by Steve Evert
“Mr. Thomas I presume?” The boy said matter-of-factly. He was dressed strangely for a ten year old boy, in what I could only describe as business casual, briefcase in hand.
“May I help you?” I asked, watching the boy take assertive steps along the adjacent wall, studying the classroom posters.
“Well I’d sure hope so.” He flipped his briefcase on a desk. “Real nice digs you got here.” He cracked open his briefcase and retrieved a manila folder, thrusting it directly into my hands.
“Ok?” I said, as his staunch gaze studied my every movement. I began to read the contents of the folder and it appeared this boy, one Jonathan F. Croyle was a transfer student from downstate, who sure enough was enrolled my 5th grade class.
“Well, welcome --“
“Thank you sir, I believe you’ll find my being here to be a wonderful addition to the team!” he extended his hand. Reluctantly I shook it.
“Right, well class doesn’t start for another hour so-“
“No problem, fine by me, just grand, I’ll take a seat over here.” He spoke faster than I could comprehend.
I shrugged and started back to grading essays, John took the seat where his briefcase was and began to just openly stare at me, and I mean really stare, shooting daggers into the side of my head. I couldn’t focus and finally sort of snapped.
“Hey John.” I said
“It’s Mr. Croyle.” He corrected.
“No John, in my classroom I’m the only Mister. Got it?”
“Fine. You’re the boss.”
“Look John, why don’t you do an essay I assigned the kids last week.”
He crossed his arms. “It’s Jonathan.”
“Fine, Jonathan. Write a page describing your earliest memory. You think you can do that?”
“Very well master,” he muttered.
“Mr. Thomas will be just fine.”
Jonathan clicked open his briefcase and retrieved a gold fountain pen and satin-bound notebook. Diligently, he wrote away and by the time I was done grading the final essay he flipped his onto the table, chuckling maliciously as he walked back to his seat.
His essay was entitled, “The Escape”…
The earliest memory I have begins with darkness. I am a captive. Black bounding walls constrain me. I’m suffocating, yet breathing, all is moist. I hear muffled yelling, it’s frantic, other voices cry abound. Confusion begins to set in, beyond my conscious thought. I know not who I am, but rather that I am. Alas! A blinding light separates from now what I know to be my mother’s vaginal walls. I am thrust into the open vacancy of oxygen, of life, and into my mother’s arms. She softly looks me in the eyes and I give out a large, voluptuous, “WHAZZ UP!!!” Next thing I know everyone’s high-fiving-
I stopped reading at that point, but I kid you not there were two more pages of material. I swiftly wrote and circled a red “F” at the top of the paper and looked up to John.
“WHAZZ UP!!!” he yelled just as I imagined he did in his story. He began a wicked laughter and I waited for him to regain composure before walking over.
“Is it as funny now?” I said stone-faced, handing back his essay with a failing grade. He quickly rendered a drab poker face and began to study me as I retreated back to my desk.
“Hey Mr. Thomas I got some good news for you!” He chirped.
“Is that so?”
“If you give me just ten minutes to redo my essay, that’s right just ten minutes! I’ll whip you up the grandest, Disney-land bullshit essay you’ve only read in your dreams! No really!”
“Sorry kid, you only get one shot with me.”
“What if I told you for just five minutes, I’d give you a free notebook?!”
“Sorry, you’ll just have to make it up on the next one.”
“But wait! You qualified for the super-double-notebook-bonus!”
“No. That’s final.”
John began shaking his head slowly, tisking. “Some people,” he said rhetorically to his invisible peers behind him, “They’re just afraid of taking chances,” he scoffed, “You offer a guy the opportunity of a lifetime and wouldn’t you know it; his pride is his tragic flaw.”
I was becoming irate, “Five minutes. Go.”
“See I knew you’d see things my way,” he gleamed, I almost retracted the five minutes, but he had torn into the essay so I just let him go. -
“Five minutes is up, “I said, he pulled out a pocket watch and clicked it open, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1. No, my time is up now.” This damn kid lived to get in the last word on everything, “Here’s the glorious refined essay you yearned for and by the way you actually didn’t qualify for the double notebook bonus, sorry.”
I kept silent and began reading the refined essay. A few students were beginning to show up now and I could hear Jonathan making formal introductions, “Jonathan Coyle, how do you do?” He’d shake hands, “Care for a business card?”
The new essay was entitled, “The Dream Job”…
There I was, a slender chap, the tender age of three. The silver spoon of my birth had been thrust into the archives of my mind and in this particular scene I accompany my birth-giver, my mother.
She and I are standing in a line, wavering in the dense viscosity of the August air, waiting to update mother’s government issued identification. I watch as the ever-expanding queue increases with the protruding misery of each and every customer. The evil employees are snickering evil hyena-like laughter. Basking in the apparent anguish, taking their time to suckle at every last shroud of dismay, and refusing driver’s licenses for each and every minor flawed detail.
Seven hours pass and mother finally reaches the front desk, “Sorry were closed for the lunch hour,” a man says through his rat bastard smile, howling like a madman. Tears welter from mother face, but I simply stand as the assailant, along for the ride. Mother walks away, pulls me aside, and says, “The only worse people in the world, than the ones working in there, are teachers. More specifically, fifth grade teachers, probably named Mr. Thomas.”
I wasn’t sure if I agreed with mother back then, but now I am certain she was correct, if anything, understating the fact.
P.S WHAZZ UP!!! I looked up from the essay and could see Jonathan in the midst of a sales pitch, showing Rebecca Smith a large collection of watches that hung from his briefcase. Slowly he coaxed her and slid his arm around her waist, then he smiled his wicked smile, looking right at me, “WHAZZ UP!” he said.
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