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.”