Wandering through the high school hallways might as well have been an intercity marathon for Scott George. His legs felt as though they were tied to cinder blocks. His head hung low enough to obscure his vision. His breathing was shallow and measured. All he could muster up for dialogue was the occasional zombie groan. Exhaustion hit him like a baseball bat to the skull. Hell, any deadly blow would have been a welcome addition to this hellish day.
By the time he dragged his lifeless corpse into Tom Simpson’s history class, the teacher was already scribbling notes on the chalkboard and the rest of the students were either goofing around or filing in. As always, Scott took a seat in the back of the classroom and tucked his head low, which was a favorite tactic of his for avoiding Mr. Simpson’s attention. Scott rubbed his temples as a way of clearing up his blurry vision, but it was all for naught. Perhaps a trip to the vending machine before class for a Dr. Pepper would have woken his ass up. Too little too late. The buzzer blasted throughout the school to signify the first class of the day.
“Alright class, settle down! Take your seats! It’s time for the lesson to begin,” said Mr. Simpson in with Shakespearean authority. The students did exactly what he said, but there was still the occasional snicker from one or two of the quarterbacks. The history teacher straightened his flat black hair, moustache, and glasses before clearing his throat and officially addressing the class.
“Now then, when last we were together, we were on the topic of slavery in the
States. In 1843, the settlers…” To Scott,
all of Mr. Simpson’s words started blending together and cannibalizing each
other to where he was merely background noise on a TV. No different from a used
car salesman. No different from a televangelist begging for cash. No different
from a politician giving a boring speech on campaign finance reform (if that’s
what it was called).
Scott could feel his eyelids growing with heaviness. No matter how hard he pulled them open, blurry vision would cloud his consciousness. The crescendo of exhaustion came in the form of an uncovered yawn that opened his mouth as wide as a Pink Floyd the Wall movie poster. What a familiar piece of cinema to him.
The thunderous pounding on his desk jolted Scott awake and quickened his pulse to at least a thousand beats per minute. Somehow Mr. Simpson had teleported to the back of the class and stared him down with malicious intent. “If you’re going to yawn in my class, cover your mouth first. Nobody wants to see what’s inside of that thing.” As Mr. Simpson made his way back to the chalkboard, Scott’s muscles tensed as the other students gave him mocking smiles.
“As I was asking you all,” said Mr. Simpson. “Does anybody have an example of what a slave’s living conditions were like?” The class was silent. “Anybody?” Still silent. “Oh, Mr. George, how about you?”
“I…uh…” Scott’s lips quivered as he struggled to find his words. “I didn’t raise my hand.”
“I really don’t give a damn where your hand was, Mr. George. I asked you a question and I expect an answer. Your grade depends on it,” lashed Mr. Simpson, to which the other students snickered at Scott again. The introverted student felt his cheeks warm up like a coffee pot as he struggled for more words. “Out with it, Scott!” belted the teacher.
“They slept in….shopping carts?” Scott mentally kicked himself so hard that he could have been a professional Muay Thai fighter in another life. Another possible occupation would have been comedian since the entire class burst into laughter and Mr. Simpson held his temples between his thumb and forefinger.
“No, no, no, no, no!” rambled the teacher while throwing his chalk to the ground. “The slaves did not sleep in shopping carts! When I first said at the beginning of the semester that class participation counted towards your grade, I did not mean giving foolish answers that you clearly pulled out of your posterior! Try again!”
A sea of chuckles and hateful smiles spread out across the classroom and Scott George was the captain of his own capsized boat. He drowned in embarrassment and anger rolled into one as his entire body heated up even faster. Mr. Simpson wasn’t even close to being as hideous as Aloysius Striker, but Scott kept his vengeful response measured anyways. “I guess that’ll be the last time I speak up in class.”
“So what you’re trying to tell me is that you’re willing to take a C or a D because you gave one stupid answer? Is that how you got to the senior level of this school? By giving up easily?”
“The truth is!” belted Scott, silencing the classroom gigglers. “It wouldn’t have mattered if I gave you a better answer like sleeping on mesh beds. It wouldn’t have meant a damn thing if I told you that’s where the phrase Nighty-Night, Sleep Tight came from. You know why? Because you wouldn’t have taken my answer seriously anyways. Anytime I’ve given you an answer, all you said was Okay and then left me hanging. And why aren’t you doing anything about these laughing pieces of shit?!”
Mr. Simpson wagged his finger at Scott and said, “Watch your language with me, young man. I don’t care how justified in your opinion you think you are; it doesn’t excuse such disgusting speech.”
“Disgusting speech?!” snapped Scott as he smacked his palms on the table. “Your students are fucking laughing at me and you’re calling ME disgusting? Is this how you treat all of your introverted students? By humiliating the shit out of them?!”
“Two things, Mr. George” sneered the teacher while folding his arms across his blue flannel shirt. “One, if I catch you using those words again, you’re getting thirty minutes of detention after school. And secondly, you can’t use some pop science personality test to justify not speaking up in class like you’re supposed to. All you had to do was give me a reasonable answer and instead you said shopping carts! Shopping carts! For god’s sake, Scott, get it together!”
“Yeah, Scott, get it together!” said a football jock off in the front corner, which earned a round of hideous laughter from the other students.
Every immature cackle sent a surge of lava hot adrenaline through Scott George’s body. His stomach twisted in painful knots. His head ached worse than a football concussion. His vision glowed bright red as he scanned the room for his first victim. He didn’t have to look hard to find his next form of pyromantic speech. “Shut the fuck up and stop laughing!” he screamed before shooting to his feet and throwing a garbage bin at the jock.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!” Mr. Simpson snapped, shutting the class up immediately. He pointed at the mocking football player and said, “I’ll deal with you later. As for you, Mr. George, I told you exactly what was going to happen if you swore again, so try not to be too surprised by the consequences. Thirty minutes of detention after school with me!”
“Like I’m going to show up!” said Scott as he sat back down and folded his arms.
Mr. Simpson’s face molded into weaponized anger as he marched towards Scott, placed his hands on either side of the desk, and stared directly into his introverted student’s puffy eyes. With a calm, yet sinister tone, he said, “Believe me, Mr. George, you will show up today after school. We’re going to clean up this classroom together. We’re going to spend some quality time with each other. And if you don’t show up to detention…a laughing football jock will be the least of your worries. Do you understand me, Mr. George? Do you catch my drift? Or do you need to recharge your introverted batteries and think about it some more?”
Scott spent the rest of the class trying to control his mild shivers. The rest of the class had nothing to laugh at anymore as they too stared on with trepidation. Mr. Simpson marched back to the chalkboard, scribbled some more notes (with a new piece of chalk), and glared at his students. “Since none of you feel like giving me the answers I need in a typical conversation, perhaps you’d be willing to do so on a pop quiz. Take out a piece of paper and a pencil. There are twenty questions on this assignment.”
Scott’s shivering intensified gradually as the other students glared at him with a sarcastic “Thanks a lot” stare. He couldn’t even hold his pencil and paper still as he took the pop quiz. Some of his answers looked reasonable while most looked like chicken scratch. He hurried through the questions so that he could curl back into his corner faster. He wished the buzzer would hurry up as well. Oh, what he’d give to lock himself in a bathroom stall or a janitor’s closet. What he’d give to release the tears that built up within his system. He’d give his left nut if it meant he could punch the shit out of Mr. Simpson until the end of time. Blood and tears were a tastier and more intoxicating cocktail than the finest of wines.
But before that fantasy could come to fruition one of these days, there was the ever looming timestamp in his mind of thirty long minutes. Thirty minutes of mockery. Thirty minutes of agony. Thirty minutes of hatred. The mental timestamp should have just read five minutes, because that was all Scott George needed to blow his stack and go into a rampage. Five minutes alone. What a glorious usage of time. Maybe he wouldn’t show up to detention just to spare Mr. Simpson the beating he rightfully deserved. Such a noble act of consideration from a guy whose blood boiled like a cauldron.