The Tail Gunner’s Daughter: A Memoir


Seattle from the third floor window of our house on Queen Anne Hill. Circa 1984.


The sibs: Toad; 2, David; 4, Denise; 8, Dalene; 7

Chapter One

Continued . . .

I wish the earthquake had shaken some smarts into me. I refuse to say I was stupid, but I was a slow learner. For example, one day in first grade I sat at my desk, in another disgusting dress, wearing white boots that I’m sure Mom stole from Goldie Hawn’s locker on the set of Laugh-In. Actually, that show didn’t air until 1968, but you get the point. Anyway, I stared out the window at a rhododendron bush, daydreaming as usual.

Mrs. Nest, a thin, cross woman with puffy blond hair knocking around in her fifties somewhere, stood at the front of the room with her long pointer stick hitting the clock above the blackboard, explaining to the class how to tell time.

“The clock is divided into segments of five minutes each. Five past the hour, ten past the hour, fifteen past the hour, and so forth,” said Mrs. Nest. Then I heard a long stretch of silence followed by a shrill scream.


I shot upright as if Mrs. Nest had shoved that ridiculous pointer stick up my behind. My eyes bulged with fear at Mrs. Nest who glared back at me and banged her pointer stick to the number five on the clock.

“What time is it when the little hand is pointing to the three and the big hand is pointing to the five?”

I was petrified. But I had to say something! “It’s three minutes past five o’clock,” I muttered.

Laughter erupted in the classroom and I shrank in my seat. Mrs. Nest repeatedly smacked her hands together with such force I thought she would break them.

“Quiet!” she yelled.

“Miss go-go boots doesn’t know how to tell time,” said Jennifer, a smart girl.

Well, that comment sent Mrs. Nest into orbit, and she whacked that girl’s ear with a ruler. All the turmoil and tension made my bladder spasm. And even though I feared that ruler more than anything else, I raised my hand anyway.

“What is it, Dana? Do you have the correct answer?” barked Mrs. Nest.

“I have to go to the bathroom.” The kids laughed again at me.

“You should have gone at recess like everyone else.”

So, I held it in. I held my tongue, too, for fear of getting whacked with that ruler. Later, painting at the art table in the back of the room, I wiggled and crossed my legs, but nothing worked. Which brings me to a joke my father used to tell, over and over again, like he did all his jokes, about his first grade teacher who called on him to recite the alphabet. So he dutifully replied, “A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O, . . . Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z.” The teacher asked, “But Keith, where’s the P?” Little Keith replied, “Runnin’ down my legs.”

And that’s just where mine was, too, and the proof was in the puddle at my feet. Eddie, standing next to me, pointed down at it.

“I spilled my water can,” I said. He grinned, not buying it.

Mrs. Nest saw my puddle of pee and had a hissy fit, bringing all the attention to me once again. “Dana Dewey!” I felt so ashamed of myself.  The janitor had to come and clean it up.

After school I ran for home, holding fast to my unfinished artwork. Several mean kids from my class were running after me laughing their heads off.

“Hey, Dana DOG DEW!” hollered Ricky the Rascal.

“What time is it PEE-PEE pants?” yelled Randy the Ruffian.

The other kids howled and cheered at the bully leaders. I ran faster as salty trails of tears crisscrossed my face. Randy threw spiny horse chestnuts at my head – he was an excellent marksman – the little bastard. I dropped my painting and the bullies trampled it in their boiling pursuit. I ran all the way home, sneaked upstairs to Mom and Dad’s bathroom, sat in a bathtub full of hot bubbles, and scrubbed away the pee and shame. Because I had used all the shampoo, Dad yelled at me and spanked my bare butt. What a pissy day.

The next day, I watched Mrs. Nest yell at Dalene on the playground because I didn’t know how to tell time. After school, Dalene made a clock out of a paper plate and construction paper with hands that moved around a brass fastener. The numbers were bright, large, and fun to look at.

“Dana, do you know how to count by fives?” Dalene asked.

I nodded.

“The clock is divided up into segments of five minutes each; five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and so on until you reach sixty minutes, or one whole hour.” She moved the hands around and explained to me the elements of the clock in one afternoon. She was ten. It’s no coincidence that when she grew up she became a teacher.

I was hopping mad at Mrs. Nest because not only did she humiliate me, but she couldn’t teach me in a week what Dalene taught me in a few hours. Mom told me not to be too hard on Mrs. Nest because she was going through a nasty divorce. I didn’t know what a divorce was, but right then I made up my mind I wasn’t going to go through one of those, especially if it made you crotchety.

To be continued . . .


About Dana J. Dewey

I was a slow learner as a child and to overcome my fear of school, as an adult I attended many of them. I ended up with a master of science degree in counseling psychology and I'm a licensed mental health counselor who is passionate about mental health. This blog is about life, joy, and the pursuit of good mental health, and the eclectic way in which it's achieved. I'm blogging a memoir, The Tail Gunner's Daughter, and later, Parent-Able: Seven Strategies for Raising a Physically Disabled Child Without Going Insane.
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7 Responses to The Tail Gunner’s Daughter: A Memoir

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dana – Great story! We’ve all had teachers like that. Love this pictures of you guys; adorable! I periodically drive by the old house and think of all of you.

    Pat C.


  2. Anonymous says:

    So good! I just love reading your story! Wow! Susie


  3. Jacobsen Cheryle says:

    Dana, I just love you! I had Mrs Gritch! I will have to tell you some time! Hugs, Chery


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