Saturday, April 24, 2010
The halls were crammed with students at their lockers before the first period of the day. Books, lunches, purses and binders were being stuffed into the small spaces. As the bell rang announcing the five minute warning, lockers slammed shut, the halls filled with anxiety and excitement as students ran to their classes. Doug was running late and slammed his locker, racing to English. He entered the room and saw Laurie, Jill and Jeff seated at their desks. He took a seat across from Jeff.
“Hey, how’re you?” Jeff asked.
Doug nodded and watched Jim and Mark stroll into the class. As Jim walked by, he nodded to Doug and glanced over at Jeff without saying a word. He sat behind Jill and started playing with her hair. Mark took the seat across from Jim as Ted Wright, the English teacher, walked into the room with a leather briefcase. He set it on the desk and walked to the chalkboard, picking up a piece of chalk, he wrote, ‘Ted Wright’ on the board.
“I hear he’s a queer,” Jim whispered to Jill.
“Shut-up. You think everyone is,” she replied.
As he finished writing his name, Ted turned back to the class. “My name is Ted Wright, but because of a certain protocol that must be adhered to at this school to satisfy the establishment’s need for control, you are required to refer to me as Mr. Wright. In private, please feel free to call me Ted.”
“How private, Ted,” Jim lisped under his breath.
The students in the room began to relax in their seats.
“This is a class about English Literature. In this class we will discuss Literature and its relevancy to our lives today. In order to have an intelligent conversation about literature, you must read, and in order to insure that you will read, and I don’t mean the Cliff Notes, I must instill the fear of the occasional pop quiz. The rest of the class is discussion and essay.” Groans filled the room. “In the essay you will show me that you can take the information from the literature you have read and the discussions to form an opinion and put more than two sentences together in an intelligent and coherent manner. OK? Now I’d like to know what you read over your summer break. Starting here in the front, we’ll make our way around the room.
A pretty blond in the front row in the seat closest to the door was playing with the ends of her hair, biting the split ends. She looked up and saw that he was referring to her.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Nothing? No magazines, cereal boxes? Reader’s Digest?”
“Well, which ones?”
“Uh, ‘Life’, and ‘Look’ and ‘Modern Screen’. My mom’s magazines.” She went back to her split ends.
Ted was not feeling good about this. “OK, next.”
“’Wuthering Heights’, ‘Emma’, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
“Wow, that must have kept you busy.”
“I love to read. Especially nineteenth century English Literature.”
“You should do just fine in here, Miss..?”
“Wilks, Rosemary Wilks.” Rosemary smiled and it was obvious she was smitten with Mr. Wright. She was a plain brunette and had never felt more at home than in this class; except of course when she was curled up in her room lost in the world of Jane Austen.
“Thank you Miss Wilks. Next, Mr.?”
“Beadsly.” Doug was sitting behind Rosemary. “’Siddhartha and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”
“All three books of the trilogy? What about ‘The Hobbit’?”
“I already read it.”
“Anything else by Hesse?”
“I’m reading ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ now.”
“Excellent.” Ted was starting to feel that this year might be pretty good after all. “It sounds like we just might have some readers in here. It makes my job so much easier. Next.”
“Zip?” Maybe Ted had gotten his hopes up too soon.
Mark Peterson was sitting behind Doug and thought it was his responsibility to be the class clown in all his classes. “Yeah, nothing. You see I’m usually like this avariciounal reader, you see. Can’t get enough of it. I like to read a lot, but you see, I was like helping.. you see, I joined the Peace Corps this summer and I was so busy helping the people of this third world country become Americanized, that I just didn’t have much time to read this summer, Ted. Oh, I forgot, I did read ‘Playboy’.”
The class broke out in giggles and laughter.
“Just the articles, Mr..?”
“Peterson, yeah, just the articles. What else is there?”
There was more laughter and Mr. Wright smiled in spite of himself.
“I’m glad to see we also have some comedians in the class. It should make for some lively discussions. I look forward to more of your excuses, Mr. Peterson. Alright, moving across the aisle, Mr..?”
“Masters.” Jim just sat there.
“Well, Mr. Masters? What did you read this summer?”
“Yep.” Jim stared at Ted.
“Just the pictures and not the articles, I presume. Next.”
“‘Ramparts Magazine’, ‘Lord of the Flies’ for the second time. I just finished ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and oh yeah, ‘Valley of the Dolls’.”
“Very eclectic tastes, Miss..?”
“Walters, Jill Walters.”
Ted’s eyes moves from Jill to Jeff. He hadn’t noticed him before now. Ted was going to have a hard time not staring at this one.
“’Siddhartha’ and ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’.” Jeff turned and glanced at Doug who looked back at him and then to the back of Rosemary Wilks’ head. Jeff looked back to Mr. Wright. “Uh, ‘Brave New World’, ‘Walden’, uh, ‘Leaves of Grass’, and um, ‘Women in Love’, ‘Trout Fishing in America’, uh, ‘The Poem of Arthur Rimbaud’.” He pronounced it Rimbode. “And..” Jeff paused and his face turned a little red, “’The Charioteer’.”
Mr. Wright smiled knowingly. My God, this kid was beautiful. “A Mary Renault fan?”
“Yeah.” Jeff blushed even more.
“Have you read ‘The Persian Boy’?”
Mr. Wright nodded. “It’s pronounced, Ram-bo.”
“The poet, Arthur Rimbaud. It’s pronounced, Ram-bo.”
“A very impressive list, Mr..?”
“Rosen, Jeff Rosen.”
“Have a little time on your hands this summer, Mr. Rosen?”
“We just moved here this summer.”
“I see, well welcome to San Rita High, Mr. Rosen and for all you Hermann Hesse fans, may I recommend, ‘Steppenwolf’ and the ‘The Glass Bead Game’.” Doug looked up and saw Mr. Wright look from him to Jeff. Jeff glanced over at Doug who looked back at Rosemary’s brown hair. Laurie watched it all and smiled to herself.
“OK, who’s next?”