I was nearly always caught. In fifth grade, my father, then the superintendent of schools, encountered me in the hall where I had been exiled for some misdeed – probably related to logorrhea. In eighth grade math, my classmates all agreed to drop several pencils to the floor at precisely 9:00 a.m. Alas, I was the only student foolish enough to actually follow through.

So, it amazed and surprised me when my two best friends in eighth grade managed our most daring escapade and did not get caught. We had been reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in English class, and Tom and Huck’s playing hooky inflamed our imaginations. Thus inspired, Sharon, Mac and I devised a simple plan. Mac and I would walk to our usual bus stop, then melt into the woods. We would cross the Nonesuch River on a set of wires – one for each hand and one for feet – that allowed people to cross the river, then walk to a specific spot near Route 1. Sharon would do something similar but she would not need to walk through any woods as her house was close to the western side of Route 1. We would meet and revel in our freedom!

Amazingly, it worked. We found each other and hid in a space under a large fir tree, where we marveled at our daring, our logistical genius, and our successful emulation of our literary heroes. Because they smoked corn cob pipes, we pooled our money and one of us sauntered to a local store and bought a package of cigarettes, which we smoked both rebelliously and joylessly. Mac and I took turns making out with Sharon. And by early afternoon we were very bored. We needed to return home at about the right time so we were relieved when it was time to make our return journeys. The next day we presented forged letters explaining our absences, and all were accepted without question.

That summer, Mac moved away, and we soon lost touch. Years later, Sharon visited my parents one day when I was not home and told them the story. By then, too much time had passed for them to be angry.

I suppose this could be taken as proof of the harm books can wreak on young minds, and it might lead some to suggest that any book capable of inciting such criminal acts ought not be taught in school. In retrospect, I am happy that we were inspired by this book rather than, say, “Romeo and Juliet,” which might have seduced us into early marriage or fatal duels.


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