her name fit. To a sixth grader she looked like a 6 foot 6 250 lb. version of SNL’s church lady. She paddled me more than any one else in my life. She didn’t tell my parents every time it happened. And I certainly wasn’t going to admit to my parents that I was paddled at school.

I was paddled for using the lord’s name in vain. I was paddled for wearing blue jeans, because they were a symbol of hippies and the counter culture. I was paddled for drawing during bible study. I was paddled for sneezing too loudly and obnoxiously. I was paddled for making fun of an evangelical guy who came to spread the word of Jesus. He asked us for money. I thought it was really hypocritical for someone to make a living off Jesus. I was paddled for questioning Jesus’s claim to be God’s only child when they told us we were all children of God. Mrs. Bearclaw did not like being questioned. I was paddled for a lot of things that I don’t remember. It was usually because my inner voice decided to come out at an inopportune moment. But the worst was being paddled for being an entrepreneur.

I liked lunch time. It was time away from all the paddling. I think the lunches must have been prepaid. But if you wanted a Little Debbie’s desert, it was an extra 50 cents. I must have had a lot of quarters because I usually splurged. One day another kid asked if he could borrow 50 cents. I gave it to him. I thought it was really “Jesus” of me to do that. But I said that he had to pay me back 75 cents tomorrow. He agreed and paid me back 75 cents the next day. Then someone else asked if they could borrow 50 cents. I said, “sure”. It was the same deal; borrow 50, pay me back 75. The next day, even more kids asked to borrow 50 cents. It was always the same deal.

Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies are like cocaine to a sixth grader. In less than a week I had become the Lunch Desert Bank & Loan for my class. After several weeks it had become very lucrative and I was looking to franchise to other grades. I always got paid back because, well you know, Jesus. At least I alway got paid back until Andy.

Andy had borrowed twice from me. 50 cents each time. So he owed me $1.50. He wanted to borrow again and I said “no”. “You can’t borrow more until you pay me back.” Little Debbie had Andy whipped. We must have gotten into an argument because Mrs. Bearclaw intervened. I shared my loan policy with her, and showed my ledger of everyone who had borrowed or owed me money. I kept good books. Of course she had to turn it into a lesson about, you guessed it, Jesus.

I was waiting for her tell everyone that when you owe someone money, you need to pay them back. But instead it took an unexpected turn. I heard a term I’d never heard before. Apparently I was charging something called a “high interest rate”. She then compared what I was doing to the “money-changers” that Jesus drove out of the temple. Wait, WHAT!? In front of the entire class I had just been compared to people that were on Jesus’s shit list. Andy just looked at me and smiled. All the girls looked at me like I had Old Testament leprosy.

As I sat there listening to Mrs. Bearclaw, a sincerely innocent thought came to me. (Well, besides the thought of “fuck you”.) If I was a “money-changer” in this situation, then Mrs. Bearclaw must be “Jesus”. But instead of just thinking that to myself, my inner voice said it out loud, “I guess this makes you Jesus”. I was out in the hall pretty quickly holding my ankles as she whacked my ass with her wooden paddle. But the paddle didn’t hurt as much as the pain of losing money.

About 47 years later and Andy still owes me $1.50. Or $8,577.50 according to my interest rate calculation.

J. Todd Rash

Author J. Todd Rash

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