It was his first day at work as a public-school Pre-K teacher, and he was standing in line with people he had never met, all of them wearing the obligatory orange shirts, all trying to squeeze out some small talk as they inched tortoise-like toward the Chipotle breakfast buffet funded by a group of local realtors (or "realators," as they called themselves), all of whom had once been teachers, but whose dream of kindling the intellectual flame of this Great Nation's young had dissipated as soon as they realized the pay would doom them to a life of poverty.
|Breakfast is on the"realators"!
(The "Head Mama" of the realators evoked a nervous chuckle from the teachers when, in the spirit of jocularity, she assured them that "there's no reason to worry about norovirus so soon after the recent Chipotle outbreak. You know what they say: The safest time to fly is the day after an airliner plunges nose-first into the icy waters of Kaffekluben Lake! Heh, heh.")
Anxiety -- unrelated to norovirus -- tightened Howard's esophagus as he pecked away at the guacamole atop his mountainous burrito bowl.
Luckily, speaking was unnecessary as he sat at a table populated by younger teachers, all of whom, making no more noise than a mouse pissing on a cotton ball, texted feverishly, their smartphones stationed neatly next to their bowls.
While his youthful colleagues munched and tapped, Howard reflected on the encouraging words of his likely fiance, past abductee, and future ex-wife Tally Dolcet, a devotee of art and welding: "If you're going to give up your calling as an abductor, you must do all in your power to become the best teacher you can be, given your felonious gene pool. Hang on to every word at the Opening Day meeting. Surely, those eloquent pellets of language will be golden gems of wisdom, keys to the bolted doors of young minds, an alchemical lubricant facilitating the passage and transmutation of knowledge from teaching to learning."
God bless Tally. He could picture her now, taking a break from welding the door back on their shed after an ill-tempered abductee had kicked it off, sitting on their new liver-colored sofa, watching her beloved Steve Harvey. Oh, how that woman loved Harvey's teeth!
After the teachers posed for their yearbook and ID photos (Howard embarrassed himself by instinctively turning sideways for a profile shot), the Opening Day meeting, at long last, got underway in earnest with "a few words" from principal and former football coach Zephaniah Nahum (or "Mr. Z," as the kids called him) . . .
"Welcome back, y'all, and welcome to all the teachers new to Medford School, home of the Fighting Meds, athletes and learners! We know you have a lot to do today and are eager to get back into your classrooms and cover the wall with wise sayings from Ayn Rand, Henry Miller, Rudyard Kipling, Norman Vincent Peale, Charles Bukowski, Edgar Guest and Oprah, and with oversized memes featuring kittens and Marvel Comic heroes to help motivate your kids to work hard while also displaying your 'withitness.'
"Certainly we know how hectic this first week can be for you, and we appreciate all that you do on a daily basis, so we're going to make this as brief as possible. We have just a few things to pass on to you from the State, the County and from our 3-hour principal meeting yesterday, but we should be able to wrap up this whole thing in, oh, 15 minutes or so.
"So we'll introduce the rookies [polite snicker from veteran teachers] shortly, but first let's go around the room so each and every one of you can tell us how you spent your summer.
"Let's see, there's 87 of us, so we'll start at the back. When your turn comes, first tell us your name, what department you're in, how long you've been here, what you did before you came to Medford, where and when you got your degree, why you wanted to be a teacher and when you first realized it, then tell us about your summer.
"Welp, ladies first! Ruth, we'll start with you."
Sadly for those eager to get to work, Ruth had given birth, vacationed in Iceland, watched her home go up in flames after a lightning strike, found a bear cub in the backseat of her Prius, published an article on "Progress Monitoring in the Appalachians: Reaching Out and Helping the Kids Left Behind Get Ahead" which she felt moved to read in its entirety, and started a book club focusing solely on the works of Roberto Bolano, David Foster Wallace and Karl Ove Knausgaard.
Let's allow the teachers to share their summer memoirs and Howard to dredge up a narrative a bit more exciting than his accidentally abducting a homeless man, while we switch to a God's-eye view of this assemblage of senseis in order to gain a more palpable sense of this august August occasion.
But this view must needs wait till tomorrow.