Silver & Gold

And while we are talking about fourth grade, I am reminded of Maureen McArdle’s neck in front of me in the third row, that smug smarmy neck, gloating and preening at me for nine long months, as day after day, week after week, she bested me in math tests and social-studies projects and science experiments, finishing first in whatever academic contest had been posed to the class by Mrs. O’Malley, who looked like a linebacker with spectacles, and she, Maureen McArdle, owner of that smirking neck, again and again got her paper back with a gold Jesus on it, whereas I earned a series of silver Jesuses as long as your arm.

No boy ever accumulated such a parade of silver Jesuses. I brought them home day after day, week after week, Jesus glinting like a brilliant new coin from my satchel, and showed them to my mom, who tried her best to pretend that a silver Jesus was every bit as good as a gold Jesus. At least it is not a bronze Jesus, she actually said once, a line I remember because I had never heard that sentence before (or since), and because my brother Thomas had earned a bronze Jesus in kindergarten that very morning, apparently for not peeing on himself, for once, or perhaps for managing to eat his lunch without incurring injury, for a change. You wouldn’t believe how many times this kid started out to eat a candy bar and ended up with a cast on his arm, or tried to open the peanut butter jar and finished by using the last seven Band-Aids...

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About the Author

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland.