Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fiction - Rough Drafts From Maynard Steele

NOTE:  This post is rated R for mild strong language.


What follows is a work of fiction.  No person, place, thing, body, corporation, or institution described, mentioned, alluded to, subtly insinuated, or imagined herein has any relation to anything in the real world—past, present, or future.

Side note:  several of my readers have asked if I have a photo of my friend Maynard Steele.  I was able to find a stock photo (which I think is a still from one of his movies).  Here it is.  (If you don’t see a photo below, it’s because Maynard asked me to remove it.  He’s kind of weird that way.)

Drafts from Maynard

My friend Maynard Steele got a letter last week from his kid’s school, the Midvale Public Middle School for the Non-Gifted.  The letter advised that, owing to school policies and the laws of the state, any child absent for more than ten days during the school year will have to present a doctor’s note for any subsequent absences, and that Maynard’s son Bruce had already missed ten days.  Thus (the letter went on), Maynard was on the hook for a doctor’s note next time his son got sick.

Maynard was livid, and immediately sat down and wrote a reply to the principal, Mr. Smith.  Maynard wasn’t sure he’d hit the right notes with the letter, though, and tried another.  He couldn’t decide whether to fight the ridiculous rule or subvert it somehow, so he tried a lot of different angles.  Then he sent the whole batch of drafts to me, requesting my opinion.  I don’t care to get involved with his affairs, but I figured I could post the drafts here and have you vote on them using the Comments section below.

Draft #1

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have received your letter about the ten absences and the requirement of a doctor’s note.  If the rule pertained to ten consecutive days of illness, I could understand.  I mean, that’s a very sick kid.  But ten absences total?  So, if my kid has a minor cold, just bad enough to keep him home from school, I now have to take him to the doctor?  And waste that doctor’s valuable time, and waste my money, and rack up bogus charges for my insurance company?  No thanks.  I’ll just send my kid to school sick, and if he coughs all over his classmates and causes an epidemic, I’ll take solace in this being your fault, not mine.  (I’ll bet this policy is why my kid gets sick so much, come to think of it.)

Maynard Steele

Draft #2

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have received your letter about ten absences and a doctor’s note, and regret that I cannot comply with your policy because doing so would insult my intelligence.  Frankly, the letter itself has already insulted my intelligence, and—seeing as to how it’s a rather humble intelligence to begin with—it can’t take much more in the way of insults.  Please accept my apologies in advance for sending my child to school sick going forward.  Also, please accept my child’s apology for, on those days, misbehaving badly enough to be sent to your office and for coughing all over you.  He’s never himself when he’s sick, especially when forced to attend school anyway.

Maynard Steele

Draft #3

Dear Mr. Smith,

I cannot adhere to your ten-absences = doctor’s note policy on the grounds that it is completely fucking retarded.


P.S.  With the sentence above I meant no offense to any child who is actually mentally retarded.  It is an unfortunate fact that our language is full of unfair expressions that get trotted out when people are riled up.  Anyway, let’s keep this letter between you and me for that reason alone.

Draft #4

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have received your letter, about my son’s ten non-consecutive absences and the need for a doctor’s note going forward.  I hope you can appreciate that I am a man of principle, and take my parenting very seriously.  Therefore, it is impossible for me to adhere to your absence policy.

Among the things I strive to teach my son is the importance of “natural consequences,” by which I mean that an undesirable behavior should not lead to a seemingly random punishment.  For example, if Bruce hits his sister, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get dessert, because dessert has nothing to do with violent behavior.  (A more natural consequence would be not getting to play violent video games anymore.)  For me or my wife to have to drag Bruce to the doctor for a minor cold, simply because he’s been sick a few times during the last five months, is not a natural consequence of anything, as professional medical attention has nothing to do with the number of days for which your school is compensated by the state.  Meanwhile, no child should be punished for getting sick.

For us to adhere to your policy would be rewarding it, which is completely inappropriate.  The natural consequence of your decreeing this pointless procedure is for me to defy it openly.  As such, you will never see a doctor’s note from me, regardless of how much more school Bruce may miss.  It is only out of a desire not to model passive-aggressive behavior that I’m notifying you of my non-compliance in advance.

Maynard Steele
cc.  Bruce Steele

Draft #5

Dear Mr. Smith,

This letter attests to the fact of Bruce Steele’s illness.  I saw him in my medical clinic today and that kid is really fucking sick.  In fact, he may suffer relapses here and there for the rest of the school year and this letter attests in advance to the authenticity of those absences as well.

Bruce’s Doctor

Draft #6

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have not seen Bruce Steele in my clinic, because I live in another state.  He may or not be legitimately ill, but I understand you need a doctor’s note for some reason.  I went to school with Bruce’s father, Maynard, so am happy to do him this favor.  Please note my official seal below and file this letter with the state according to whatever bureaucratic process they require.

Michael Rogers, MD

Draft #7

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have received your letter about needing a doctor’s note if my son misses any more school due to illness.  However, I also have on file a letter from last year about a school-wide lice infestation, and the necessity of keeping my child home if I find any lice in his scalp.

As you know, an infestation is not the same thing as an illness.  Head lice is not treated by any branch of the medical industry.  Therefore, I can easily sidestep your patently stupid policy by reporting Bruce’s next illness as lice infestation.  That makes a lot more sense than dragging my kid to a pestilence-filled doctor’s office when we all know there’s no cure for the common cold.

I am writing because I wouldn’t want my son to be ostracized by his peers or your staff for having head lice, especially if he doesn’t.  Thus, I request that you keep his so-called lice on the down-low.  You can think of this discretion as a personal favor to me, or as a way to make sure I don’t spread any rumors about you and Ms. Bangles, the PE teacher.  (Bruce has told me how awkward it is when you openly ogle Ms. Bangles.)

Maynard Steele

Draft #8

Dear Mr. Smith,

With your recent letter you have gotten between a mother bear and her cub.  Obviously, your policy of requiring a poor kid with the flu to be driven across town to a doctor’s office and be prodded with ice-cold instruments, all in the service of your paperwork with the state, is a violation of every student’s constitutional rights.  As a full-time homemaker whose kids are outgrowing her, I have nothing better to do than mount a public and highly visible campaign against your school and its draconian rules.  Meanwhile, I expect you do have better things to do than suffer a protracted, embarrassing, and distracting war with me over this.  If so, you can avoid all that unpleasantness by simply looking the other way the next time little Bruce is out sick.

If you think I’m bluffing, just try me.  I think you’ll find me a formidable opponent.

Wanda Steele

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