Ms. Stanwich stood, perspiring from all pores, glaring at her 7th grade class. It was a small class of eight rambunctious boys and seven insecure young ladies.
“I would like to begin classzzskll with a slls-hort writing asszzskll-ignment,” Ms. Stanwich said.
Her lisp was grating to the ears. The cacophony of mixed syllables that followed what should have been a quick ‘s’ sound were hard to stomach at times. It wasn’t always as prominent as one would expect considering it was so obvious when it hit. In a random social situation, she kept in under control pretty well. She used quick statements, spent most of her time listening, and rarely went into long monologues when around people other than her class. For some reason, when put in a leader role, as she was in right now, or put in a position to speak publicly in front of many faces, as she was in right now, caused this subtle foe to rear its ugly face, unannounced, at the most ill-opportune moments
“We are approaching the end of the year, and thissthhs is the perfect opportunity to talk about our planssthhs over break,” she said.
Herb Growler was a glob of a boy. He wore t-shirts a smidge too short around the belly area, especially when raising his hands.
She looked his way trying to act as if she was looking at another student, Stephanie Simpleton, who was sitting two desks behind Herb. Stephanie, being an extremely shy girl, and a near mirror image of Stanwich’s personality at Stephanie’s age, looked quickly down at her desk.
Although Stanwich wanted to ignore Stephanie’s social cue for, “No…please don’t pick me,” she nervously scanned to the back of the room for other hands. Trent Michaelson was leaning his left cheek off his seat, trying to conceal his passing of gas, when he saw Stanwich look his way, and nearly soiled his pants through a raucous scratchy bubbling sound that echoed off the plastic base.
Everyone except Stanwich and a very focused Herb Growler.
The laugh calmed to a snicker, then fizzled out. They were used to it. Trent had the worst gastrointestinal history in the class. Most of them had grown up through the ranks of Lee Van Cleef Memorial Elementary together. They saw, and smelled, the worst of Trent for 7 years.
And then…the calmness was disturbed.
She gave in. There was no other option.
“Yes, Herb,” she said, noticing her lisp was cut short for waterer reason.
“I’m going to go to Silver Dollar City and volunteer at the dog jail and play baseball and play a bunch of video games and…,” Herb said.
Stanwich let him ramble off about 20 items in rapid fire before she broke in.
“Herb, that is great. It soundssthh like a fantassthh-tic break for you,” she said.
Herb quickly responded.
“Yeah and I am going to help my dad hand out election signs for our next president. My dad has a job giving people those signs…you know the ones…that you put into your lawn. I’m excited. The new president is going to be sooooo cool! She is funny and is on all the talk shows that my mom watches during the day.”
Stanwich was still lightly nodding her head to Herb’s description of the president when she heard a low, country-swang of a voice come from the middle of the room.
“Sounds dumb,” Danny Norris mumbled.
Another silent rumble of laughter crossed the room. Stanwich didn’t know what to do. Here, at the end of a turbulent series of emotional ups and downs in her first year of teaching, was the moment she had been fearing well before she stepped foot in a classroom.
“Linda,” crackled principal Marten’s voice over the walkie, “will you call Mr. Allen’s room and ask him to come down and see me at break.”
“Yes, Mr. Marten,” Linda replied.
Linda called down to Mr. Allen’s room.
“Mr. Allen,” Linda’s voice crackled over the loud speaker.
“Yes, Ms. Linda?”
“Mr. Marten asked for you to swing by the office at break.”
“Thanks, Ms. Linda.”
(5 minutes later)
Alan Allen was a lifer. He had been in the same position at the school for the past 15 years.
He hated the idea of paying for higher degrees and “not getting shit in return,” so he let it ride.
Alan Allen was a frugal man. He really didn’t care about the money at this point. He was making a decent enough living for being a single guy with inexpensive tastes and no strings anywhere now that his girlfriend of the past 2 years moved to Memphis after meeting and teaming up with a polyamorous couple over the past 6 months on the latest “Sims” game.
“Hey, Alan. How’s life?”
“Not bad. You?”
“He in there?”
“He’s with Marylin right now,” Linda replied with an obvious eye roll. “I’m sure he will be happy for you to interrupt. Actually, he asked me to call him on the phone in 5 minutes regardless.”
Linda called Mr. Marten. Within 10 seconds, the door was open and Mike Martens was head-nodding Marylin Culverson out of his office and into the hallway.
“Come on in, Alan,” Mike said.
Alan walked into the office. (Describe office)
“Have a seat, Alan. How’s life?”
“Decent. Still getting used to the new apartment. Not sleeping too well, but I’ll get used to it.”
“How has the school year been treating you? We’ve been in session now for two full months. Hard to believe.”
“Yeah. I come out of every summer feeling like it’s going to trudge this school year, and it always ends up being the opposite.”
(Quick, dull silence)
“The reason I called you down here, Alan, was over a phone call I just received from Marty Schenklestein’s mom.”
“Now what did I do? Not apologize for him calling me an asshole again?”
“No,” Mike Martens cleared his throat and stifled his laughter. “Marty claimed you called him a “motherfucking bastard piece of shit”. I know we have had battles with this parent for the past two years, but it seemed to escalate ever since Marty came to your class this year.”
“Mike,” Alan shrugged his shoulders, grimace-smiled, and raised his palms to the sky as if he were asking “what the hell are you talking about?”
“I know you are stressed right now with the life changes, and the relationship troubles, and the just quitting smoking and all…”
“I started smoking again last month. I just don’t smoke until after work now. And it sucks.”
“I get it, Alan. Hey…I get IT. However, I need you to, maybe, loosen up a bit.”
“Mike, I didn’t say that to Marty Schenklestein.”
“One of the kids supposedly recorded it on his/her phone while you were arguing with Marty.”
“Ok. I can guarantee you I did NOT…100%…Did…NOT…say that to Marty Schenklestein.”
“Alan, I listened to the recording.”
“I heard Marty Schenklestein say, ‘you look at me like I’m some kinda motherfucking bastard piece of shit’.”
“Ok. I remember him saying that. Yes. Loud and clear.”
“And you are heard saying, ‘I’m not going to disagree with that one.'”
“Ok. So I guess I didn’t call him a ‘motherfucking bastard piece of garbage…”
“Piece of shit.”
———————–(next section started 12/10/19 ———————————————-
Mrs. Margaret didn’t let her guard down to many people. She was stern, but approachable if one was not afraid of her. She was a woman of the church and presented her followings through modeling the behavior instead of always preaching.
Too many of the faculty, Mrs. Margaret was “unapproachable,” “condescending,” “racist,” and “preachy.” Which is why it came to some surprise that Mrs. Margaret and Mr. Crounch seemed friendly with each other.
Everyone knew it had nothing to do with sex. It was obvious. Mrs. Margaret was much older and was an open book. Mrs. Margaret was not a gossip nor was she liar. Mrs. Margaret was actually what most people want to be, but don’t have the discipline to actually works towards it. Instead, those same people perform passive-aggressive character assassinations upon her when their miserable self-images solidify in their minds.
Its the same with everywhere.
And Mrs. Margaret was not the type to care one way or another.
Mr. Crounch was quite the opposite towards most people. Many of the faculty would describe Edwin as “nice,” “quiet,” or “odd”. Alan was unassuming. He kept to himself. He described himself as “in life redux times three”. Those who knew him well, knew he was much different than before. Those who did not know him remained cordial. Others performed passive-aggressive character assassinations while miserable self-images danced in their heads.
“Good morning, Mr. Crounch.”
Mrs. Margaret was standing at his classroom door. She was holding a red leather bound book in her hand.
“Hello, Mrs. Margaret. How was your weekend?”
“Honey, let me tell you…the sermon yesterday was profound. Profound. I just wanted to share something with you that I thought about after I left church yesterday.”
Mr. Crounch wasn’t a churchgoer. He had nothing against it these days. There was a time in Edwin’s life when church was “bullshit” and “for hypocrites,” but that time was long gone. He had no prejudice towards people believing what they want to believe as long as it doesn’t “infringe upon my life.”
He didn’t roll his eyes at churchgoers anymore. It seemed like everyone was anti-church these days. It seemed like everyone hated God.
But it wasn’t really true. It was just trendy for people to say that stuff.
Edwin wasn’t all that trendy, which was another reason this friendship was formed. Whereas Edwin was not always an open book, he was not completely closed either.
“I brought you this book. It was talked about yesterday. I haven’t read it yet, but you know I’m not much of a reader. I’m a watcher and a listener. Occasionally, I’m an asker of questions.”
The binding, slightly worn from age, was beautiful. Prior to opening the cover, he imagined it to be more than a century old.
“I remembered my father talking about this book when I was a young girl. Fortunately, I inherited his library. I can’t believe it was able to find it through all the mess in my basement, but I know that Lord was with me when I went home because I walked right down to box where this book was stored. If you would have asked me the titles of the books in the box, I would have stood there dumbfounded. For some reason, I was guided there.”
Edwin never took Mrs. Margaret to be an exaggerator. Although he didn’t feel the same spiritual connection to religion, he did not see any reason to doubt another’s faith.
(To be continued…)
(1st draft; started on 5-4-16)