Cult Illustration #47, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

   This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.




Ms. X, mysteriously, has become a favorite sub, by whose account, she is not sure. She knows the truth. She usually hates the job. When it is safe, she will sit and do nothing but read a novel or draw. Other times, she is compelled to direct the class, lest mayhem bring the walls down. When she is with the retarded kids, she does well. She gets them to draw and speak and the para pros like her because she lets them take charge of the class, and in her imagination, she believes that she inspires everyone to do something creative. Perhaps word has gotten around about her way with wayward kids. Now teachers request her and expect a wonderful job and so she delivers. She will become strict and demand work. She will make sure the room is picked up, trash is placed in the can, books strewn on the floor, are arranged in neat rows on the shelves. She usually does this herself. But when she can expect to go unnoticed, she does nothing but take attendance. Her diligence, however, when it is applied, does not always have the desired outcome. It is safe to say that her job is unpredictable and unrewardable and usually not what it seems.
During the week of the full moon, the Intensive Reading Teacher met with Ms. X in the morning and gave her a heart-rending description of her son’s strange malady, the reason she had to leave. Ms. X listened sympathetically and as she did her eyes fell to the desk where the teacher had a knick knack cross with a biblical message affixed to it, a sobering reminder of the moral schizophrenia that rules the world, but no matter. Ms. X had her own brand of faith. The teacher stressed two important themes for the day, one, her kids were really good and, two, this would be a real day, meaning the assignment was for real and would be counted not as a sub day, but as a teacher’s day and therefore Ms. X was “trusted’.
What a load of responsibility for Ms. X! She was going to deliver! And the teacher, in full confidence expected that she had found her replacement for future dates. But as the day progressed, the Intensive readers played their usual sub game, creating disarray in the classroom, leaving books and materials scattered about, talking wildly, and refusing to work. Ms, X kept at them, and remarkably they produced some written work to be handed in but this was a result of Ms. X sending half a dozen kids to the dean, and, the break-out of a fist fight.   

Ebola in All Her Glory, is the title of the article the Intensive Readers should read, though Ms. X wonders about the timing. Here, on the cusp of the mass vaccination for the Swine Flu the city’s Mothers and Fathers have so diligently mapped out, the Intensive Readers are to study the Ebola Virus. The very rooms of this high school will become the inocculation site where nurses and  retired volunteers will aid in the herding and shooting of the young people for whom swine flu is said to be so deadly. (eventually the scare will fizzle out and the year would be remembered for the deadly flu that never was).
The Intensive Readers are to study, underline main points, and make notes on their packet of “Ebola In All Her Glory”. Ms. X scans the article learning that it is one of the most horrific and bloody viruses under the sun, able to kill 9 out of 10 people who will contract it, (according to the article). She reads everything that she asks her students to read, (even if she doesn’t count as their teacher), and she studies the descriptions of Ebola. Blood oozes from various orifices, the spontaneous splitting of skin, the sloughing of the brilliant red surface of the tongue which is swallowed, and all the other gory details which are extraordinarily, painfully, redundantly, emphasized. Ms. X gets bored with it, finding it stupid and unbelievable. And then it occurs to her that the article is designed for teens, like a slasher movie, to instill fear and the willingness to crawl into the arms of god and curl there, accepting any cure imaginable. It also relies heavily on descriptions of how the sexual organs are eaten alive by the evil virus. Not by chance, muses Ms. X.
Dead spots occur on the breasts (of men as well as women) and the testicles! The virus, like a molecular shark consumes them, chewing up structural proteins, turning them into mush. The skin is said to bubble up into a sea of tiny white blisters mixed with red spots like Tapioca pudding. These red spots eventually grow and spread and merge to become huge spontaneous bruises and the skin goes soft and pulpy and can tear off with the slightest touch. Wow!
Ms. X could not rest in this class. She was on her feet among them, hovering, persuading them to complete their work. It was noisey. She would use conversation to re-direct them and always delighted in the attention of students who wished to engage her.
“The girls are not going to like this part,” said a slender young man with teasing eyes. He had boxed off a sentence, pointing to it for Ms. X to read. She read it with due enthusiasm, ‘in women, the labia turn blue, livid and protrusive, and there may be massive vaginal bleeding."


“We’re kind of used to that already,” she retorted, “and what about this sentence, the one right before it, ‘In men, the testicles bloat up and turn black and blue, the semen goes hot with Ebola, and the nipples may bleed’.”
He looked at her in mock disbelief as she tossed his packet on the desk, smiling.
Ms. X would note, to herself, that the article bled to death, ending with the words  ‘blood splashing about, pumped via the tremors from the convulsing body! This was the main strategy for Ebola’s success, a transmission through smearing. In a flurry of seizures, it jumps to a new host and then, like magic, the cadaver suddenly deteriorates, leaving behind the fluids that continue to contaminate those still living.’  Ms. X couldn't have written anything more gory and silly. Worse, Ebola In All Her Glory could not improve the Intensive Readers’ understanding of the tiny invisible germ they were supposed to fear. Because the article had a photographic image next to its title, a magnified noodle like cell, many of the students thought the virus was a long ravenous worm. One boy sited a TV show where he saw a rubbery white worm pulled from a dark-skinned African leg. He shivered with disgust over the memory, wondering if Ebola could be smashed under the heel. And for all of the paper’s wordiness, most students thought the virus was introduced by sex with monkeys, its conception starting within the sexual organs and then growing like a baby until it expanded, filling up the body with mush and pus and Tapioca pudding. This scenario spread through the class from one excited student to another, as they made this disease their very own.
Ms. X gazed around the room, studying the walls for something to take her mind away from feeling so helpless. On the bulletin board, she sees a familiar image, the high school’s logo portrayed as an ugly pit bull with a hideously long tongue lolling out of its mouth next to the motto, Florida’s Proudest Campus.



  Cult Illustration #57, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved