Aug/Sep 1998  •   Fiction

Q & A

by Richard K. Weems

My fellow teachers are starting to annoy me. They keep on me, all the time. They won't let me be.


"How do you spell 'syzygy'?"
"Is this cup yours?"
"If I dropped this chair on your foot, would you yell?"
"Can you spare a quarter?"

It goes on, you know—talk, talk, talk; questions, questions:

"You see Seinfeld last night?"
"Want some quiche? Baked it myself."
"Do I look better from this side, or the side with the mole?"

I cram things in my ears: cotton, pencils, deli meat. I stuff my shirt with books so I look jagged, overstuffed, unapproachable. Still, they latch on to me:

"You still with what's-her-name?"
"How do you pronounce a silent P?"
"Why does so much depend upon a wheelbarrow?"
"Is there something you want to talk about?"

I run my fingers through the electric pencil sharpener, shelve myself in the library under Asian literature, anything to make them pass me by—still they rap their pens against their front teeth inquisitively. Still, they pull on their ponytails and assault me again:

"What do you call the steering mechanism on a B-52?"
"Are my seams straight?"
"How about those Nittany Lions?!"

My back aches: the weight of questions, of ignorant despair; the strain of lifting piles and piles of magazines and newspapers and installments of every Time-Life book series (even the rare collector's edition Cheese Through History series) that collect on my doorstep in the morning so I can offer some kind of answer and be accepted, maybe, by them, finally, so that maybe they'll let me run around with questions too. Maybe they'll let me drop them on innocent bystanders and pressure them almost to death for answers:

"One lump or two?"
"How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
"Can I borrow your car?"

I will question the moon and the stars. I will question the questioners and the questions. I will question the forecasts on the Weather Channel; I will question Stonehenge. The world will quake; empires will topple in search of answers:

"What rhymes with 'orange'?"
"What's John Travolta really like?"
"Do you mind?"