Cult Illustration #49, 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.



The Week of the Full Moon


There were two things about Teachers that Ms. X would learn to dislike, strongly. The first was the presence of a bible on their desk, or a crucifix with inscriptions like “I thank the lord’s purpose for my life”. And the second thing was when a Teacher would tell her that her kids were “really good”. It had the same bad taste as when a dog owner says “my baby would never bite” only to learn at some later date that the little darling ripped apart a neighbor before biting off the tip of its owner’s nose. These were the things that seemed to rankle the sub, especially mid way through the morning as she sat at the teacher’s desk, peering at the cross with its cheerful message about suffering successfully, waiting for the next set of kids to stream in with their frustrated, malnourished psyches.


“Intensive Reading is for sixteen year old kids who read at the third grade level and will always read at the third grade level despite any attempt at stuffing them full of exercises,” the Assistant Principle, Mr. Suskind, explained to Ms. X. “We crowd them into a tiny room. Year after year it’s the same thing, grilling them over and over, trying to bring their scores up but it doesn’t work. They’re frustrated. We should be moving on to something else, training them for a different type of skill, but we have to operate according to the system.” Mr. Suskind was approaching his mid years, with thick black hair parted and brushed to the side, thick black plastic glasses, and a thick black mustache, all of which failed to harden his soft boyish quality. He was slim and about the same height as Ms. X, a cute nerd who smiled a lot and was somewhat timid and approachable even when his occupation made him tired and angry.


Ms. X had mentioned the incident that just occurred, where two large youths got into a fist fight. That was the extent of her account. Nothing more would be shared. More appropriately, they became melded to one another and bashed around the room like a blob monster, knocking things off desks with the sub dodging the dislocated class room paraphernalia as she struggled to decouple them. Jostled from desk to desk she called to other boys for assistance. After watching for too long, two boys decided to help Ms. X and as they grappled and threw the offenders apart causing one to collide with a computer knocking it to the floor with an odious crash. Hearing this, the thugs in the adjoining classroom burst through the connecting office door. Large obnoxious boys poured through the opening with gleeful smiles and excited eyes, their poor teacher too, with a troubled glare came behind grabbing at them. It was the pretty feminine woman, the one who complained to Ms. X only an hour before.


“I’m a veteran teacher . . . I love teaching but I can’t handle these kids. It’s hopeless. I can’t get them to make an effort to learn. I‘ve been placed in the Intensive Reading position because the kids that I taught in the past always improved their test scores.”


“What a reward,” Ms. X enjoined.


“I keep looking for a new job, I can’t stand this. I'm looking for an online teaching position."


Ms. X remembered the day when teachers could request the age or type of class that they wanted to teach, but now they were forcibly placed in the class that others deemed appropriate and told they were lucky to have a job. Or, forced to become a digital tool, a proctor for the system, free of the heartbeat of humanity.


This war-torn teacher was the one who called (and made contact) with one of the deans. The bald, red faced man arrived when the commotion was all over, when one of the boys was already sent to the dean’s office with Ms. X’s last remaining referral slip. She had run out that day. The remaining boy was busy parsing out the words that he intended the sub use on his form once she procured one. He took great issue with the word “fist fight” and refused to have his actions portrayed as such. He had been hit by the other, he claimed, he never threw a punch. Ms. X became coolly aware of the facile understanding of the English language by Intensive Readers who cannot read, but know exactly how things should be worded in their favor when it came to referrals.


The sub had dialed both dean numbers and received polite answering machine voices from both. Later, she and the teacher next door would laugh at their inability to push the emergency buttons in their respective rooms. Ms. X was not sure where hers was and made a note to locate that button each and every time she entered a classroom. The good old button. She wondered if they all really worked. And if they did buzz somewhere faraway where they should be heard, would anyone actually hear it.


When she was done for the day, and on her way through the halls making for the exit, she walked briskly, but paused at the Assistant Principal, Mr. Suskind’s, half open door. She knocked and paused again, waiting for his voice and watched as his hand grabbed a bag of chips off the corner of his desk and then a can of soda as he beckoned the knocker to come in. She peeked her head around the door just as he quickly placed his snacks on a niche under his desk. She entered nonchalantly, asking, “Did that job get filled?”


“No, Ms. W (the principle) interviewed two people today . . . did you get called for an interview?”


She had never heard him say much, until a few days before when she asked him about a position as a job coach. He launched into a very detailed expose, willing Ms. X to be excited about the position. She would help autistic and learning disabled kids, the ones who were not violent and foul-mouthed, train and find jobs in the community.


Ms. X was not interviewed that day, not the next, nor the entire week and then the job was filled. Mr. Suskind did not inform her about this, she learned that it was filled by visiting the on-line job board. That mysterious thing. One never knew how it was people were picked to fill openings, it seemed to happen magically, sometimes without a job ever finding its way to the job board. A door would suddenly have a shiny new name plaque and that would be it. Position filled! Somebody somewhere knew something about it but nobody knew who.


Ms. X was always wondering if others would feel that there was something-not-quite-right about her. In truth, she was the one who was always feeling there was something not-quite-right about others. Ms. X was sure that there was something not-quite-right the morning she entered the sub office and the Coordinator greeted her with capricious eyes and a voice that rang out, "Ms. X! One of my very best subs! This is my son.” Ms. X, taken unaware, smiled and shook the college grad’s hand.


“He’s a new sub. And Ms. X is one of our seasoned subs.” In walked another young man, fresh from college, and clearly a friend of the family. With a privileged air, he grabbed the pen and signed his name to the ledger. The Coordinator smiled widely on this seemingly bright and mirthful morning.


By golly, thought Ms. X, something is afoot here. But she was not in the habit of voicing her thoughts and always entered this hallowed room with reserve for the Coordinator rarely spoke to her and when she did it was to bark out changes in her schedule or the need for her to work during her break. The Coordinator seemed pleasant enough with others, in their low confidential whispers. Ms. X, however, was treated like an unruly teenager. She had learned early on not to ask questions. Stay Quiet. Pleasantly acquiesce. These were the rules to obey when in the presence of the Coordinator.


The next day, when Ms. X entered the office to sign in the Coordinator greeted her again,
“Well, Ms. X, I am so glad to see you. Now, if you are not happy with Stagecraft . . . I know they can be a rough bunch . . . I can switch you with another sub, but don’t tell anyone. You’re one of our favorites and we want to take care of you.”


Ms. X was feeling queasy, like something unreal was taking place. She noticed that there was another person in the room, standing close to the woman. It made Ms. X even more uncomfortable, yet she held her not-quite-right feeling in and casually, if not shrewdly answered,
“Oh, I don’t mind Stagecraft. I’ve worked with these students before, I can handle them but if you need me to go somewhere else, that’s fine.”


Silence. Ms. X finished signing in and left. She wanted no favors from this woman, and she felt sickened by the special treatment. She knew that as a sub, there would be no one examining the fine job she did taking attendance, nor the small triumphs she collected throughout the day, battling bullies and winning, breaking barriers with ESE students, actually teaching something worth while when a teacher decides to leave substantial plans rather than busy work. No one in the wide-ass folly of this institution knew what she did each day and whether it was commendable or not. And maybe she liked it that way. Of all the people here, she had total independence. No one wanted to know her. No one wanted to listen to her, not even the students. And no one cared what she did as long as she didn’t break any laws and was in the right places at the right times. As far as she could determine, no one ever googled her name!











© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved