Front Page News

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Fifty years ago I learned about slow news days.

Class is interrupted; an adult talks quietly to the teacher; she calls out my name.

WTF was not part of my vocabulary; it was part of my repertoire of reactions. “Please go with the assistant principal.” What could this be about. It has been months since I have last had to defend my honour in the schoolyard.

We pass the water fountain, she looks back and tells me not to worry, I am not in trouble.

I am led to the principal’s office. She tells me to sit in one of the chairs below the smoked windows. I am to wait while she gets the others.

I study the waiting room. His name is on the door to the left. The school secretary is seated at a desk behind a wooden half-wall with a swing gate. Behind her, a wall of metal filing cabinets. She asks me how I am doing.

“Fine.”

The assistant principal comes back with two girls from the other Grade 2 class. She knocks on the principal’s door.

A few seconds later, she follows the principal and two men out of the office. One has a mustache and cameras around his neck.

There’s a joke about how we must be surprised to be called to the principal’s office. We’re told that we were getting a treat, a reward. The man with the cameras is a photographer for the morning newspaper. We are to follow him, listen to him as he takes a few pictures for a summer-is-coming article.

We are sat on the school’s back stairs with blank report cards—it’s too soon for the real ones. We are told to look at them and smile as-if they were full of good grades. There’s a non-stop stream of words as we get mixed and matched in different poses.

We are not to get excited about the photo shoot. We learn that no one knows if and when the pictures will get used. The pictures will be kept and if they have room in the paper, they will use one to talk about school finishing for the year. They will call our parents the day before they get used.

We get to start recess early. The girls walk off together, talking excitedly. I am wondering what I am going to tell the others when they ask why I was called out. My illusions of coolness are shattered—I am now officially a teacher’s pet.

A few weeks later, my mother gets a call from the paper. It is a very slow news day. They have used the picture with me in the middle. It is full sized and on the front page. She buys all the copies in the box.

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