“They turned down our superintendent’s suspension for Eriq,” the boss announced loudly. “We didn’t enter enough of his previous infractions onto tha system, so they didn’t have ’em on record. We gotta remember to do that!”
“Great,” said Vicki, our secretary. “What are we gonna do with him? I mean really! And his motha! Uggh!”
“SHE’S AN ENABLAH!” Boomed Dean Flint. “She’s an enablah! When someone has an enablah, it’s like shoveling defecation against the tiiiide!”
Dean Flint, the eccentric and intimidating former NFL prospect, raised in the projects when projects housed the Irish, has a passion for SAT words and unpredicatable synapse pathways. Turning towards me, he mock-whispered, “I use the word defecation so the kids can learn some vocabulary’! Some of these kids have Reverse-Amnesia! So when I talk, I always use the high verbiage!”
I chuckled as I stirred my coffee.
Flint is a big “Union Guy”. He was the second person who addressed the faculty on my very first day of work in this strange and terrible place. And he made quite an impression.
First the principle spoke. The teachers paid her no mind at all as they caught up with each other over their summer vacations. It sounded like a bar on a Friday night in that auditorium. And everyone seemed to be sitting in the rear, leaving a great sea of empty seats in front of the principal as she spoke.
Something’s not right here, I sensed during those first few minutes.
That’s when the amorphous blob sitting in front of me rotated her head around like an owl and belched, “If there is one thing you’ll learn here, it’s how to drink.”
When the principal could bleed the rock no more with her hemming and hawing, Flint finally walked up and grabbed the microphone from her. He just stood there at first, waiting, with his hands on his hips. Then he raised the mic to his chest and burst the loudspeakers with his consonants, “I’m waiTing For all adminisTration To LEAVE! I’m not sPeaKing unTil AWLL adMiniStration ahh ouT of tha Rome!”
Seriously. What the hell is going on in this place? I thought.
When administration had finally waddled their way up the ramp and were officially and procedurally out of the auditorium, Flint began. “REMEMBAH! Never! Volunteer! For Anything! I repeat! Nevervolunteerforanything! Y’understaaand? Don’t let’em bully ya!”
Where am I, I thought. On the Waterfront?
I was a little scared of Flint that day, but now I enjoy sharing an office with the lovable ol’ lug. And I do love the guy. I love him as ferociously as I can’t understand a single thing he says.
The kids call him Barney Rubble, and his resemblance to the cartoon character really is uncanny. He’s built like a giant bowling pin and he always has an alarmed look on his face, as if he is about to beat you with a tire iron because you just rear-ended his Cadillac. The walls shudder when he speaks. Even when he tries to whisper he still sounds like a hoarse gorilla as he bathes your face in a steamy fog.
“Yeah! These people are walkin’ around measurin’ bulletin boards with a rulah!” He was raving the other day about the quality-control visitors we had in the building recently. “It’s okay, though! It’s okay! Because I use Differentiated Instruction every day! Visual! Auditory! Kinesthetic! Tactile! Okay? First, I scream at ’em when they walk into the room! That’s audio! Visual, is when I…” He stopped suddenly, because the phone rang and the only person who was listening to him had to answer it, so I took the opportunity to walk over to the office fridge and relieve it of its pound cake. As I leaned down I caught sight of an arresting image on the computer of one of my colleagues.
“What is it?” asked Vicki.
“It’s a guy with a tire tread on his chest who’s been run over by a car or something,” I replied.
“Don’t think less a’ me, Pistol!” Laughed Dean Jake, who was doing some web research for his Health class. The topic of the day was automobile safety. Lesson 1, don’t lie down in the middle of the street.
“Oh, that?” Said Vicki as if it was nothing. “Did you see the one with the people ripped apart?”
“No,” I replied.
“Wanna see it, Pistol?” Said Jake, a little too eagerly.
I looked at my pound cake, “Ehh, I don’t think so.”
Vicki went on, “Yeah, Betti couldn’t look at it either. But you know, when I was eight, I was playing out front of our apahtment building with my friend.” She smiled as she lost herself in her memories. “I can still remember him. Wearing a blue shirt with stahs on it. And then his ball went into the street.”
“He got hit so hawd, Pistol. It was a truck. Owall I remembah wuh his brains in tha gutta. I can still see ’em.”
I was at a loss but I felt like I had to say something. “You saw this when you were eight?”
“Oh Pistol, I’ve seen so many things. Where I grew up, there wuh a lot of gangs. The mob. Mob stuff. I saw a man with his head bashed in. I saw a guy get fished out of tha river with eels wrapped around him. I didn’t know what it looked like when a skull gets cracked open back then, ya know? So when Betti said she couldn’t look at those cah wrecks, I thought, I don’t know, maybe God prepared me to see.”
I was chewing my cake and trying to process what I had just heard when I got distracted by Jake again, “Hey, look at this! The deer went straight through the windshield! Hey Flint, ya wanna see?”
“Nope!” Flint roared without hesitation. “I don’t need that monoslobbic verbiage!”