Not Their Real Names

 

From www.astorservices.org
From http://www.astorservices.org

Mrs. Steinbeck taught ninth grade English; Mr. taught social studies across the hall.

They were constantly feuding.

While we were diagramming sentences, she would moon about, saying things like, “If only I’d met Ted Danson before marrying Mr. Steinbeck.”

During tornado drills, we crouched in the hallway with textbooks over our heads, while Mrs. Steinbeck dropped bombs. “It would take a pretty big wind to lift you up, wouldn’t it, Mr. Steinbeck?” she yelled, trying to get a rise out of him. He narrowed his eyes and tightened his jaw, but always kept his cool.

Then one day, Mr. marched right into our class, raging that Mrs. had stolen his desk chair.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, shrugging. “I’ve had this chair since the beginning of the year.”

She tried to continue our lesson.

“I know my chair,” he huffed through clenched teeth. “If I pick it up, the back right caster falls off.”

Mrs. Steinbeck sat very still. Nobody breathed.

“If that’s really your chair, Mrs. Steinbeck, you wouldn’t mind if I tried picking it up, would you?”

Mrs. Steinbeck stood very, very deliberately, staring him in the eye all the while.

He grabbed and hoisted it triumphantly in the air.

It hung there for a long, silent moment.

Then, lo and behold, the back right caster hit the floor.

Nobody said a word as he wheeled it out the door.

Now, back to dangling participles.

Seventh Grade

Summers were the antidote
For wounds inflicted by the words and silence
Of the cruelest people I know:
Children,
Blissfully unaware of empathy or mercy.

I donned a skirt I’d never worn–
Ill-fitting, handmade, and hand-me-downed–
Perhaps an attempt to play a different role in this year’s performance.

It was inappropriate armor for my return to battle.

On the front porch,
My father tried to coax a smile,
Or at least turn my sullen gaze toward the camera.

From there, I walked alone,
Clutching a bag lunch and a binder
Too grown to admit fear
Past the smokers
And knots of cool kids
To the front doors.