She was really pissed, in spite of this strange feeling of long-desired weightlessness, and she wanted to make it clear to her class that she did not appreciate the prank. This was unacceptable. Moving their chairs out into a dewy pasture at the crack of dawn on a foggy day was over-the-top, and the activity would not go unpunished once she had them all back inside the school.
Their voices were muted. She could not at all decide from which direction they came. Her irritation was of a sort she could not recall feeling before: this crankiness was accompanied by a deep sadness and sense of loss. She tried to grab the clearest voice from a puff of fog in the air, then wondered what made her do that. All she had to do was call out quite firmly for the students to come out from their hiding places and return to their seats immediately. It was Poetry Day, damnit, and she was anxious to hear them read their selections even if they weren't anxious to share.
In her calmest tone, she demanded they come to class. Then she raised her voice. Then she screamed and her screams sounded like whispers in her own ears which did not feel like ears chilled by fog, but like shells tumbling on the bottom of the sea. She clawed at the fog hoping for better vision of her escaped students, and stomped her feet to feel more grounded but no attempt at control worked.
Rudy suddenly came to mind.....in her mind's eye, which was as focused—no, more focused—than were her big brown eyes now welling with tears. Rudy, the shyest boy she ever could imagine teaching, was her biggest challenge and her highest joy in this, her first year as a teacher. He had sobbed in fear of the assignment after class the day she had told the students to select any poem they liked to read aloud to the class the next week. Just last week. It seemed like long ago. But Rudy's voice was becoming clearer as she recalled soothing him and assuring him that she trusted he would pick a fine poem and would read it beautifully.
She cupped her seashell ear into the fog puff that brought Rudy's words. He was sounding brave and strong, telling what a great teacher Ms. Brooks was (He's talking about me!, she thought) and how rotten it was that she drowned, and how she deserved everyone to read their poems in front of the substitute teacher the best they could. And he would go first. He would read the poem he liked best and hope that she could hear him.
In the surreality of the moment she stood motionless, staring with her mind's eye in the direction of Rudy's voice as he read his poem:
Photography Extraordinary -by Lewis Carroll
The Milk-and-Water School
Alas! she would not hear my prayer!
Yet it were rash to tear my hair;
Disfigured, I should be less fair.
She was unwise, I may say blind;
Once she was lovingly inclined;
Some circumstance has changed her mind.
The Strong-Minded or Matter-of-Fact School
Well! so my offer was no go!
She might do worse, I told her so;
She was a fool to answer "No".
However, things are as they stood;
Nor would I have her if I could,
For there are plenty more as good.
The Spasmodic or German School
Firebrands and Daggers! hope hath fled!
To atoms dash the doubly dead!
My brain is fire--my heart is lead!
Her soul is flint, and what am I?
Scorch'd by her fierce, relentless eye,
Nothingness is my destiny!
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