Cult Illustration #22, 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.



What's in a Name, Part Two


American History, 11th grade, assignment: watch dvd on the Civil War Battle of Shiloh.
The substitute teacher has been spoiled by the first two periods comprised of “honors students” who, in her view, are merely kids who know how to listen because someone listens to them. Now she surveys 3rd period, a class where half are sitting forward at attention waiting for the sub to speak and the rest have pooled into color coded eddies, turbulent with conversation. Ms. X moves to a particularly loud group of black kids and asks them to stop talking. A robust black girl says,


“YOU need to stop talking.”
“You’re beginning to bother me.”
“Are you talking to me?”
“Of course, I’m talking to you and like I said, you’re really starting to irritate me.”
“It’s not me, Shaniqua, it’s school. School’s irritating you. Now be fair. I do not want to send you to the dean.”


The black kids look conspicuously across the room, at a group of white bullies who are rising in volume, mocking Ms. X and the blacks.
“Guys, stop talking or I will have to write you up.”
“Kill whitey! Ha, ha! Yea, be safe, go for whitey!”
Ms. X looks upon them miserably, waiting for their guffaws to abate.
She walks over to the loudest white boy, she walks with a referral in her hand. He stands up to face her.


“I’m gonna fight you all the way, I didn’t do anything and you don’t have anything on me and I’ve got witnesses.” His voice gets louder until he is shouting. Ms. X speaks to him softly,
“So you did nothing but what about right now? You’re shouting.”
The boy sees a way out so he sits and is quiet and his buddies are quiet until the dvd starts and then they make loud ape noises.


A Hispanic boy sits in the corner nursing his new tattoos, bright red, green and yellow oozing fresh. They scrawl up each arm and sneek painfully under his worn tee, itching over his shoulders as he twitches and arches his back. Under the glow of the screen where union and confederate soldiers bayonet each other he caresses his wounds and then looking disapprovingly at his slimy fingers, he wipes them on a pile of history books stacked from the floor up close by his desk.


Ms. X ignores him but the talking ignites her. She should have left it alone, overlooked everything in that room but she couldn’t. She’d lost her senses. She stops the dvd and says to the class that she is going to take down the names of the kids that are talking so that the whole class does not get a bad rap.


Shaniqua shouts, “YOU REALLY IRRITATING ME!”


“Shaniqua, I’m gonna have to send you to the dean.”


“GOOD, I’M GOING! Cause I don’t wanna be in here with you.” Shaniqua slams out the door not waiting for the sub to fill out the referral.


The white bullies are laughing and taunting Ms. X. One jumps up and writes a fictional name on the board.


“Here’s my name!”


“Where’s your name tags? None of the white bullies are wearing them.


“Take them out!” But they don’t they just look at her and smirk.


“Let’s watch the dvd” shouts Britanny in a whinny voice. She’s a beautiful black girl, shapely body but her legs are crippled, with braces on them and in her hands, canes. She is the voice for the whole class. Ms. X does not listen.


“How does it feel to be ashamed of your name? Did you ever think that you would hide your name – who you are?”


“I’ll tell you my name, I’ll tell you!” he says with a lurid gapping laugh.


“Let’s just watch the dvd,” whines Brittany, wanting to save Ms. X and everyone from the crippling pathos of their condition.


Ms. X trips on a foot or a book bag, her arms fly up, legs grapple and find their footing and Brittany cringes. The bullies laugh loudly. Many smile. Ms. X grabs a referral and lunges toward the one she believes is guilty.


“Where’s you name tag?”
“I didn’t do it!”
Ms. X does not like the way he screams at her and she persists.
“Get your name tag out!”
He leaps up and grabs the slip from her hand and stomps out of the portable muttering obscenities.
“What’s his name?” she asks the class, but no one answers.
“What’s his name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does anyone know his name?” Silence.


Ms. X has lost this battle and she knows it. She turns the dvd back on, sits down, and hates this place. She calls the dean. No answer. She dials a different dean number and a woman with a dreamy southern voice answers. Ms. X explains that a boy, unknown, has just left the portable.
“Oh, just leave a description of the kid for the teacher tomorrow and don’t worry about it.”
The sub doesn’t like this response and hangs up the phone. Five minutes before the bell rings, half the class gets up and leaves the portable – a deed most worthy of a referral. Before she exits, a girl drops a small slip of paper on the desk in front of Ms. X. On it are names printed in tiny script.


She left the wretched clap-trap of a class room to get some sun. The tardy bell had already rung so there were no students as she made her way from the trailer park of the school to the walk way between the more substantial structures, loping along, feeling free. Then three black students approach her, arm in arm. She recognizes them from last week. Two big brassy girls and Rafique, the very out gay guy, with a powdered face and long red-dyed bangs straight ironed so that they cover half his face like a nicely draped curtain. He wears skin jeans that simulate a womanly look, like a pair of pantyhose. A pink spaghetti strapped tee stretches across his flat chest, as it leads him forward seductively, his firewall clinging to each arm.


As Ms. X approaches them she calls quietly, “Hi Rafique,” but he does not hear her while deliberating with his comrades. She stops and says louder, “Hi Rafique” and this time they all stop, with dropped arms and look at the sub.


“See? I remembered your name,” she says cutely and Rafique giggles accommodatingly, a fake giggle he uses when nothing else can be said. Ms. X continues on her way feeling vindicated in a stupid sort of way.





© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved