9. Rock Tuff, P.I.: Washing Dirty Laundry In Private

After lunch I taught another grade nine. This time I scored on one of my lay-ups, an accomplishment which drew sarcastic applause.

After school, we sat in John's office, discussing the case. "Any ideas, Elmer?"

"Not many. the culprit has to be male because the incidents occur in the boys' dressing room. It could be a teacher with a spare, but who is going to waste his free period stealing dirty laundry?"

"A teacher who's crazy?"

"Do you have any on staff?"

"Not that I know of. A few eccentrics, yes, but insane, no."

"A student could ask to leave class to go to the washroom or his locker, but he'd have to work quickly, probably using a big bag which he'd then take to his locker."

"And take home after school. So all we have to do is to watch for a student leaving school with a big bag."

"And bringing it back to school the next morning."

After a moment I said: "I noticed a grate near the ceiling of the dressing room."

"Yes. That's where we store mats and other equipment."

"If someone watched from there, he might see the thief in action."

"Good idea."

The next morning the idea did not seem so good, however, as I clambered to the top of the mats. "Don't lock me in," I reminded John as he closed the door.

On television or in the movies a stake-out is done in a car with coffee and sandwiches. I carried out mine from an aerie of gym mats, playing Peeping Tom — or Rock — on a high school dressing room. It was too dark to read and I hadn't brought a book anyway, so I tried to stay awake by composing a poem in my head:

"A detective whose name was Rock Tuff
Declined cases that would be too rough..."

At this point my creativity was interrupted as the boys came in to change. It was the same class I had had yesterday. Robbie Burns wrote about "seeing ourselves as others see us" and the boys provided me with an unflattering perspective of myself.

"I hope we have that Petty guy back today."

"Why? He's a klutz."

"Yeah, and a clown."

"He couldn't dribble water from a bottle."

"But he's funny."

I wondered if the Harlem Globetrotters were ready for racial integration. Probably not. And if they were, I would definitely not be the one to pioneer it.

At the end of the class, a number of students, despite warnings, left dirty clothing on the benches. The next class added more. The third period the room was unused. I was about to go back to my limerick-composing when a figure entered the room silently with a big bag from which he took a number of clean items and placed them on the benches. Then he gathered the dirty things, put them into the bag, and left. I recognized the culprit.

After getting down from the mats without breaking my ankle, I knocked on John's door. "I know who the larcenous launderer is, but not why he is doing it."

We went to the office of the head caretaker. "Come in." Terry was sitting at his desk. In an open locker was the bag. John looked inside.

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Gary E. Miller spent 29 years trying to teach English at several high schools in Ontario. In 1995, he made his greatest contribution to education by retiring. He now spends his time in rural Richmond, reading voraciously and eclectically, and occasionally writing stories and poems which do nothing to elevate the level of Canadian literature.
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