I didn’t have a lesson plan for today because I was too busy getting drunk last night. I probably should have just taken a sick day, but I didn’t. You know, for the kids. So when I got to the office this morning, I crossed my fingers, crossed my legs, crossed my eyes, and prayed that I would be left alone long enough to slap something together in time for my Biology class.
I guess it was asking for too much to have Trouble to stay away for longer than 15 minutes though, because as soon as I uncapped my pen a safety agent came barrelling through the door with a scowling teenager in tow. Luckily for me, Dean Veronica stepped in to deal with it.
The girl was furious that a boy had teased her in class about her tongue ring by announcing that tongue rings are only good for one (filthy) purpose. It seemed like a pretty open and shut case: find the boy, let him apologize, and everyone could go on about their day. But that would, of course, have been too easy, too peaceful, too sane.
When the boy came into the office, he was also furious because the girl had apparently told him that maybe it was his mother who used tongue rings for that purpose.
Of course when the boy was confronted about starting the whole thing in the first place, he became fiercely defensive, claiming that “ever’one in Jamaica know dat tongue ring ONLY fur sukkin dick.”
“See, now that’s just stupid,” said Dean Veronica. “Maybe that’s how it is in Jamaica, but this is America. And people wear tongue rings for other reasons here. Okay? Hell, I had a tongue piercing at one time too, and it wasn’t for whatever you said. I don’t know, maybe it’s because you’re a male that you can’t see how degrading that comment is to a female. But trust me. It is.”
The boy sat with his back to the girl and Veronica, arms folded, facing the wall. Veronica turned to the girl, “But it’s also highly inappropriate to talk about his mother like that. Taking it there just isn’t going to help matters, my dear.”
The girl – also of Caribbean persuasion – said, “Lissen, if his mudda dead, den I apologize. But if she alive, den I don’t!”
I was trying to stay focused on my photosynthesis lesson plan, but it was tough with all this good dialogue going on next to me. Anyway, I don’t know how she did it, but Veronica eventually got rid of both of them and shut the door with a sigh. But a shut door is made to be opened, which is what three policemen did about 20 seconds later. They literally came tumbling into the office, almost on top of each other, as if they had been eavesdropping on the other side of the door and someone had opened it unexpectedly. They kind of dusted themselves off and then as their radios crackled, and their hands rested on their gun belts, they announced loudly, “We’re lookin’ for Perry Richards!”
“What’d he do?” Asked my boss.
“He was just fuckin’ screamin’ and cursin’ at us outta one o’ ya windohs while we wuh pahked out front.”
“How you know it’s Perry?”
“I’d know that fuckin’ voice anywaya.”
It’s true, he does have a distinctively incisive tone. And it doesn’t help his cause that he’s also bat-shit crazy. He wasn’t crazy enough to stick around though, because no one could find the little bastard. So for the next twenty minutes we had cops tromping up and down our halls, scouring the building for this kid. This is the same guy whom I once stumbled upon in a stairwell landing, repeatedly kicking a boy who was curled up on the floor like a civil rights demonstrator. As he kicked, Perry was screaming, “WHERE’S THE PHONE! I TOLD YOU YOU BETTA BRING ME THAT FUCKIN PHONE!”
Kidz. I tell ya.
The cops eventually left and the 2nd period bell rang (yep, we’re only through first period so far). I must have come up with something to get me through my Biology class because I was walking down the hall to my class when I saw Mr Lopez coming the other way. He looked terrible. His appendix had actually burst at school a couple weeks ago and he had been rushed to the hospital and I hadn’t seen him since.
“Mr. Lopez! How you doin’? You feelin’ better?” I was glad to see him. He’s a good guy. A rare breed. Chilean, I think.
“Yeah. Yeah. You know, I came back yesterday and I was really going hard, because you know, when you are here, it’s rush rush. And I thought I would be fine…”
“But you’re not.”
“But I am not,” he said as he clutched his abdomen, beads of sweat covering his face.
“Oh man. You have to take it easy.”
“I am having the surgery on the fifth. And that’s good because that is the day of the Quality Review.” He grinned through the pain.
The Quality Review is when a whole bunch of people from the city and the state invade the building and audit our records, visit classrooms, stick probes in uncomfortable places, yank our nuts and tell us to cough. It ain’t pretty, and it’s the last stage of the decision-making process concerning the impending closure of our school. It’s a big deal. And it sucks.
People like me and Dave don’t really give a shit though. We’re kind of hoping they shut the school down so we can finally move on with our lives and fall into something less flesh-eating. But a lot of the other staff members at Patriot actually graduated from Patriot themselves, as did their children. Their grand-children don’t go there though because – as they say – “it ain’t like it used ta be.” Nevertheless, this place is their world – their whole shitty world.
“Who’s gonna hire a 47 year old teacha’ nearing top salary?” I heard one woman exclaim as she tried to wrap her head around a world without Patriot High School.
But back to the point at hand: Unless I was hearing things, Mr. Lopez just said that he is glad that he is going to spend a day having an exploded, infected bodily organ ripped out of his gut, because that would be better then spending one single day as a teacher at Patriot High School. And although I was stunned at the notion, there was probably a look in my eyes at that moment that said, “Even though that is the most fucked up thing I have ever heard, we both know that you are right. Which makes it even more fucked up. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
He tried to correct himself, “No no, I’m not saying that the surgery is good. I’m just saying that.. I.. I…”
I put my hand on his shoulder and nodded.
He leaned in closer, “Look,” he said as the beads of sweat grew larger. “You don’t understand. Last year’s Quality Review was HORRIBLE. They were in my room all the time, going everywhere. And they were asking for things, forms, records, interviewing me.” His head dropped as he stared through the floor. “Horrible..”
Indeed it was horrible. And yet it was perfect.