The Tennis Shoe and the Broken Window


It was senior year in high school. I was on my last semester of PE, my least favorite class. I maintained a straight-A average in all other classes. But not in PE. It alternated between a B and a C.

I was feeling good. We were in our next-to last unit, the physical fitness award. I already knew I would flunk rope climbing and pull-ups, but I could do the rest – sit-ups, push-ups, running, jumping, throwing a ball.

Our teacher announced the last unit coming up. It would be softball, weather permitting. That meant going outside and going through the motions. I wasn’t a strong hitter, but I could at least hit it far enough to get to first base. I was a decent runner.

It was a Friday afternoon. We went back to the locker room to change out of our ugly PE uniforms and into our regular clothes. My locker was in the corner. As I took off my navy shirt, I felt a draft overhead.

Someone had opened up the transom window. I reached to close it, and at 5’ 10”, I wasn’t tall enough. It was at the ceiling, with the window propped up and open, on a metal stick.

I took off my tennis shoe and popped it up to hit the metal stick so that it would unlatch the window and close.

I missed. I tried again. Missed. Again. On the third try, the shoe went through the window glass and shattered it.

As glass rained down on me, one of my classmates blurted, “I’m telling.”

She ran out of the locker room as I stood there staring at what I’d done. How much was the replacement window going to cost? My stomach turned.

I’d been saving up my money to go to Iowa State University in the fall. I’d worked in the cornfields, in the grocery store, and at McDonald’s. I had just enough to pay for freshman year.

The girl came back in.

“I told her,” she said.

I fought back tears as I finished dressing and picked up the glass from the dirty locker room floor.

Soon everyone had left except for one other student.

“Sorry,” she said as she waved good-bye.

Now it was just me in the locker room., I had to walk past the PE teacher’s office to leave the gym. What was I going to say? She already knew I was the one who broke the window.

I gathered up my books and bagged up my gym clothes to wash over the weekend.

The bell had already rung. I was running out of time to get to my next class without being counted as tardy.

I hurried out the locker room door, paused at the teacher’s office door, glanced inside, and then hurried to class.

Couldda Wouldda Shouldda

I didn’t confess. Someone had already ratted me out. The teacher never called me into her office or gave me any punishment. She must have seen the fear of God on my face when I hurried on by.

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