Juniors were required to read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men at Burleson High School in 1985. If there was one book that I did not want to read, it was Of Mice and Men. I had already watched several different movie adaptations with my family, the most recent being a TV adaptation with Randy Quaid and Robert Blake of Baretta fame. Furthermore, Looney Toons had also produced a few animated shorts around characters who were a parody of Lennie and George. Therefore, every time Randy Quaid opened his mouth, I heard, “And I will spank him when he’s naughty,” and “Because I can’t say Sylvester, George.”
However, it seemed that the solution was offered to me by Mr. Evans himself, when he advised that anyone whom was offended by the profanity in the novel would not be required to read it. On my way out of class, I casually mentioned to Mr. Evans that I was indeed offended by the profanity in Of Mice and Men. “I go to the Church of Christ, Mr. Evans,” I said. “We’re not allowed to dance or swim with girls, let alone use such language, so …”
Mr. Evans smiled with a twinkle in his eye that should have made me nervous, but I was too impressed with what I perceived to be the success of my scheme.
The next day I brought a science fiction novel with me to pass the time while the rest of the class trudged through Steinbeck. After taking roll, Mr. Evans handed me a book.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“You alternative reading selection.” Mr. Evans smiled and left me with Ernest Hemingway’s The Only Man and the Sea. If I had thought Of Mice and Men would be a nightmare, it had nothing on The Old Man and the Sea–128 pages about an old man reeling in a fish. B-O-R-I-N-G! It was the longest book I had ever read. When I finally finished the book, I returned it to Mr. Evans. “You knew, didn’t you?”
“Knew what?” Mr. Evans asked
“That I wasn’t offended by the profanity in Of Mice and Men.”
“You weren’t?” Mr. Evans expressed mock horror.
“So you punished me with Hemingway.”
“I didn’t punish you,” Mr. Evans said. “But you had to read something.” His eyes twinkled.
On my way out of class, I made a mental note to never try to trick an English teacher again.