I’ve been a little snappish lately.
“Snappish” sounds so much nicer than “bitchy”.
Between waiting for Kenny’s test results and for the CallThatNeverComes for my surgery date, I’m irritable and impatient.
Last week, I asked three students to sit out in the hall. Three. I apologized to one of them immediately, a sweet eighth grade girl who’s never given me an ounce of trouble.
“I’m sorry, Rachel,” I said. “I’m a little out of sorts, and I took it out on you.”
She reached out to hug me. “That’s okay, Mrs. Howard. I know you have a lot going on just now.”
My throat tightened. Nothing can choke me up like a child’s forgiveness.
To combat the growing stress, I walk long miles every day and say my Rosary. And in the middle of the school day, I shut my classroom door during my free period and savor the silence. But last Tuesday, Mr. Schumann, the assistant principal, strode into my classroom and said, “Say…,” and I knew I wouldn’t be enjoying my free period that day.
The band teacher had gone home sick, he explained. Could I cover her eighth grade band class? It had been one of those days already. The sixth graders weren’t catching on to adverbs at all, and the repair shop had called with the news that the van needed new struts and shocks. Little things piling up on big things.
“Yeah, I can cover it,” I said to Mr. Schumann. How could I not help him out? He was always so good to me.
Subbing is not a dream job, and subbing for band class is a nightmare, plain and simple. “I really don’t want to do this today,” I groaned, as I trudged down to the band room sixth period.
To my surprise, the room was dark, and the door was locked. “Dang!” I hissed. I’d left my keys all the way back in my classroom.
Just then, through the glass pane of the door, I saw a small head pop up from inside to grin maniacally at me.
Just like that, I was furious. “Listen, you little twerp! Let me in right now,” I yelled through the closed door, “or so help me God, I’ll beat the crap outta you.”
The door opened immediately. Bueller is a very small boy, and he stared at me with huge eyes. The lights exploded to life, and one by one, 26 eighth graders wriggled silently out of their hiding places behind the piano, the drum set and from the instrument closets. The shock on their faces mirrored my own. I felt as if I rose above my body to survey the scene. Had I really called Bueller a twerp? Not only that, I said “crap”, a word I thoroughly despise, and had threatened to beat it out of a kid. Not in 34 years had I ever talked to a student like that.
“We were just trying to scare you,” Denny, a nice boy, spoke timidly for the group. “We thought you would think it was funny.”
The silence was agonizing.
“Get your jackets,” I said abruptly. “We’re going outside.”
It took two seconds for the words to penetrate, then they whooped with joy. I took them out to the football field, instructed them to do any thing they wanted, but to stay inside the fence where I could see them. Then I got on the track and walked.
Pounding the asphalt, I circled the track again and again. And I prayed.
“God, forgive me,” I pleaded. What was wrong with me? Bueller could be a little pill sometimes, but he hadn’t deserved that. He was probably sensitive about his size, and I had called him a twerp. Possibly, I had destroyed his already damaged self-esteem.
I walked and walked and prayed and prayed. The October sun shone bright, and a mild breeze whistled softly through the trees. The kids were having so much fun laughing and playing. There is nothing so pleasant, I thought, as the sound of kids playing outside. After a few miles, my perspective was better. It was time to go. I called the kids and sent them reluctantly back to the school building. But first I had to find Bueller.
A girl screamed. There was Bueller trying to poke a sand burr into the back of her neck. It’s always easy to find that kid.
“Bueller!” I called. He turned instantly and dropped the sand burr. Busted. I read the expression in his face. He walked slowly over to me.
“Listen, Bueller,” I started hesitantly. “I want to tell you I’m really sorry for what happened inside. I was so wrong.”
Astonishment, followed by relief, flooded his face. A reprieve!
Then confusion. “Huh?” He was puzzled. “Sorry for what?”
For a second, I thought he was kidding. But then I sighed. Bueller could never remember a single thing that happened 30 minutes ago. He lived strictly in the moment.
“Never mind,” I ruffled his hair. “Go on in.”
In gleeful abandon, he skipped – yes, skipped – to catch up with his classmates. Blowing past Levi, a boy twice his size, he screamed “She-ZAAAM!” in his ear. Levi jumped and painfully covered his ear. Enraged, he went after Bueller, who skillfully crumpled to the ground on all fours to send L sprawling and tripping into the dirt.
Bueller darted back up, laughing maliciously, then ran to make a mighty leap into a huge puddle that a small eighth grade girl had just carefully skirted. The splash drenched her, and Bueller, running backwards, laughed demonically. “Ha! Ha! Watch your step!”
I breathed long and exhaled slowly.
Little twerp. I oughtta beat the crap outta that kid.