Benton sits slumped on Ray’s couch. They had just completed a grueling thirty-hour shift which included two shoot-outs, a roof-top chase, and an unfortunate encounter with an incontinent cat.
Ray is in a manic state, eyes glittering. “Bet you never got detention in your life, Benton-buddy,” he says.
Benton has to correct him.
At seven years of age, Benton experienced an ethical dilemma. It was his first day in a new school, and respect for one’s elders was the basis of common courtesy. But Mrs. Ellsworth had Billy writing, ‘I bought some meat, some salt, and some bullets at the store’ on the board 100 times. Surely as a teacher, an educator, she would want the most current information possible? That was, after all, the purpose of a traveling library.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Ellsworth? The twelfth edition of the Manual of Style suggests that omission of the ‘Oxford comma’ is a valid style choice if it does not cause confusion.”
The teacher stared at him. The entire schoolhouse hushed, except for the scratch of Billy’s chalk on the board. “Does it, Benton?” she asked.
Benton couldn’t read her expression, but he was certain of his facts. “Yes, ma’am, it does.”
“Detention tomorrow,” she announced and went back to teaching Carol her times tables.
The following day he brought the Twelfth Edition of the Manual of Style with him to school and tried to show it to Mrs. Ellsworth. She sighed. “Benton, if you ever have occasion to journey to Chicago, I’m sure its inhabitants will be grateful that you’ve taken the time to master their grammar. In the mean time, this is my school, and my rules apply.”
Ray collapses into helpless giggles, sputtering “Us grateful inhabitants of Chicago,” and “Comma Crusader,” into Benton’s shoulder until he falls asleep.