Marcus is back, with more letters to his big sister Eleanor this week. Most days were school days, not holidays…. Buried in some of the bulletins from Amsterdam, New York (aka his “Pathe newsreels”), were hints that things were not going well for Marcus in algebra.
The first sign is in his letter of November 22, 1925, when he was eleven. Before any other news, the pet stories. His dog Jock had started raiding trashcans for food, while Dixie the cat disgraced himself by leaping on the dining room table to steal a piece of rabbit off a plate. After an anecdote about the Sunday school teacher, Marcus announces, “I’m getting on in school pretty good here’s my marks.” He received a gentleman’s C in English, writing, arithmetic, junior business training, printing, and textiles (whatever that class was). No absences, no tardies, but not exactly a stellar academic performance. The symbol scrawled down for his grades in spelling, history, science, and music is undecipherable and for that reason, highly suspicious.
Nothing much about algebra until January 9th, 1927. It was a pretty good day, all things considered. Dixie had been given a dose of catnip after he was caught eating the house plants. “For an hour and a half,” reports Marcus delightedly, “he was an insane cat.”
Another hot newsworthy item was that Father had brought home three new films–two two-reelers “Castor Oil” and “Big Business” starring Our Gang and a one-reeler “Suds” featuring Stan Laurel. Marcus was now the proud possessor of ten reels of film.
Then he drops the bombshell: “Miss Bartley is giving me 3 extra hours every week in algebra. No more news.”
By the 30th of January, the increased homework was paying dividends. After telling Eleanor that Dixie had discovered the catnip’s hiding place in the pantry and sat in front of the cupboard yowling until given a dose, Marcus crowed, “I passed another algebra test 85%.”
Things had really improved by March. There was a long account of Jock’s returning home covered in blood with a crushed paw (he had probably gotten run over again) before Marcus gleefully announced, “I passed an Algebra test!!” (That made three for the academic year.)
On the next page, he drew himself fainting when Miss Bartley handed back another exam marked 85% with the encouraging words, “Good work.” What is going on in the paper he drew in the upper right hand corner??? It looks as if he got all five questions right…
We may never know the answer to that question, because the ice floes rushing down the creek behind the barn was a lot more interesting, when it came right down to it.