Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

No Grace For Part-Timers

Instead of anoth­er stu­dent, Andrea Lawson stood in the door­way. “That’s it for the kids, Dennis. Did you want to talk to me, too?” As the boy’s teacher, she had tak­en it on her­self to man­age the flow of kids for Plaster after he sent Marti back to the office.

Well… you’re not on the list.” Andrea Lawson had grown up with, Joanne, Plaster’s girl­friend and they still called one anoth­er friends, though it seemed like they always had to make an effort to see anoth­er or just hang out. Andrea had gone to a ‘real’ col­lege, had a Master’s Degree and owned more books than clothes. She was quick to talk pol­i­tics and slow about sports. Nice and smart and always a lit­tle dis­tant. Joanne always made an effort to include Andrea and Andrea did her part to play along, obvi­ous­ly appre­ci­at­ing that some­one gave a damn that she might be lone­ly. “Maybe Ed wants to talk to you him­self.”

We spoke a lit­tle yes­ter­day.” In the end, what­ev­er was wrong or off about her was for­giv­en in Plaster’s book, because she cared about peo­ple and did what was right with good rea­sons.

Yeah?”

Nothing too spe­cif­ic.” Truth was, the teacher made him feel ner­vous. Just like Hernandez. Peers who felt just slight­ly more grown up and decent than him. He admired them, respect­ed them, called them friends even, but didn’t, couldn’t feel quite like an equal and he real­ized with sit­u­a­tions like this one, he was learn­ing that he was okay fol­low­ing. “It’s good that he’s here, isn’t it?”

Lucky for me, any­way. I’m just a part-timer, you know?” Plaster stacked up the ques­tion­naires and slipped them into a plain file fold­er.

Andrea opened a small smile for him. “You do all right.” To top it all off, Andrea was more than pret­ty.

Yeah?” He stood up and looked around to be sure he hadn’t for­got­ten any­thing. He used the sleeve of his uni­form to dry off the wet spot on the desk where the skater kid had set the sprin­kler head.

You man­aged to keep Mrs. Schmidt out of here with­out draw­ing your gun.”

Yeah. Well, thanks. Be sure to tell Joanne that when she com­plains about all the extra hours-”

The phone inter­rupt­ed him. “Should I get that?”

Andrea stepped over to the desk. “I’ll take it. You can go.”

Okay.”

Hello.”

Plaster was almost out the door, clear and free-

Wait. Dennis. It’s Mrs. Schmidt. She wants you to stop by her office on your way out.”

Tell her I’m on my way. See ya’ Andrea.”

Bye.”

His clear­est and fastest path through the small library would take him between the kids and the tele­vi­sion blar­ing a video about ocean life. Could he just float through the sharks, seals, coral, and alien squirt­ing, crawl­ing, crea­tures unno­ticed or should he try to pick a slow awk­ward path around the back? He decid­ed to tear the band-aid off at one go and made for the door.

Maybe it was a life lived rife with bad tim­ing, maybe his unlucky star ris­ing in the east, maybe an innate clum­si­ness sprout­ing from sim­ply try­ing too hard, or maybe Plaster wouldn’t access the art of grace for years yet to come, but as he passed in front of the tele­vi­sion a jel­ly­fish stung and killed a small tiger fish. One of the kids gasped ‘Nemo’ and the part-time peace offi­cer turned to see 60 small faces strug­gling to bal­ance the tears and shock of wit­ness­ing that sud­den act of all-too-nat­ur­al vio­lence against all the usu­al rewards of their instinc­tive curi­ousi­ty. Plaster paused and said almost too qui­et­ly to be heard over the bur­bling ocean in the tele­vi­sion behind him, “It’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.”