Cult Illustration #26, 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.


By the time Ms. X was an adolescent, she had concluded that most teachers were mean-spirited, exacting people, with a penchant for humiliating certain students. The successful kids had figured out how to negotiate and manipulate their masters, and if that failed, they simply cheated. Students like little Ms. X had to be invisible and silent, lest they become objects of derision, but she learned from her betters and cheated as well.

By 8th grade, Ms. X decided that English teachers were the most vile of all. They liked to read passages from her assignments to the class, by way of examining how inept and mindless writing can be. Something about attacking her words, her very ideas, struck at the core of little Ms. X.

Mr. Gritzbaugh, her 7th grade English Teacher, was the exception. He was a small old man, with a quiet voice, almost a whisper and round wire-rimmed glasses that magnified his sad eyes so that he looked owlish. His hair was dyed black and there was a white line parting it into two slicked down portions and he always wore dark suits that seemed a little large and he kept his arms to his sides so that he really did look like an owl. You could not know how old he truly was but his kindness was that of a Wiseman close to death. You could see in his demeanor that he no longer felt he had to tell anyone how stupid or wrong they were about anything.

He let Ms. X do her book reports with drawings. She would make small books, with covers that looked just like the actual book. Inside her realistic images were accompanied by a few sentences that never made much sense, but were clearly proof that she knew something about the book. He liked the little girl that would become Ms. X. and she was not used to being liked by teachers.

When Ms. X had to sub for English teachers, she became nervous, but she would browse the lesson plan and if it were about grammar she would let one or two of the students teach class. However, if the assignment was about a piece of literature, Ms. X would quickly study the teacher’s manual and learn enough about the characters and their motives to be able to lead the class in writing an essay. She considered writing an art. She taught herself to write. Actually, the Guru had asked her to write about the philosophy because he was sure that Ms. X understood his worldview and would project it faithfully, and there was a need for a feminine perspective that was so in keeping with his own. Not only did she comply, but she spent hours every day diligently wording and rewording, researching and rereading. And she was her own editor in a sick sort of way. She would imagine the Guru himself reading her works and she would channel him so that each idea expressed, each sentence was censored through his eyes. She made sure that he would not object to one single word and in this way, she thought her writings perfect. And to please him further, without appearing sycophantic, she sprinkled a few glowing portrayals of the Guru and his wife in everything she composed.

Ms. X understood, for the first time, her problem. Or maybe she uncovered another facet of a multifarious personality disorder that she had chipped away at for many years, most notably with the help of the Foundation. She understood in a new way how impossible it was for her to un-program the strong emotions of her early life. None of her healing work had extricated all of the dark forces that shaped her, though she had thought it complete. As one of the exclusive priests at the Foundation, she had convinced herself that she had achieved the pinnacle of moral authority. One of the main tenants was the practice of “good character” and the Guru always determined what good character was for every individual and in every situation. Ms. X understood his pronouncements very well and she usually agreed with them because she felt she had risen to his level of wisdom and knowledge. And she knew that she was one of the very few that he did not criticize at length, though he did criticize her. These were barbs meant to put Ms. X in her place. They usually started out as compliments but ended in a quip that underscored the irrelevancy of Ms. X and her work with the Foundation. This was done with such smooth articulation, that it took Ms. X several minutes to understand how hurtful it was and so she was usually speechless at the time, still trying to figure it out. Despite this obvious ranking she had channeled the Guru’s ideals so completely she thought she were somehow his equal. No longer under his spell, she could see that there was something intrinsic to her personality that made her very much like the Guru, naturally. Or perhaps it was the abiity of the Guru to bring out certain negative qualitites in Ms. X that she would normally subdue.

This epiphany came while subbing in 9th grade, helping a young man give his conclusion sentence the very right angle by changing a single word. He was about to cross the word out and write in the new word when the girl next to him said not to do it because their English teacher would take points off for every word that was crossed out. This caused Ms. X to dislike the English Teacher and her stupid rules.

“Do you have white out?” asked Ms. X. He did not.

“Does anyone in this class have white out?” Ms. X called out to the class, “You should get some white out and then she won’t know. Better yet, erasable pen. Get erasable pens!”

Most of the students stopped what they were doing and with raised eyebrows, they regarded Ms. X. She was caught out with the feeling that she would be reported, by the students, as an agent provocateur and she quickly exclaimed that she was only joking. She was aware that the students knew her last name now, though they still called her Ms. X. They seemed to relish in this moniker and she did not dissuade them. She had used white photographer's tape to obscure her first name on her identification badge, but she really had nothing to fear. Only the "hot" teachers' names' were ever googled.


Cult Illustration #6




© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved