E
Jan/Feb 2001 Fiction

Portrait of the Artist as a Third Grade Teacher

by Trevor Dodge


Zelma Breedlove's computer monitor leaks color in the corners, shallow pools of green and pink evaporating over the tops of spreadsheets designed to hold anything and everything: class rosters, supply lists, Oprah books to read, videos to return, videos to rent, bank registers, handguns to buy, men to fuck, cars to test drive, websites to explore, addresses for people she hasn't seen in ten years, conferences to attend, names for future children, names for future pets, names for future husbands, names she would like to be called, names she has been called, words she can't spell, words for spelling tests, sentences to diagram, schools she would rather be shot in, schools she has been shot in, CDs ordered from Columbia House, CDs ordered from BMG, parents to call, medication she's been on, drink recipes, guest lists for imaginary parties, apartment buildings she'd like to live in, apartment buildings she's woken in, classrooms she's been assigned, classrooms she would like to fuck in, classrooms she has fucked in, gift ideas for her father, hit lists, Longfellow poems……. And when she gives the almond case a stiff crack with the side of her fist the pools fill and recess like heavy footprints in tidal sand, brimming with oversaturations of yellow before spilling over onto the entire screen and turning her thought cubes into rust. If only Hemingway had Excel on which to compose The Old Man and the Sea-every column a subject, each row a verb, predicates simple as reading grid coordinates on a city map. Cubicles of self-contained realities sealed with a vacuum device sold on subconscious infomercials. Nice and tidy.

Because looking outside the screen Zelma sees actual panic on her desk, shards of thoughts and brainfarts half-baked into physical being by her 100-watt imagination. Resume paper and fat black markers. Windowed envelopes demanding this or that. Books propped open with their asses in the air for months. Floppy disks shuffled like a pinochle hand whose order or importance has escaped her. Because it's here that the cubes actually make sense and could make a difference. It's here she sits, only the right foot touching the floor and the left foot pinned under her knee until it goes numb; it's right here on an ergonomic keyboard contorted like a train wreck that her impulses to organize something, anything, shrivel up in her fingers and jam the keys with good intentions.

 

STUDENT

ROW

SEAT

Ahrens, Ila

6

2

Altoid, Brittaney

4

3

Brown, Tim

1

2

Brei, Allison

3

3

Cashier, Poni

6

4

Crozier, Trevis

2

1

Czara, Christian

1

5

Dare, Benito

6

5

Doop, Shelby

1

3

Drawn, Elsa

4

1

Ezra, Thurman

3

2

Goad, Grant

1

4

Gray, Tammy

5

3

Haux, Doobie

2

2

Hegge, Tait

1

1

Jansson, Michelle

2

4

Johnston, Courtney

6

1

Kyro, Frances

5

1

Miller, Shawna

4

2

Olsen, Clancy

2

5

Pom, Phommaly

3

1

Purin, Celeste

4

4

Que, Constance

6

3

Reid, Rex

3

5

Sothearlay, Pok

4

5

Stump, Jennifer

5

2

Tweeks, Terri

3

4

Wallace, Wesley

5

4

Zutroy, Fidelis

5

5

 

Zelma Breedlove's seventh consecutive class of third graders demanded a particularly nasty seating chart since the majority of her class was female, 16-14, despite the fact that the school board passed Resolution Fifty Fifty in a tight 4-3 decision mandating that all K-6 classrooms be split equally according to gender. R-FF demanded seating charts be strictly divvied boy-girl among an even number of students and required At-Risk Classrooms with an odd number be allowed only by written consent of the instructor, principal, school board, and every student's legal guardian(s).

Her initial roster was firm at 33; no student could be lifted from another class and grafted on to another to create an even-number (R-FF Article 4C imposed a hard cap of 32) so At-Risk Releases were issued by the district under R-FF Provision 1A to give Zelma Breedlove's seventh consecutive class of eighth graders At-Risk Protection (ARP included, among other things, immunity from the reprisal of renegade textbook companies like McCarthy-MacMillan-McRoberts who had tested the boundaries of R-FF by suing the district on no fewer than 77 counts of breach of contract for failing to make an accurate headcount in their classrooms). Upon issuance of district ARRs three things happened:

1) Ernst Haggard's mother refused to sign the release upon waking with a Premonition From God that her son would be once again cavorting with Celeste Purin in the playground tunnel and indiscreetly yanked him out of school in a particularly disturbing display of scratching and cursing.

2) Stanislao Azevedo moved away with her Guyanian Nationalist grandfather to take up arms against the French.

3) Eddie Hirsch scored a 1570 on his SAT and was promptly fast-tracked into the prestigious Circuit Board Welding program at ITT Technical Institute.

The resulting 16-14 split branded Zelma Breedlove's seventh consecutive class of third graders an ARC under R-FF Article 6B. The seating chart is a bona fide mess and she hates living in a DMZ like the At-Risk Classroom because Anything that can Go will almost certainly Go and Go like thunder.

So here she sits, stretching the margins like an old pair of sweatpants, waiting for something to tumble from the sky.

 

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