OH MY GAWD! Check this shizz out….
Wednesday, 5th period. Last class of a long day. Students are restless, cranky, and I teach an elective academic college prep class. Do you get the oxymoronic implication here? The class is something you elect, i.e. choose, but it is academic, i.e. not fun. I have a tough row to hoe, but don’t underestimate me. I am a tough ho on this row.
“Hi! How is everybody? Great! You don’t need to answer me for me to know that you are great, and that’s great, so, yeah…great! Guess what day it is?! Huh? I can’t hear you! OK, I’ll tell you! It’s Current Events day! Is everyone prepared with the current events assignment? You, know, the one I assigned last Friday? Yeah, that’s right! Great!”
Trayvonne pushes his chair back and looks at me seriously and meaningfully. “I gotta use it,” he informs us all. He uncurls his 6″6 frame and saunters off towards the bathroom.
I take the opportunity to cajole my young academicians into a modicum of attentiveness. Just over half the class has done their homework, which is not too bad. I am a big believer that knowledge is power and that the ignorant get taken advantage of, so I really push a basic awareness of the world outside of my students’ realms of interest, i.e. the world outside their pants. They settle down, get their current events summaries out, and prepare to present them to the class, which we do TMZ style.
Time passes. I go table to table, spouting off about concepts like “relevance” and “analysis” and “divergent thinking.”
Diana says she likes my boots.
Trayvonne finally comes back in. He looks weirdozombiepopeyed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have let him “use it”. What exactly was ‘it’? I forgot to ask.
“Trayvonne! Why do you look all…like that? What’s wrong with you?”
“Nuthin’. Nuthin’ a-tall. This is how I always look when I see a fat white man strangle a rat.”
Trayvonne: Look right there. A rat.
Diana: That’s not a rat. It’s a teacher.
Trayvonne: I know that’s a teacher! Whatchu think?! I don’t know the difference between a old teacher and a rat!
Viridiana: Oh, hell no! Shit! I did not sign up for this shit! Get that shit away from me! I don’t need no rat shit, oh hell no!
Viridiana kicks over her chair and jumps on her desk.
Rayshundria: Oooh, Miss! One time, when I was like four, there was this rat, and my momma threw a pink spike-heel shoe at him, and that spike went right through it’s eye! It’s eye, Miss! Miss! Did you hear me? One time…
Me: Bai? Bai, are you ok? Don’t cry! It’s all right! Ty, tell Bai not to cry!
Viridiana: Oh, shit! What kind of shitty school is this! I didn’t sign up for shit like this! Oh, hell no!
Jesus, Juanita and Juneda got to the hall to check it all out. They want front row seats to the spectacle. Juanita and Juneda just got back in school after being suspended for a particularly action-packed girl fight they held to see which one of them would ‘be with’ Jesus. Juneda won, but while she was suspended, he ‘got with’ Priscilla Ortez, so that’s all over now, and Juanita and Juneda “are so over it” now.
Juanita: That ain’t no real rat.
Juneda: That white man threw it at that gay kid. It ain’t real.
Diana: Who are you calling gay?Johnny? He’s my boo! Johnny’s gay?
I go to check it out. I’m very brave, considering that rats are a definite possibility in my school. Big, hairy, malaria-rabies filled rats. They have been spotted before, by reputable sources, and my room is in a portable…notoriously full of cracks and holes. I may not have shared this with you before, but I’m not too fond of rats.
The white teacher they are talking about is Col. Scruggs, the ROTC commander. He affectionately calls everyone, of any race, ‘maggots’. When he found out I was a vegetarian, he left a quarter pound of venison jerky that he killed, cleaned and smoked himself on my chair overnight. One time I did a unit on war and asked people to speak of their war time experiences, whether they served or not. He volunteered and told of “the best years of [his] life,” the three tours he served in Viet Nam. He was a fighter pilot. He only wished he could have flown closer to the ground, so that he could get kill counts that were actual instead of estimated. He is missing some teeth and wears camouflage all the time, no matter what the occasion. He wears camo to graduation, staff development days, and once, when I saw him at the Tom Thumb, there he was, blending in with the produce.
He was gone by the time I got into the hallway and peeked around -but not in; I’m not that brave! – the boys bathroom. I went next door to talk to the teacher in the next area of the portable. We have no real doors in the portables, so we are very territorial about our areas.
I asked the teacher in the area adjacent to mine about the rat. He’s from West Virginia and, I shit you not, frequently tells his students that his brother married a sister, but they split up, and now the brother is gay and the sister is a stripper. I could go on…
“Wazzup wit the rat?” Trayvonne asks politely. I didn’t know he’d followed me into Area One. I’m in Area Two.
“Oh, that’s not real!” Mr. Knox laughed good-naturedly. He’s a very jolly redneck. “He brings these from home! It’s his little prank! He does it at least once a year! Ha ha ha!”
I go back to Area Two, get Viridiana off the desk and comfort Bai. The bell rings. I guess we’ll wait until Friday for Current Events.
I left school at 5:45 p.m. In the parking lot I ran into Sgt. Thomas. He thinks I’m hot. I know this, because he tells me so. Often. Relentlessly. Truth is, I don’t know if he really thinks I am (but, dear reader, trust me – I really am. Totally hot. Grrr!) He just thinks this is a polite thing to say to women, especially women of a certain age.
“Ooooh, gurl,” he says as I approach.
“Yeah, yeah, right. Listen, Col. Scruggs brought a fake rat into the boys bathroom, and acted like he choked it with his bare hands, and then threw it at a kid, and freaked everybody out. That kind of behavior is completely inappropriate! What is up with him?”
“Oh, yeah, gurl, that’s whack. He is messed up! I could tell you some stories. We should go out some time. I’ll tell you some things. I’ll tell you lots of things. But seriously, check it: those rats are real. They’re dead, but they’re real. He catches them and skins them and then stuffs them in the boot closet in Area 12. I could tell you some stories! Say, do you want to go out right now? Where you headed, gurl? I could tell you some stories. You want to go get a drink?”
In the words of Viridiana – “Shit. I did not sign up for this shit!”