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Miss Chapman

Page 2

Caroline had a doctor’s appointment today – another ultrasound. I swear to God, she’s taken a day off every week since she found out she was pregnant. She’s just counting down the damn days. Is anyone down to fill in for her?

There’s a schedule around here somewhere.

I would have thought she would have organized that before she left for the day. That’s very irresponsible of her.

Should someone go out there just until …?

The question hung in the smoke, unanswered, the person who’d made the suggestion suddenly anonymous for fear of being conscripted. For two whole seconds, Miss Chapman considered closing her lunchbox and going outside to supervise.

If I do it once, I’ll be putting a mark on my back: WILLING TO SUPERVISE OFF SCHEDULE. That slope is way too slippery. I say ‘yes’ even one time, I’ll find myself at the bottom of that slope more often than I want. Better just eat my sandwich.

Another two seconds and the attention of the room fragmented into a dozen private conversations about the weather, lesson plans, Lyndon Johnson, the war in Vietnam and the current price of soybeans.

Miss Chapman focused on her sandwich with single-minded intent, as if all the mysteries of God and the universe lay between those two pieces of Wonder White and on either side of that slice of bologna, perhaps somewhere amid the yellow mustard, certainly nowhere near the playground or among any of the children swarming all over the half-dome climbing frame and playing baseball in the field.

… nigger!

The word drifted in through the open window, one pellet in the shotgun blast of noise that was the cacophony of the children. Without lifting her head, Miss Chapman glanced out the nearby window towards the sound. Nothing seemed amiss.

She wasn’t alone in noticing the caustic word. Several other teachers also looked without looking, all of them with the same thought in mind – do I really need to get up, or will this one sort itself out? Several seconds ticked by with no further indication of trouble. Not one conversation faltered.

Someone really should be out there. Anything could happen.

Now the sound of faint singing found its way into the lounge, some rock and roll song by some Negro singer, something about a girl named Molly. Miss Chapman wasn’t familiar with the Negro music, especially not the rock and roll sort. Her mother had told her that that sort of music led to dancing and impure thoughts, both of which paved that wide, well-worn road to hell. 

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