Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Ransomed Heart 13: Back to School, I

The Medford school district was so hard up for teachers that Howard Desseray's convicted-felon status in no way hurt his ranking among the 14 applicants, most of whom had no college degree, let alone a teaching certificate, and wouldn't know a pedagogue from a pedant.

In fact, during his interview he openly recounted some of the highlights of his various incarcerations in the state pen, those accounts only serving to impress the school's principal, Zephaniah Nahum. 

(The Medford district was so antiquated and micromanaged that teachers themselves were not allowed to interview their future colleagues, even if they -- the future colleagues -- had done time.)

"We respect the dignity of all our candidates regardless of their little lapses in judgment," Nahum told him. "Also, your time in prison will make it easier for you to acclimate to our architecture, our students, our food and our soul-crushingly rigid schedule. Now tell me, Mr. Desseray, how are you with kids? I mean, like 4- and 5-year olds?"
Howard Desseray*

"As an abductor, I've had plenty of experience with them. They seem inclined to trust me, and I try not to betray that trust. I always abduct them in a way they'll recall fondly, if their parents promptly deliver the required ransom, of course.

"And speaking of parents," said Howard as he pulled a manila folder from his book bag with '17486490021' printed neatly on the top, "here are a dozen letters of recommendation from them, enumerating the many times I've 'gone the extra mile' while acting in loco parentis cum abductus."

The principal and former football coach removed an imaginary pipe from his mouth and said, "That's good enough for me, Mr. Desseray! Monday morning, 6:30 sharp! Welcome to the team -- more than a team, really. We think of ourselves as family here, at least the administrators do, but whatever, see ya Monday." 

And so the morning of Howard's first day as a teacher came to pass.

Assigned to teach in Medford's highly touted Pre-K facility (motto: "Suffer the Children Early"), he was given no instructions about the curriculum except to "make them computer savvy ASAP so they can take practice standardized tests online! And make it joyful!" 

Always the subversive, albeit a gentle one, Howard planned not to discuss such loathsome chores right out of the gate. "I think I might start by going over the primary colors," he said to Tally as he tugged on his prison-issue socks. "Isn't orange one of them?"
British orange

"I can't keep up with that stuff, Howard. These things change every day. Do something easier, like go over a fairy tale or something or do some of your more popular duct-tape magic tricks. 

"But don't get ahead of yourself! Today's just for the Opening-Day meeting, department-head meetings, department meetings, club-sponsor meetings -- you may want to consider an Abduction Club, speaking of -- team-leader meetings, yearbook photos, insurance meeting, doomsday and gun-on-campus simulation walk-through, required computer-literacy workshop, AP meetings, coaches' meeting, first-day-information-distribution meeting, and attorney sign-up meetings in anticipation of parental lawsuits. And that's just in the morning!"

"Damn."

"Now Howard, you're the one who wanted to mold the malleable minds of America's children who, according to Whitney Houston, 'are our future.' And you can't do that without those meetings. As Leonard Cohen said in his song 'The National Anthem,' 'meetings are the crack that lets the light come in,' so get those socks on, finish your buttermilk, and get crackin' for America!"

And so Howard set forth upon his newest mission and latest attempt to give up his life as an abductor. How will that work out for him? The next post will provide some pretty strong hints.

*Scholars now believe this drawing was done by Howard's own love interest and current life partner Tally Dolcet, a welder and former art student.

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