Latin As A Second Language

Latin As A Second Language

“Do you understand Latin?” Mr. Horace, the vice-principal asked.
Standing my ground, I admitted to terra firma. After all, I was in the midst of a second trimester of seventh grade Latin. At twelve years of age I was quite small then.

The spilled marbles cascading about had tripped me up. Needle and thread. I must remember me to patch the hole in my pocket. Important details.

“Do you know what innuendo means?” Horace asked. He’d closed the door to his office.
“Vaguely,” I replied “Insinuating something naughty about a valued classmate?”
“Close enough,” he said, torching up a huge cigar.

When Ms. Strangle heard the marbles roll, every girl in the class had turned and stared at me.

“How about ipso facto?” he asked.
“Never heard of it,” I admitted. “I may have been down with malaria that day.”

“The enemy of one’s enemy, ipso facto, is a friend,” Mr. Horace recited proudly. “Ms. Strangle accuses you. Ray Cole vouches for you.”

Ray, my only friend in the whole world, had stood up and pointed at Lucky Lucy Rabbitz, a known felon. She sat two desks behind me, and had done hard time somewhere near Tukwila. The hair on my neck stood on end every time she came near.

“Are you at all familiar with locus delicti?” Horace asked.
“Of course,” I replied. “The scene of a crime. But in this instance no crime was committed.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said, blowing cigar smoke in my face.

Mother smoked cigars of course, but I got carsick when she did, so I never took it up myself. I felt the familiar gagging deep in my throat.

“Do you play marbles during recess?” he asked, his head enveloped in a thick cloud.
Interdum,” I said. “When the mood strikes.”

“Did the mood strike you this morning?” he asked.
He moved the cigar’s glowing tip close to my face.

“No. I played tether ball to relieve the stress of studying Latin under the clumsy guidance of Ms. Strangle.”

“Odd,” he said. “She thinks otherwise.”

“She has been misinformed,” I said. “An obvious instance of ad absurdum by a consortium of tattlers.” I added a footnote. “Let’s face it. Some people are not cut out to teach seventh grade.”

Mr. Horace let out a giggle. “I was thinking the exact same thing,” he said, stubbing out the cigar on his desktop. “Off with you now, kid. Stay out of trouble. Do no harm. Go to law school. Et cetera.”

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