Welcome back to Member Monday. It’s my pleasure to feature an essay by member Tim Hemeon. Tim is a writer, musician and teacher. His first novel, Soul Storm can be purchased online and at several local bookstores including All About Books. You can pick up your autographed copy just in time for Christmas at the Writers Forum Authors Fair in November.
by Tim Hemeon
Here came the question.
“And who are you today?” Such a strange question, really. And one he used to ask innocently enough back when he’d been part of the regular staff at his school on the other side of the county. Three and a half decades of those same words had crossed his own lips, so now he tried to be patient. Tried.
“Blythe – I’m Mr. Blythe today.” He stopped any other words from entering reality. Had to work to stop them. He had anecdotes and jokes, one-liners and rhyming songs. Even odd trivia. But secretaries hoard their time like Dwarves hoard jewels, and she would not take kindly to a non-staffer exceeding his social requirements.
“Let’s see. Joseph Blythe. 9th grade science. Room 227. Adjacent to the library. Do you need a map?”
Really, he thought. A map? He’d been subbing here on and off again for three years and she offered him a map as if it was his first time on campus. Yes, you over efficient automaton, – give me a damn GPS why don’t you? But no – that would not do. Not at all.
“No thank-you.” More smiles from him. Academy Award stuff, really. “I know my way around.”
“Fine, then. Here’s your key. Have a nice day.” And like that she was back at her computer again, his response neither required nor desired.
He headed across the campus toward the 200 Building. Glancing down, he examined his briefcase. Old, cracked leather. Functional. Comfortable, but long out of style. Ancient model – like him, he supposed. Rita’d given it to him his first week of teaching, forty-five years ago. A boy, really – in his mid-twenties – full of testosterone and pluck, possessing myriad dreams of changing the world. And he supposed he had changed the world a bit. One student at a time, inspiring and leading, parenting and correcting, but mostly, when it came down to it, loving. Sometimes when he’d almost forgotten all of it, he’d go through the old box once more. Pictures and letter from students. People he’d inspired to believe in themselves; who, with his mentorship, learned to unlock the wondrous beauty and talent they didn’t yet realize existed in their own hearts and minds.
Inside now, where today he would call them to muster and direct them to work. Maybe even learn something. That in spite of sarcasm, rolling eyes, and raging hormones set off by short skirts and blouses worn slut-style.
He read THE LESSON PLAN. After giving it a quick once-over, he glanced up at the clock, greeted by a pair of malevolent, blinking red eyes, a colon separating digital hours from digital minutes. The tempo was fixed and all he could think of was the rhythm of IT from Madeline de Ingle’s book, “A Wrinkle in Time.”
He missed a simpler time. That of the sweep hand – which was also red – but moved gracefully around the clock face once per minute. A time when he’d come home with chalk-stained fingers and more often or not one or two sticks of the stuff in his trousers pocket.
A video. He had a masters in physics and he was getting paid $100 today to press a play button six times. He looked up again at the evil, pulsating LED eyes. Two minutes left.
Motion drew his gaze to the window in the exterior door. He saw them and heard them simultaneously – delirious and ravenous adolescents. Their chanting drifted through the metal door: “A sub! We got a sub! WE got a SUB! WE GOT A SUB!!” They were piranhas ready to devour a helpless cow that had entered their Amazonian ecosystem.
He unlocked the door and the freshmen sauntered in, taking their seats with giddy anticipation. He nodded at them, knowing that he’d have a good fifteen minutes of class time left after the movie. He’d use that small window of time to captivate and inspire them. And perhaps they’d learn more in that short quarter hour than they would for the rest of their day.
As he took roll, one by one the students noticed the board. In big letters, it said:
I AM NOT A SUB.
A SUB IS A NAVAL VESSEL.
I AM A TEACHER.
MY NAME IS MR. WOJCIECHOWSKI.
YOU MAY CALL ME “MR. W.”
A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!
Tim, I love this selection! You totally nailed the life of a sub. Oops. Of a substitute teacher. Oops. Mr. W.
I’ve been a substitute teacher off and on, and your selection is perfect.