Carl opened his notebook and began doodling. He drew a frowning stick woman with a big head and bangs like Mrs. Binker who was at her desk in front of the class reading aloud to the class from the textbook about the Roman Republic bla, bla, bla, Julius Caesar bla bla bla.. Jesus, what a monotone. Ten more minutes before the last bell. Andy had promised him a ride to Miss Reba’s where he would pick up his little sister then walk with her the six blocks to their house. He was thinking that six blocks was a long trek for a little short legged girl of five when Mrs. Binker called on him with that sarcastic edge of hers. She’d been watching him
“So Carl, you tell the class some of Caesar’s legacies”
“Legacies, whaddaya mean ‘legacies’?”
“Things we remember him for, why do we even care about Julius Caesar, humm?”
“Well there’s the bloody assassination. Twenty-three wounds makes him front page tabloid material.”
The class chuckled.
“Very funny, Carl. So, are none of Caesar’s accomplishments memorable?
“Aw no, Mrs Binker, Caesar, he totally screwed the republic, he screwed the senate and yeah, Cleopatra too.”
Now the class laughed, genuinely amused.
“That’s enough, Carl,” she barked.
The last bell of the day sounded and the class rose and began shuffling out the door.
“Carl, come here.”
“Mrs. Binker, please, I gotta catch my ride…”
“Sit down, you. While the class may appreciate your comedic antics, I do not. You will open your notebook and give me a five paragraph essay on Caesar’s Rome. Then you may leave.”
“Lissen, Mrs. Binker, it’s Friday I gotta pick up my little sister from the lady who cares for her while my mom’s at work. I miss my ride then I gotta to walk, my ma’s gonna get charged another five bucks.”
“No Carl, you listen to me. You will sit down and start writing. Now!”
“No ma’am, this ain’t gonna happen. You’ll have your essay Monday morning. You don’t understand, I gotta pick up my little sister.” He turned, checked his posture and without looking back passed slowly through the door into the hall hearing her shriek, “Come back here right now, young man. I said come here! Ohhh you’re going to be sooo sorry Carl Wilson. You wait and see.”
Since his dad had gone, Carl’s mother had worked mornings as a part time teacher’s assistant in the middle school and afternoons and evenings as a data entry clerk at Century 21 Realty. JoAnne Wilson, single mother, had earned her degree, passed the state examinations and earned her teacher certification. The first vacant social studies position would be hers, Carass High Principal Dolly Spanner had said with congratulatory smile after her successful interview in June.
However, in July came the phone call from Principal Spanner. She was terribly sorry but the promised world history teaching position had gone to another applicant. Charlene Binker’s family had moved to Carass over the summer when her husband Sonny had been appointed manager of the Paladin Gyro Tech plant. Sure Charlene had the class, the clothes, and the master’s but it was husband Sonny Binker’s position that had assured her safe return to teaching now that the two Binker girls had left the nest empty for college. Paladin Gyro Tech was Paladin Defense Industries manufacturer of guided missile components and the largest employer in the county.
Affluent Charlene was delighted at her re-entry into teaching after a 17 year absence to raise her family. Now she would be the big fish in this small pond. Her social rank afforded her much deference from the other Carras High teachers. She and the queen bee of Carras High, Sheryl Caprioti, whose husband was owner of Caprioti’s Chevrolet, came together like Hitler and Mussolini.
“Show these ladies your stuff, Charlene, and they’ll be yours, dear,.” Following her new friend’s advice Charlene hosted a ladies luncheon during the one week of teachers’ in-service before the beginning of school. Poolside at their country club six bedroom three bath home, the catered luncheon with shrimp cocktails, platters of barbequed ribs and chicken, jug wine and door prizes of under $10 cosmetics guaranteed social dominance and sway over the ladies of Carass High. After the hoi poloi departed Charlene and Sheryl celebrated the coup over a pitcher of ice cold Tanquery martinis.
“That barbeque sauce and red wine proved a little too challenging for some of those ladies. Who was that large one in the yellow blouse?” The two ladies chuckled as they reviewed the success of Charlene’s luncheon.
“I have one of the gals set up orange juice and Egg MacMuffins on the Friday morning before grades are due. I mean it’s hilarious. Forty bucks worth of fast food garbage every six weeks and those little piggies kiss ass the whole year long. You’re gonna love it Charlene. Just remember Dolly’s birthday is the same as MLK Day and she loves Dillard’s or Olive Garden gift cards. No problems from the office. Top evaluations guaranteed and all those troublesome lunch duties and bus duties are for saved for the little proles, dear.
“Sonny’s already lined up Paladin donations to the PTA and Quarterback Club. Let me freshen that drink, hon.”
JoAnne Wilson was dog tired when she set the pizza box on the table and plopped onto the couch. “Carl, be a sweetie and bring in the groceries. Your old ma is pooped.”
Later, after Jenny had been put to bed Carl explained to his mom word for word the run in with Mrs. Binker.
“She’s got a cob stuck up her ass, ma, thinks she’s better n’everybody else. Nobody likes her. She can’t teach; all she does is read from the book and pass out worksheets. I used to love history.”
“Watch your language, son. You put your sister first. I think you did the right thing. Did you use any bad language, call her a bad name, anything….?”
“Let’s don’t worry then. I’ll make some popcorn. Jimmy’s on his way over with the movie.
Before school started Monday morning Carl placed the essay in Mrs. Binker’s mail cubby in the teacher’s work room. He was nervous throughout the day anticipating the last period, Mrs. Binker’s World History class. She barely looked at him and he was just beginning to feel safe when a runner from the dean’s office came for him. Coach Jimmy. Chirtwell the dean of boys informed him of his five days after school detention for disobedience, defiance, and disrespect toward Mrs. Binker. This was especially embarrassing and awkward as the coach and his mother had been dating for the past six months. “Coach I did not disrespect that lady. Can’t I serve the detention before school? You know I have to pick up Jenny after school. Ma has to pay and extra $5.00 for every half hour past 3:30. We’re talkin’ $30 maybe more; and ma don’t have that kind of money.”
“I’ll talk to her, Carl. But you’ll have to do today’s detention, so go on in there and open your books. I’ll go see her now.”
Coach Chirtwell returned twenty minutes later and called Carl to his desk. “Sit down. She was in the Principal’s Office saying you got in her face and called her some pretty ugly names and threatened her so she’s not gonna give on this. She’s asking Mrs. Spanner to suspend you and call for an expulsion hearing. That’s not going to happen. Just serve your detention and try to forget this. Don’t antagonize her.”
“She’s a liar, Mr. Chirtwell, she’s lyin’! All I did was walk out, I never cussed or threatened her. No way. ”
“Let it go, son. You don’t want this to escalate.”
Carl served the five days. On Friday, the coach talked with him. “Carl, you’re a good boy. I’m sorry this happened, but please promise me you’ll let this go. Mrs. Binker is the unforgiving kind. It’s gonna be up to you to let this cool down, you understand?”
“I know coach, but she’s a liar and she’s mean.”
Coach Chirtwell’s face showed complete accord, “But promise me, Carl, you won’t aggravate the woman,” he said as he patted Carl’s shoulder.
For the rest of the school year Carl managed to stay safely below Mrs. Binker’s radar. She had disciplinary actions weekly, always with “troublesome boys.” Coach Chirtwell had complained that she had written more referrals than any other teacher in his memory and asked that Mrs. Spanner have a talk with her.
Things began to sour for Mrs. Binker that summer. Strange immigration packets began arriving for Mr. and Mrs. Binker from the embassies of foreign countries, Albania, Yemen, Angola and most disturbing from Havana, Cuba. Mrs. Binker spent hours on the phone with the relevant embassies explaining that they had no desire to emigrate. She would handle this. Sonny had a bad temper and he certainly didn’t need to be bothered. She had applied for their passports then contacted several cruise companies after Sonny had promised a grand 25th Anniversary getaway and she reasoned one of the cruise companies had sold their address. Sonny had told her to handle the details. Everything concerning the passport business and dealing with stupid foreigners on the phone had been so trying. She knew neither she nor Sonny had any interest in even touring much less emigrating to Albania or Yemen and certainly not Cuba! However in July when Sonny was refused a boarding pass for his flight to corporate headquarters in St. Paul he learned that he, his wife, and his daughters were now on Homeland Security’s No Fly List. Sonny was interviewed in a tiny hot room at the airport. He returned home furious certain that Charlene’s fumbling around the damned cruise companies had somehow committed them to Homeland Security Hell. After talking with his congressman’s office Sonny’s lawyer tried to assuage him but told him that getting off the No Fly List would be no easy task, then happily logged in ten billing hours with the promise of many more to come.
Then just before the beginning of school the Binker’s home appeared for sale on line under multiple listings, ebay and Craig’s List at a ridiculously low price as “Moving abroad – must sell quickly – no reasonable offer refused” the ads had proclaimed. The disconnected phone stopped neither the barrage of emails with offers nor the incessant drive bys.
In August, midway through Principal Spanner’s Welcome Back Speech to the teachers, two federal agents arrived at the Carras High cafeteria to interview Mrs. Binker concerning her letters on school stationary written to foreign embassies. They noted the recent requests for passports and they were curious why the Binkers were in such a rush to sell their house at a loss. “Please tell us why you and your husband are planning to leave the country? they’d asked. That same week Paladin Defense Industries, Inc. informed Sonny Binker that with the pulling of his security clearance by Homeland Security he was being transferred immediately to company headquarters in St. Paul for reassignment to the Human Resources Unit.
The first day of school Carl, now a senior, told his new girlfriend Frida “You’re gonna like the new history teacher. She’s my mom.”
That afternoon Coach Chirtwell slipped into the school secretary’s office and replaced the stash of unused school stationary and envelopes he’d borrowed earlier….
© Gary Ives
First published 7 June 2013, FICTION on the WEB