Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, May 11, 2009

Math Murder

During my last year of school, as I suffered desperately in my math class, I sat next to a fellow whose numerical struggles superseded mine only by a hair. On occasion he called upon me to assist him, but I suspected it was more about getting through the class unscathed than about learning anything: in our school, as long as one filled notebooks and gave the impression of making an effort, eviction from class was unlikely.
During the odd day here and there that he was actually present in the classroom, I detected an unsettling air of vacancy about my classmate that stretched beyond a lack of worry. He wore a perpetual expression of amusement and mockery, and his requests for help with this problem or that were so vague and nonchalant that it hardly mattered I was in the same boat as he, academically speaking. He accepted my answers to various questions and scribbled them in his dirty, broken notebook, shrugging off criticism when the teacher slashed red ink all over them: at least it looked as though he had tried.
For my part, it made me feel less hopeless to aid a fellow worse off than myself; and I considered it wise, too, not to refuse the strange, disquieting character that occupied the adjacent seat.
Two years later I saw a familiar name in a local newspaper: the fellow had been jailed for a grisly murder.
I do wonder at times how his life, and mine, and the life of the victim might have turned out had I taken a seat on the other side of the classroom.


paulmerrill said...


What a relief that you were not his intended victim.

Pappy said...

It wasn't the teacher who slashed his notebook with red was it? You can't tell. I went to school with a very quite, but otherwise friendly young man who was being raised by his grandparents. He killed them both with an ax. Math at times left me feeling less than fulfilled in my educational experience. I didn't understand right brain and left brain back then. Pappy

Beth said...

oh that must have been horrifying to see his name in the paper. We had a similar experience. Watching the news one morning a few years ago, the lead story was about a grisly murder of four people and two dogs in a nearby town and the suspect who was in custody was the son of a muched beloved friend and colleague and in fact it was the friend who had discovered the bodies and the crime and called the police It was a terrible thing and one that I would like to write about on my blog but too many local people read it and I would not want to say anything to further hurt anyone involved.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Paul, too true ;) that was my thought too.

Texican, hmmm. Your comments are always food for thought. Didn't think about that red pen...

Beth, that's heartbreaking. Especially about how you said it unfolded and the victims were discovered...
I had no affiliation with this young fellow, so while it's a sad tale for all concerned I can't say I knew him, just sat next to him. But of course someone did, and is grieving, as is the victim's family.

Jaime said...


What a crazy story...and even crazier that your readers have similar stories!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Jaime, good to see you back here! Yes, everyone has curious stories to tell :)

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