Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM | 20 comments
It's been a bit more than a year since I put down anything on this blog. When I first started working on this thing it felt like a revelation... a place to explore anything and everything. Really, what it mostly did was function as a distraction from a dead-end job. Then Facebook came along and killed my desire to write here, much the same way television killed the radio star. The really amusing part of this is that I climbed a blog pulpit in my teaching career and got a ton of teachers turned on to it only to drop it once I'd finished bragging about it.

My blog use continues in a weekly fashion now mainly out of an obligation to see it through. Obviously that work isn't here, but at school. Each week I tell my students roughly what I have planned and let them ask me questions. But the pride in delivering new tech to the masses has lost its vigour. Now it's a chore.

I worry that this is a symptom of the text-generation. Everything must be written more quickly, meaning conveyed in a flurry of twitter-ific quotes and pithy Facebook updates. No one wants to sit down anymore and have a genuine conversation, me included.

The worst part is that I know it's wrong but I can't stop doing it. When did I become so wrapped up in the day-to-day operations of my life that I stopped dropping a note about what I was doing? Hell, even that can't be called genuine communication since it's all one-way.

Hrm.

Anyway, I suppose all of that is just a weak explanation for why I don't work on my blog anymore. I'd like to add more depth and imagination to the story, but I can't. Instead, I focus on my wife, my second year in my new home (which is amazing) and attempting to raise a small pup named Toby who insists on stealing shoes and underwear whenever he can. Otherwise, he engages in passive resistance (as seen below).



Can I complain? No, not really. I'm in my third year of teaching and more successful at it than I expected to be. I still figure the rug will get pulled out from under my feet at any moment, but I'm slowly settling into my existence. My greatest fear these days is that I will become bored or unsatisfied with what I'm doing and risk having it all go away.

Can't really do that, though, can I? I have a mortgage after all.

Until then, I still function. My Xbox doesn't, though. It RROD'd last night and I have to drag it across the city to get it going again. Bah, I say to that. BAH.

At least I finally sent off our new laptop to get repaired. That only took me three months. Lightning quick if you compare it to my blog post entry speed. I wonder when the next one will be? Maybe if I get Catherine pregnant I will decide to write once again.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 11:17 AM | 4 comments

I know it's been a while and I know I say that everytime I post, but at least I'm consistent in my inconsistency.

Enough of that.

I stumbled across a Calvin and Hobbes strip from 15 years ago that perfectly sums up the bailout/economy situation. It's too good to pass up.

Despite all this recession, Catherine and I seem to be stable. It's kind of ironic that at one of the lowest points in the country in decades that I'm finally doing well for myself. There are only a couple of weeks left before we move into our new house and we've started the packing. I've discovered that packing is a simple, easy process, however finding a place to KEEP those packed boxes is the challenge. Catherine's side of the bed will be the next to go!
Posted by Parallel
Monday, November 24, 2008 at 11:46 AM | 0 comments
Well, now we've gone and done it.

Catherine and I bought a house yesterday which also happened to me by birthday. Most expensive gift EVER.

But I can hardly complain. It's a great house and Catherine and I are thrilled. If you want to look it up on mls.ca, the number is #E1514634 for our house on Gatwick.

Our house. That's going to take a while to get used to saying. We will be moving in late February so that still gives us plenty of time to get our act together for the move. The house needs little to no work so we get to just move in our limited amount of furniture and make it as cosy as possible.

We need couches and area rugs. And a clue.

Otherwise, things are fine. School is motoring along and I'm exhausted. Not from the job itself which has gotten much easier since first year, but I think from the short days and slow tease of the coming holidays.

Thanks to everyone who sent me a message on Facebook. Very nice of you indeed!

Catherine is going to let me buy a Blu ray player with my birthday money! I'm incredibly spoiled and loving every single minute of it.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, September 01, 2008 at 6:56 PM | 0 comments
Tomorrow is another day and the start of another year. I know most people in this part of the world celebrate New Year's in December, but for as long as I can remember I've always put the start of a new year in September.

Didn't we all do that? September marked a new beginning and a new level for most of us. Primary school, high school, university, college, whatever... it always happened in September. This is a shared experience amongst my friends and family. September happens and so does change.

We meet new people, face new challenges, and try to do better in September. Maybe that's why so many people join the gym at this time of year. The days start to get shorter and cooler as we get down to the serious business of getting ready for winter. My mother has already mentioned buying things for Christmas. I can't get the image of a slightly wet Halloween night (and it's plenty dark by 6pm on October 31st) out of my mind. Leaves on the ground, quite cool, maybe the threat of snow.

And it all starts in September.

This is only the second full year of teaching for me, though in truth I consider it year three as teacher's college was full of its own challenges. When I look back at the state I was in a year ago I can't believe the difference in me. I barely even think about the fact that school is starting again and when I do I'm actually looking forward to seeing friends, colleagues, and students at the school. Maybe it's because I know where the bathrooms are now, what my photocopy code is, the politics of the place. All of the unknowns are known now. I'm still a new teacher, but I'm not a newborn. I have a lot more confidence (and the usual anxieties and fears that I sort of hope never go away because it means that I care and want to do well).

I haven't talked about the coming school year much at all with the people I work with and my only touchstone has been my mentor and friend, Scott. I wish I had spoken with Nicole or Lindsay about second year more to see how they handled it. I take comfort in those kinds of connections because it is a shared experience despite the fact that we may have very different clients.

At best, I'm happy. Happier than I've been in a long time. I'm not fully certain about how things are going to work this year, but at least I'm prepared for it. I don't mind the challenge at this point, though I certainly wouldn't argue with another couple days of vacation to mull it all over.

Best of luck to all the September beginnings happening this week. Especially Jamie and his course. You'll make us all even more proud of you. Good luck.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 4:27 PM | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usRecently, after battling with many used DVD outlets to no avail, I finally managed to buy the last two seasons of Quantum Leap from Amazon.com (which is the best place to buy from... not .ca... but .com. Much cheaper).

Why is this a noteworthy achievement? Well, despite being a cheesy late 80s/early 90s TV sci-fi series about a man who jumps back and forth within his own lifetime fixing things that went wrong, it is also my own personal white whale.

This show represents something special to me. I remember when it first aired I was sitting in my basement at Skye Place. My dad wanted to watch the show and I wanted to stay up late. The first episode was two hours long and would allow me an hour longer awake than normal. I wasn't expecting much, but very quickly I was hooked. It was just about the coolest show I had ever seen.

I was genuinely thrilled to see the weird situations in which Sam Beckett would be thrown. I was stunned when he was a woman, mystified when he was a monkey, and just plain curious about many of the other oddball moments. Not only was the nature of the show something special, but it was who I got to watch it with.

My father and I share many things, but one thing we've often seen eye-to-eye on was our love of certain shows. This was a ritual to me to be able to see this show with him. Another show that was similar in this regard was Star Trek: The Next Generation. But Quantum Leap represented an earlier version of me that just loved the unexpected and the fun that the show had. I don't know that it would survive in the guilt-ridden angsty world of TV today as Sam was just so good-natured, but for a kid growing up it was amazing.

So how did it become a white whale?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe last season aired in 1991/1992. I didn't know it was the last season at the time and for whatever reason I was out of the house the night the last episode aired. I wasn't as conscious of air dates or even what seasons of television were so I didn't think anything of it. But when I got home, my dad told me that it had ended.

And he didn't tape it for me.

I'm still ticked to this day about that. My best friend at the time, Tom Beisel, saw it and repeated to me what happened. I know what happened, but I've never seen that final episode. This has bothered me for more than 16 years. Think about it. That's a huge amount of time to have wanted to see something. It's more than half my life.

When it was on in re-runs, they stopped showing it just before the finale. They're airing it again now on another channel, but odds are I'd miss it again. I tried to find it for download once the internet finally could accomplish something like that and only recently did I spot it.

Of course it doesn't matter now. I own the DVD. That final episode is sitting on my TV shelf in the next room. I could go over right now, pick it up, put it on and see the episode I've been hunting for 16 years.

But I'm not going to do it.

There are few things in life we have left to experience for the 'first time' by your early 30s. Many of my friends are married, most have fallen in love (and all the fun stuff with it), and a few have started to have kids. I made a list once of the things that I want to do before I die. I put things on it that I never expected to do, hence I would live forever. I wrote 'front row at a U2 concert' and managed it not once, but twice since then. I left the first concert and thought "well, I've had a good run" and expected to be hit by a bus.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWatching this episode is on that list. In fact, there isn't much else that I can think of before the end of my life as I know it that seems important. I almost feel obligated to hold on to this show until I'm on my deathbed (ideally in my early 100s).

That seems silly though, doesn't it? Instead, I've decided that my life as I know it will cease belonging only to me the day that I have children. Catherine has my heart, but it will be my kids who own my life. Catherine isn't pregnant and though we're talking about kids soonish, I know how I'll spend the night before I become a father. I'm going to watch that episode. I'm going to finish what I started with my own father and use it as a starting point to my own entry to fatherhood.

Maybe it's sentimental nonsense. A few of you are probably thinking "all this over a TV show?" But for those of you who get me, you'll get why this is important to me.

Sam Beckett would understand.

"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator - and vanished.

"He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.

"And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap... will be the leap home."
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 11:34 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday morning was hot and thick with summer. The children entered the classroom with hopeful eyes that turned to downcast glances as they spied the bulk of Mrs. Borcherding behind the desk. She rarely rose from her chair, and, as if to balance her immobility, the children were confined to their desks, Mr. Kennan's assignment check-out cards and independent work centers abandoned. At each recess Terry was mobbed with children seeking some small preview. Uncharacteristically for him, the attention did not seem to please him. He sought the far reaches of the playground and stood throwing pebbles at a picket fence.

Before school on Thursday, the rumor spread that Mr. Kennan's Volvo had been seen on Main Street the night before. Monica Davis had been eating downtown at the Embers Restaurant when she was sure she had seen Mr. Kennan drive by. Sara took it upon herself to call her classmates with the information and happily accepted the reprimands from irate parents who did not appreciate early morning phone calls from fourth graders. By eight-fifteen, forty-five minutes before the bell rang, most of the class was on the playground. It was Bill who volunteered to go into the school and check out the situation.

Three minutes later he returned. One look at his crestfallen face told most of them what they needed to know. "Well?" insisted Brad.

"It's Borcherding," said Bill.

"Maybe he's not here yet," ventured Monica, but few believed it and the girls wilted under their reprimanding stares.

When it came time to file in, reality sat before them in the same strained, purple-print dress that she had worn on Tuesday. The day dragged by with that indescribable, open-windowed languor that only the last day of school can engender. The morning was filled with busy work made all the more maddening by the echoing emptiness of the rest of the school. Most classes were gone on class picnics. Mr. Kennan had long ago outlined his plan of hiking all the way to Riverfront Park to spend the entire day in "an orgy of playing softball and eating goodies." Specific children had volunteered to bring specific goodies. But there was no question of that now. When the students glanced up from their work to acknowledge a command from Mrs. Borcherding, there was a common look in their eyes. They shared a dawning realization that the world was not stable; that there were trapdoors to reality which could be sprung without warning. It was a lesson that all of the children instinctively had known once, but had been foolish enough to forget temporarily while encircled with the protective ring of magic.

The day crawled to noon. The class ate in the almost empty lunchroom, sharing it with only a first grade class being punished and five slobbering members of Miss Carter's self-contained EMR class.

Shouts on the playground were strangely subdued. No one approached Terry. If he was nervous, he did not show it as he stood leaning against a tetherball pole with his arms folded.

In the afternoon they checked in their rented books—Brad and Donald had to pay for their lost or damaged books—and sat in silent rows as Mrs. Borcherding laboriously took inventory. They knew that the last hour and a half of school would consist of scrubbing desks, clearing the walls of posters, and covering the bookshelves with paper. All these activities were useless, the children knew, because in a week or two the custodians would move everything out of the room to clean again anyway. They knew that Mrs. Borcherding would wait until the last possible moment to hand out their report cards, hinting all the while that some of them did not pass—or certainly did not deserve to. They also knew that everyone would pass.

At five minutes past two, Mrs. Borcherding ponderously stood and looked at the twenty-seven children sitting silently in their strangely clean desks. Tall stacks of books surrounded them like defensive sandbags.

"All right," said Mrs. Borcherding, "you may go out to recess."

No one moved except Brad who stood up, looked around in confusion at his seated classmates, and then sat back down with a foolish grin. Mrs. Borcherding flushed, started to speak, checked herself, and dropped heavily into her chair.

"Terry, I believe that you had something to say," she wheezed. She glanced up at the clock on the wall—it was not running—and then down at the alarm clock which the children had covertly continued to wind. "You have thirteen minutes, young man. Try not to waste their entire recess time."

"Yes'm," said Terry and stood. He crossed to the long bulletin board and raised his hand to the triangular pattern of magic marker mountains which ran near the southern coast of the sketched-in continent. He said nothing. The children nodded silently. Terry dropped his hand and went to the front of the room. His corduroy pants made a whik-wik sound as he walked.

Once at the front of the room, he turned and faced his classmates. Sluggish currents of heat, the drone of insects, and distant shouts came through the open windows. Terry cleared his throat. His lips were white but his high, soft voice was firm as he began to speak.

***
Raul was up the hill from the two lizards who're guarding the door to that place where the Wizards was keeping Dobby and Gernisavien. Remember, this was about the time that that big Wizard was getting his knife to maybe cut Gernisavien open to get the key. Anyway, Raul's fingers was froze, but he knew he'd have to kill the lizards real quick or he wouldn't get a second chance. The snow was blowing all around him and it was getting dark real fast.

The lizards were hunkered over and sort of mumbling to each other. They were wearing these real thick parka-like coats and Raul knew that if he didn't shoot just right that the arrow wouldn't get through all that stuff. Especially if they was wearing armor too.

So Raul got two arrows out. One he stuck point first in the snow and the other he goes and notches. His hands feel like he's wearing thick gloves but he ain't. He's worried that he can't feel nothing with his fingers and maybe the arrow'll let go too soon and that'll tip off the lizards. But he tries not to think about that and he draws the bowstring back as far as he can. Remember, this is a special bow—it come down the clan line from his old man who was war chief of all the centaurs and nobody 'cept for Raul can pull it all the way back.

He does. And he has to hold it that way while he takes aim. His muscles are freezing and for a second he begins to shake up and down, but he takes a big, deep breath and holds it steady ... the bow ... on that first lizard, the one who's standing closest to the door. It's real dark now but there's a little bit of red light coming from around that door.

Swiish! Raul lets her go. And no sooner than he lets the first one fly but than he's notchin' the second arrow and pulling back on it. The first lizard—the one nearest the door?—he makes a funny little sound as the arrow gets him smack dab in the throat and sticks out the other side. But the other lizard, he's looking out the other way and when he turns to see what's going on—swiish—there's an arrow growin' out of the back of his neck too and then he falls, but he slides over the edge and keeps on going down to the frozen ice about two miles below, but neither one of them made no sound.

And then Raul's coming down the hill on all four legs, sort of slipping and sliding and making straight for the door. Well, it's a real big metal door and there ain't no doorknob or nothing and it's locked. But the first lizard—the one who's laying dead in the snow—he's got this ring of keys with about sixteen big keys on it. And one of them fits. But it's lucky that he wasn't the one who fell over the edge, is all.

So Raul sticks this key in and the door slides back sideways and there's this long tunnel going off straight ahead 'til it turns and it's all lit with red light and sort of spooky. He walks into the tunnel and maybe he done something wrong or maybe there's an electric eyeball or something 'cause suddenly these bells are going off like an alarm.

"Well, I done it now," Raul thinks to hisself and takes off galloping down the hallway full speed. He'd put his bow back by this time and he's got his sword out.

Meanwhile, you remember that Gernisavien was all strapped down to this steel table and there was a Wizard standing over her fixing to slit open her belly to get at that farcaster key? He had the knife out—it was sort of like a doctor's knife, it was so sharp you could cut butter with it—and he was standing there just sort of deciding where to make the cut when all the bells went off.

"It's Raul!" yells Dobby who's hanging there on the wall and who's still alive.

The Wizard, he turns real fast and throws some switches and all these TV screens light up. On some of the screens you see lizard soldiers running and others you see a couple of Wizards sort of looking around and on one you see Raul running down this hallway.

The Wizard says something in Wizard talk to these other guys in robes in the room and then they go running out of the room together. So now Dobby and Gernisavien are all alone in there, but there ain't nothing they can do except to watch the TV because they're all tied up.

Raul, he's coming around this bend and all of the sudden here are a bunch of lizards in front of him and they've got crossbows and he's just got his sword. But they're more surprised than he is and he puts his head down and charges full speed into them and before they can get their crossbows loaded and everything he's in there swinging and there are lizard heads and tails and stuff flying around.

Now Gernisavien can see this on the TV and she and Dobby are cheering and everything but they can see the other TVs too, and the halls is full of lizards and the Wizards are coming too. So Dobby, he begins to pull and pull against the chains as hard as he can. Remember, his arms are stronger than they look like we found out when he held up part of Tartuffel's Treehouse that time.

"What're you doing?" goes Gernisavien.

"Tryin' to get at that!" goes Dobby and he points at the table full of test tubes and bottles and all the chemical stuff where the Wizards had been working.

"What for?" goes Gernisavien.

"It's nucular fuel," Dobby says, "and that blue stuff is anti-gravity stuff like in the sky galleon. If it gets all mixed up..." And Dobby keeps pulling and pulling until the veins stood up out of his head, but finally one of the chain things breaks and Dobby's hanging down by one arm but he's too tired to keep going.

"Wait a minute," goes Gernisavien. She's watching the TV.

Raul was killing lizards this way and that and he got to within maybe a hundred feet or so to where Dobby and Gernisavien's being kept, but he don't know that and suddenly here come these four or five Wizards with their fire guns. Raul, he barely gets his shield up in time. As it is they scorched off some of his hair and mane and burned up all of his arrows and stuff on his back. And they burned up his daddy's bow, too.

So Raul starts going backwards and he knows they're trying to cut him off 'cause he can see the lizards running down these side hallways. So he turns and gallops as fast as he can but the Wizards are coming down the main way and when they get a clear shot he'll be a goner. So Raul stops and picks up a crossbow and he sort of keeps them back by shooting their way.

All of the sudden he's in this big room where the Wizards keep their flying platforms. And Raul goes and jumps the railing and lands on one and starts to look at the controls. He pushes this button and the wall rolls up—it's the door on the side of the mountain. Raul looks outside and sees the fresh air and stars and everything. And when he looks back all he can see is doorways full of lizards and here come the Wizards with their fire guns and everything and Raul knows that if he stays he can't dodge them all. Raul's not so much afraid of getting killed as he is of getting hurt real bad and having to stay there all chained up like Gernisavien and Dobby.

So Raul, he pushes the buttons until the flying platform starts flying and the Wizards are blasting away with their fire guns, but he's already outside in the night air and they can't get a good shot at him as he flies away sort of zig-zagging.

Now back up the hallway, Gernisavien and Dobby've been watching all this on the TV. Dobby's face, it always looks kind of sad but now it looks sadder than ever.

"Can you get your other arm loose?" goes Gernisavien.

Dobby just shakes his head no. He ain't got no leverage.

Gernisavien, she knows that the key's still in her stomach. And she knows that the Wizards're planning to use it to get at all those other worlds in the Web of Worlds. And maybe the humans could fight them off but it looks like it'd be real hard what with the Wizards coming on them by surprise and all. Gernisavien remembers all the times they talked about when they would get to the farcaster and all the planets they'd go to together and all the people they'd see.

"It's been fun, hasn't it?" goes Dobby.

"Yeah," says Gernisavien. And then she says. "Go ahead. Do it."

Dobby knows what she means. He smiles and the smile, it's sort of sad and sort of happy at the same time. Then he leans out real far until he's standing on the wall sideways. That's when they hear the Wizard's footsteps in the hallway. So Dobby starts swinging his right arm—the one with the chain hanging loose from it—and then he brings it down on the nucular fuel and other things on the table and smashes them all together.

Raul is five or six miles away when he sees the mountain blow up. The top just sort of came off and the whole thing went up in the air like a volcano. Raul's just high enough and just far enough away that he didn't get blown to pieces with it. And he knew who did it. And why.

Now I don't know what else he was thinking about. But he was all by himself now. And he flew around up there alone while all the lava runs down the mountains and sparks shoot up into the air. And there's nowhere for him go now. He can't get the farcaster to work all by himself. Gernisavien had the key and Dobby was the only one to knew how to turn it on.

Raul stayed up there in the dark for a long time. Then he turned the platform around and flew away. And that's the end.

***
There was a silence. Children sat stone still and watched as Terry went back to his desk. His corduroys went whik-wik. As he sat down, several of the girls began sob. Many of the boys looked down or raised their desk lids to hide their own tears.

Mrs. Borcherding was at a loss. Then she turned to the clock, turned back angrily to the alarm clock, and raised it between her and the class.

"See what you did, young man," she snapped. "You've wasted the class's entire recess and put us behind schedule on our clean-up. Quickly everyone, get ready to scrub your desks!"

The children rubbed at their eyes, took deep breaths, and obediently set to the final tasks that stood between them and freedom.


THE END
Posted by Parallel Labels:
Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 11:00 AM | 0 comments
From the estate atop the hill, the view of the river had been largely occluded by late-spring foliage. But from the wide veranda doors one could easily watch the boy and the man climbing the verdant curve of lawn. They walked slowly. The man was talking; the boy was looking up at him.

The man sat down on the grass and beckoned for the boy to do likewise. The boy shook his head and took two steps backward. The man spoke again. His hands were stretched out, fingers splayed wide. He leaned forward in an earnest gesture, but the boy took another two steps back. When the man rose, the boy turned and began walking quickly down the hill. The man took a few steps after him but stopped when the boy broke into a jog.

In less than a minute, the boy was out of sight around the bend in the railroad tracks and the man stood alone on the hill.

Kennan drove the Volvo down the narrow side street and stopped opposite Terry's house. He sat in the car for a long minute with his hands on the steering wheel. As Kennan reached for the Volvo's door handle, Mr. Bester came out of the house and stepped down from the high porch into the side yard. The man wore baggy bib overalls and no shirt. As he bent to peer under the house for something, his gray stubble caught the light. Kennan paused for a second and then drove on.

At two a.m. Kennan was still loading the books into cardboard cartons. As he passed in front of the screened window he thought he heard a noise from across the street. He put down the stack of books, walked to the screen, and looked down through streetlight glare and leaf shadows.

"Terry?"

There was no response. The shadows on the lawn did not move and a few minutes later Kennan resumed his packing.

He had planned to leave very early Sunday morning, but it was almost ten before the car was loaded. It was strangely cold, and a few drops of rain fell from leaden skies. His landlord was not home—in church probably—so Kennan dropped the key in his mailbox.

He drove around the town twice and past the school four times before he cursed softly and headed west on the main highway.

Traffic was very light on Interstate 55 and the few cars there tended to drive with their lights on. Occasionally rain would spatter the windshield. He stopped for breakfast on the west side of St. Louis. The waitress said that it was too late for breakfast so he had a hamburger and coffee. The storm light outside made the cafe seem dark and cold.

It was pouring by the time he passed through downtown St. Louis. The tricky lane changes made Kennan miss seeing the Gateway Arch as he crossed the Mississippi. The river was as gray and turbulent as the sky.

Once in Illinois, the Volvo headed east on Interstate 70, the trip settled down to the hiss of tires on wet pavement and the quick metronome of the wipers. This soon depressed Kennan and he switched on the radio. It surprised him a bit to hear the roars and shouts of the Indianapolis 500 being broadcast. He listened to it as great trucks whooshed past him in the drizzle. Within half an hour the announcer in Indianapolis was describing the storm clouds coming in from the west, and Kennan turned off the radio in the sure knowledge that the race would be called.

In silence he drove eastward.

***
On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, Mr. Kennan's fourth graders filed into their classroom to find Mrs. Borcherding installed behind the teacher's desk. All of them knew her from times she had substituted for their regular teachers in years past. Some of the children had known her as their first grade teacher during her last year before retirement.

Mrs. Borcherding was a swollen mass of fat, wrinkles, and wattles. Her upper arms hung loose and flapped when she gestured. Her legs were bloated masses of flesh straining against support stockings. Her arms, hands, and face were liberally sprinkled with liver spots and her whole body gave off a faint aroma of decay that soon permeated the room. The children sat with their hands folded on their desks in unaccustomed formality and faced her silently.

"Mr. Kennan has been called away," said the apparition in a voice that seemed too phlegmy to be human. "I believe there was an illness in the family. At any rate, I will be your teacher for these last three days of school. I want it understood that I expect everyone in this class to work. It does not matter to me whether there are three days school left or three hundred. Nor am I interested in whether you've had to work as hard as you should have up to now. You will do your best work right up until the time you are dismissed on Thursday afternoon. Your report curds have already been filled out, but don't think that you can start fooling around now. Mr. Eppert has given me the authority to change grades as I see fit. And that includes conduct grades. It is still possible that some of you may live to be retained in fourth grade if I see the necessity during the next few days. Now, are there any questions? No questions? Very good, you may get out your arithmetic books for a drill."

***
During morning recess, Terry was besieged with kids demanding information. He stood as mute as a rock against the crashing waves of curiosity and desperation. The one piece of information he did impart caused the children to turn and babble at one another like extras in a melodramatic crowd scene.

It was mid-afternoon before someone worked up nerve to confront Mrs. Borcherding. Naturally it was Sara who went forward. In the thick stillness of the handwriting exercise, Sara's tiny voice was as high and urgent as a bee's distracting buzz. Mrs. Borcherding listened, frowned, and focused her scowl on the front row as Sara went back to her seat.

"Terry Bester."

"Yes'm," said Terry.

"Mmmmm ... Sally says that you ... ahh ... have something to share with us," began Mrs. Borcherding. The class started to giggle at the mistake with Sara's name but then froze as Mrs. Borcherding's little eyes darted around to find the source of the noise. "All right, since the class evidently has been expecting this for some time, we will get this ... story ... out of the way right now and then go on to social studies."

"No, ma'm," said Terry softly.

"What was that?" Mrs. Borcherding looked long and hard at the boy, obviously ready to rise out of her chair at any sign of defiance. Terry sat at polite attention, his hands folded on his notebook. Only in the firm set of the thin lips was there any sign of impertinence.

"It would be convenient to get this out of the way now," repeated the substitute.
"No, ma'am," repeated Terry and continued quickly before the shocked fat lady could say anything. "I was told that I was s'posed to tell it on the last day. That's Thursday. That's what he said."

Mrs. Borcherding stared down at Terry. She started to speak, closed her mouth with an audible snap, and then began again. "We'll use your regular Thursday recess time. Right before clean up. Those people who wish to miss recess can stay inside to listen. The others will be allowed to go outside and play."

"Yes, ma'am," said Terry and returned to his handwriting drill.
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