Fifty Reasons Not to Talk

by | May 17, 2016 | Fiction, Flash Fiction

Marvin Larson
Grade 7
November 19th



1. I will not talk when Miss McCloskey is talking like I did today. Because that’s how come I’m being punished and have to stay after school and make up 50 reasons you’re not supposed to talk. All because I didn’t raise my hand.

2. I will not talk when Miss McCloskey is teaching us something because I am only twelve and I have a lot to learn here at Our Lady of Eternal Goodness.

3. I will not talk when announcements are made because there could be something important for kids to hear. Like maybe a fire drill or something even more terrible.

4. I will not talk to George Feeney or Angel Martinez anymore about knives or guns.

5. I will not say anything about Julio Alonzo, not about his lisp or the way he talks.

6. I will not talk when we have Assembly because it is not respectful and when somebody else is talking you have to be quiet. Because we all know it’s very important to you, Miss McCloskey, for your students to be quiet. We have to do things quiet. We can feel things, yes, but we have to feel them quiet.

7. I will not talk during Bible Reading because that’s a time for God to talk and when God is talking, everybody should listen and think about what His words mean. And do like the Bible says to do. So we can grow up to be good. Good in school and good in life. Good and quiet.

8. I will not talk when Miss McCloskey is talking to me like I did this morning because you, Miss McCloskey, are an expert on how a person should not be and what they should not do.

9. I will not talk to Hollis or Angel about our baseball mitts in class and argue which guy has a better mitt, because what fits right on one guy might not be right for another guy. Everybody’s different.

10. I will not talk because I am only twelve. My birthday was two weeks ago on November 5th. And I have a lot to learn if I hope to get into eighth grade.

11. I will not talk during the slide show when you showed us pictures of the continents such as Asia and Greenland and of course the U.S.

12. I will not talk to Marilyn Campbell, especially not about her sister that got killed last summer by a drive-by shooter. But Marilyn has a bad smell, Miss McCloskey, I’m serious and I would like my seat changed.

13. I will not talk to my neighbor in class. But you say neighbor like we are next door neighbors, and you wrote it on the blackboard with the rest of our Weekly Words. But we’re not real neighbors because a real neighbor is like me living next door to Billy Rhondo, me at 1148 and him and his dad, Officer Rhondo, at 1146.

14. I will not talk with my mouth full or put banana peels in my desk like I did last week and you smelled it and wrote about it in my folder and I felt bad.

15. I will not talk about how the principal Mr. Howard SPITS when he talks, even though all the kids see it.

16. I will not talk about when Suzanne Bellinger wet her pants during the Geography Test because it’s a thing any person could do when they get upset.

17. I will not talk during test time like when we had the Fractions Test. I guess you think making up these 50 reasons will fix me. Well maybe it will but maybe not.

18. This is only Number 18. It’s hard to think of more reasons and I still have a lot to go. It’s lonely in this classroom with you up at your desk marking the Fractions Test and me sitting in my seat all alone writing this stuff. All the guys are outside playing soccer. I can hear them yelling across the field. Hey, I’m not a teacher and I don’t like writing words the way you do. You just love words, don’t you, Miss McCloskey? You love words like you love those little Hershey Kisses wrapped in silver foil you give to all your favorites who can spell good and make up sentences using our Weekly Words.

19. I will not talk to Ronald Henderson about his operation because how would you like it if you broke your arm running to home plate for your team. And then have the kids make fun of it because the hospital fixed it wrong and now it doesn’t hang right. I respect a guy that runs fast for his team.

20. I won’t talk anymore. But after this Number 20, I’m going to the Boys Room. I can’t stand the quiet with you writing up at your big teacher’s desk. And pretending you’re not enjoying me being punished. And missing soccer practice.

21. I will not talk about how there’s never any soap in the Boys Room, only that white powdered stuff that don’t get your hands clean.

22. I will not talk during Assembly. Now, Miss McCloskey, you think you see and hear everything, but the whole school knows Miss Kapiston’s class talks during Assembly and they never have to stay after school and write reasons not to talk. Like last Friday, Hollis and Billy and me saw Mitchell put a dead cockroach on a kid’s shoulder. Even Albertina Watson was laughing, and you know she laughs real loud. I looked over to see if you saw it, but you were blowing your nose. You always notice me doing bad things. How come? Even if I do the littlest thing your eyes catch it like a hawk.

23. I will not talk about how you have your favorites in this class, and one of them is Darlena Bianco, who never does anything wrong in her whole life probably. And Number Two Perfect Person is Norman Howard, who is the principal’s son so he’s smart and all and you’re nice to him because his father runs the school. Well in case you haven’t noticed, Mr. Howard SPITS when he talks. Me and Angel found this out when we were first sent to his office in the second grade. It was five years ago on the day Luann Scott vomited on Richard Grogan in Miss Baker’s class. And we had macaroni and cheese for lunch so you can just imagine what a mess. Me and Angel were laughing so we got sent down to Mr. Howard’s office. Everybody knows, you better not stand too close to him when he talks because he SPITS.

24. I will not talk to foreign agents.

25. I will not talk to strangers in our mists.

26. I will not talk about a person’s smell, but Marilyn Campbell needs a bath. I want my seat changed. She needs a GOOD HOT BATH because she stinks. I’m sorry, Miss McCloskey, but there are times a person has to take a bath or they’re going to lose friends. I know her sister got killed last summer and all, but please can you say something to her? We hear the girls talking about her at recess. Some things are hard to write about, like how a person smells.

27. I will not talk tomorrow November 20th, not during Roll Call or during Bible Reading. But Darlena Bianco (your favorite Bible reader) keeps reading the same prayer YAY THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, and it spooks me. I done wrong by talking today, but some nights I dream about the Valley of the Shadow and I wake up frightened. Do we have to hear it every time Darlena reads the Bible? I like the psalm that Reverend Reed reads at the Black church, the one that goes A TIME TO BE BORN AND A TIME TO DIE AND A TIME TO PLANT AND A TIME TO SOW AND A TIME TO PLAY SOCCER, etc. How come every time in your class is a time to be quiet? BE QUIET, EVERYBODY!!! On the eighth day the Lord turned to Adam and Eve and all the animals and He yelled out, WILL EVERYBODY PLEASE JUST BE QUIET!!!

28. I will not talk about Reverend Reed’s son Henry, who, even though he is black, has a part of his face pink. Because like we discuss in class, God has a reason for everything He does. And just so you know the truth, it wasn’t me who said something stupid about Henry’s face that day you were out and the substitute was here. It was Mitchell Marcus who said it, not me. I happen to like Henry Reed and do you want to know something? Henry and I were born on the same day of the same year. Maybe that’s why we’re pals. You know what his old man Reverend Reed told him? His dad told Henry that when kids ask him WHY’S YOUR FACE LIKE THAT? Reverend Reed told Henry to answer them, I GUESS THE LORD THINKS I’M SPECIAL. Well, I think Henry is kind of special. So can I sit next to Henry instead of next to Marilyn?

29. I will not talk about bathroom things. You scold me and Hollis about this all the time. And Angel and Billy and Mitchell too. But there’s never any toilet paper in the Boys Room because this guy named Oliver from the Lower School steals it to take home. He’s real poor. If you’re a teacher, you get pink soap and a clean bathroom, but if you’re only twelve like me you get that hard toilet paper that’s never there anyway and that powdered soap that spills all over and it don’t get your hands clean neither.

30. I will not talk in class about stuff somebody in class shouldn’t talk about. But you know, Miss McCloskey, I got ideas in my mind that nobody can stop me thinking. These ideas, these things, nobody can see them. Not you, not Mr. Howard, not my parents, not Officer Rhondo even. Some things I know I can keep secret all the time, all my life, even if I walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Because if you know something is true, nobody can make it not true. Even when you’re supposed to be quiet, there are still some times you have to tell the truth.

31. Charles Wright is another reason I want my seat changed. He has strange eyes and he worships Satan. You won’t believe me, but I know it was Charles who put up the Nazi Swasticker on the wall. Angel knows it and Mitchell knows it. And Hollis knows it too. You don’t always have to see a thing to know it’s true.

32. I will not talk on Monday or on Tuesday, or on Wednesday or on Thursday or on Friday. I will only talk on weekends when I am not in your class.

33. I will not talk the rest of November or in December or in January or in February or in March or April or May or June.

34. I will not talk the rest of Soccer Season. We have the top soccer team in all the Catholic parishes, but I can’t go to practice today because I talked during Bible Reading when Darlena the Perfect was reciting the 23rd Psalm.

35. I will not talk until I am spoken to. Someday if I have to go to war, I will design a special torture for the enemy. I will make them have to read and write in total silence. Not be able to move. Not be able to whisper. Not be able to even go to the bathroom even. Not until they can correctly spell all or our Weekly War Words. Nobody’s allowed to move, and all their feelings and all their ideas have to stay in their minds because they may not talk, and they better not sneeze neither. NO TALKING, GUYS. HEY, YOU!! I SAID NO TALKING!! Now the only way they can relieve their pain is by writing (in silence, of course.) And all of our Weekly War Words have to be spelled perfect. No exceptions. Now, if any of these guys suffer too much, I will show mercy. But if they go crazy from the torture of the quiet, I can just tell my Commanding Officer OH SIR, I DIDN’T NEED TO USE ANY WEAPONS, SIR. NO, SIR. YOU SEE, SIR, I MADE THE ENEMY STAY REAL STILL AND BE REAL QUIET. NO MOVING AROUND. NO MOVING YOUR LIPS AND NO SCRATCHING YOUR ITCH AND ABSOLUTELY NO TALKING TO YOUR NEIGHBOR. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? THEY JUST WENT NUMB AFTER A WHILE. ONE BY ONE. YOU HEAR HOW QUIET IT IS NOW? THOSE ENEMY GUYS WILL NEVER TALK AGAIN. NEVER. OH, SIR, WHAT IS THIS MEDAL OF HONOR YOU’RE PINNING ON ME? OH WOW, SIR!! THE McCLOSKEY AWARD FOR BEST TORTURE!!! OH, THANK YOU, SIR!!

36. Students have to be quiet so teacher can talk more. But not everybody feels that’s fair.

37. Number Thirty-Seven hereby refuses to cooperate and tell the 37th reason a person should not talk. Number 37 chooses to remain silent.

38. Now Look Here. Number Thirty-Eight is going to punish Number Thirty-Seven for being bad and behaving improper. Number Thirty-Seven, do you hear me? Are you listening to me? Do you answer when I speak to you, or shall I report your behavior to the principal? Your choice, you decide. I have all the time in the world. Okay then, since you won’t cooperate, and insist on being bad, you can just march yourself down to Mr. Howard’s office where you will get scolded and spit on. And when you’re ready to fix up your bad ways, you may return to your seat and act like a zombie who never speaks unless he’s spoken to. Do we understand? Answer me, Young Man! Look at me when I’m talking to you! DO WE UNDERSTAND?? DO WE??

39. I will not talk when I’m not supposed to. I will just sit here in my seat between Charles Wright (the little Nazi) and Marilyn Campbell (who needs a bath). Just sit here until the end of seventh grade feeling bad and being quiet like I was at Juliet Campbell’s funeral last summer when the minister looked up at God and asked, “Oh, why do these things happen?”

40. I will not talk in Miss McCloskey’s class tomorrow because she owns all the space in the class and all the time in the class, and that’s just the way it is.

41. I will not talk because talk not will I.

42. I will not talk even though the November sky is growing dark because I guess that writing out all these reasons is going to help me change from being a Bad Boy Who Talks to being a Good Boy Who Doesn’t. When you play soccer, the
goal is to kick the ball to the other side of the field, and then you make your team happy. But when you’re inside of school, the goal is to keep the noisy talk inside you, and then you make your teacher happy. Oh, I can do it. I am strong enough. If my pal Henry Reed can go through Life with a face half pink and half black, then I can be brave too. I will fear no evil and I will fear no teacher.

43. I will not talk to any kids tomorrow, November 20th. Especially if they are GOOD kids like Darlena Bianco, Marilyn Campbell, Antoinette Vega, Yvonne Maddox, and of course Norman Howard the principal’s son. I bet Miss McCloskey you have a list up at your desk of kids who are BAD (because they always talk) beginning with me, Marvin Larson, and Billy, and George, and Wally, and Mitchell. And certainly Angel Martinez, who you can’t stand. Oh yes, especially Angel Martinez, whose mother screamed at you in Spanish in front of Mr. Howard.

44. I will not talk about who stole your stapler even though I know who did it.

45. I will not talk about who cut the plug off the movie projector even though I know who did that, too.

46. I will not talk. I will just hold the talk inside me just like I am holding the _______ inside my body until I can get home to a bathroom that has toilet paper.


48. I will not talk about something I know that you, Miss McCloskey, wouldn’t want me to know, me being only a dumb kid and you being the Boss. I will not talk about what I heard Miss Kapiston tell the principal, a secret you don’t want your students to know that shows how maybe you’re not so perfect.

49. I will not talk about our Perfect Miss McCloskey. But if you show these fifty reasons to anyone, even one person, even Mr. Howard or even my parents, I swear I will tell everyone in the whole diocese how you’ve been seen everyday
STEALING THE PINK PACKAGES OF SWEET AND LOW from the Teachers Lunchroom and slipping them into your purse. Yes, YOU, Miss Margaret McCloskey, 7th grade teacher at Our Lady of Eternal Goodness.

50. I will not talk during this last reason of my punishment. No, I will not talk when I put these papers on your desk and walk out of your classroom. I will not smile and I will not make a face. I will just hand in my punishment and get out and go home. I’m going to walk out to the soccer field, and then I’m going to start to run, and then I’m going to start to scream. Because the November sky has been waiting this whole afternoon for my scream. My scream will be as big as the sky, so big and so loud it will be heard all the way down in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. And you’re going to hear it too, Miss McCloskey. Oh Boy, are you going to hear my scream.


Photo, courtesy of The Pophangover Network

About The Author

Jonathan Frank

Jonathan Frank is a retired school counselor, teacher and tutor. He’s also volunteered as a counselor and librarian in a community center, visits seniors who are housebound, and teaches a course in Ethical Decisions. He wrote this story in an attempt to convey to readers the discomfort of pupils in classrooms who feel compelled to keep silent for hours on end.