Tuesday, September 15, 2015

At War with Mirrors: Doppelganger 2015

"We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.  I'm no different."

Amidst the chaos of another year, the dust swirling as it meets the freshly hardened floor wax, the new batch of pupils stride in ready to make their mark on another crop of teachers.  They believe they are lords of the manor, so to speak.  Nevermind the fact that the high school is literally connected to the building.  A mere twenty or so paces. Even Stephen Hawking would sneer at the challenge, or lack thereof, in his electronic monotone.

I am left with a blank slate.  I know nothing of their kind, who they are, or where they come from.  All I know is that they are loud, and some of them smell.  Any good teacher cannot fathom a successful year without knowing their students:   how they view themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their likes and dislikes.  Like one hundred little research projects due ASAP.  I hate deadlines and the anxiety that compliments it.  But that is also where I thrive the most.  Ask me to write a poem and I'll throw feces at a wall.  Put a knife to my jugular, and I'll write Shakespeare.
I am the Wizard of the Spreadsheet; the Sultan of Google.  I am magic with the technology I bring, Order of Merlin:  First Class.  I prepare inquiries for my youngsters, who anticipate my every move.

"Who is this man, and why is he here?" they wonder both aloud and internally.  "He has the stature of a boy, the face of a adolescent, and the attitude of a teenage girl."  The signals sent are mixed, with both style and smoke.  Looking to their peers, they wonder what to make of this man, who has climbed the professional ladder to be given the responsibility of the education of a century of humans.  They question both his motives and their own choices, and perhaps looking above to a god who refuses to hear their pleas of having a different science teacher.  He sits alone at his stool, his throne.  He is all they have in the ways of science, like Moses leading the Jews from Egypt.  Illuminated with weak halogen lights and a bright Epson projector, he speaks softly yet sternly.

Each move and word calculated.  I must not waver.  Any weakness would be exploited like a crack in the winter pavement.  To be frozen and thawed excessively until it breaks.  I would do no such thing.  This is my savanna.  I am a lion.  I stare at my realm and see nothing but puny men.  There are no pacts between lions and men...

With shivering hearts, my prey neatly sitting at their desks, unaware of the feast I was going to partake in.  Each adolescent visage smothered with tiny shadows, cast from the light that only a Chromebook could provide. While light is often riddled with allegorical parallels, the brightness would indeed fail the students this time around, as they navigated their way through a maze of links, accessing the survey I had provided. Ironically, this light was their pathway to doom.
I must know my enemy. Sun Tzu once wrote "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster."  Each question I prompted to them in this survey was a tiny battle.  Each response they elaborated on was my victory.

This feast would slake the hunger of hundreds of days, not of the body, but of the mind. A swarm of clicking and confusion circulated the stale air of the room, the vent faintly droning, just enough to drown out the sound of the fearful whispers and the crunching of a dozen brows.  Eyes darting to and fro, they wonder what kind of being would dare inquire such psychologically deep questions, such as "do you have any siblings?" Their bout with existentialism becomes horrifyingly real.
As a final plea to oneself, eyes fixate on the glistening lawn outside only yards away, reflecting the tiny beads of water manufactured from a cool summer night.  From afar, they appear to be tiny stars; and much like the burning celestial bodies, the proximity so unforgiving.

With shivering hearts, they wait as they look up to their apparent leader, a towering 5'7, as they read the final question.  He circles them like a cobra, slithering about its domain, prepared to swallow this substantial knowledge whole.  The tedious pecking at keyboards fills the room, as students begin to give up hope.  I unhinge my jaw in delight as they respond to the survey's grand finale.  They are unsure how to respond, their resolve is shattered.  There is no going back now.  Horrified, they read...

"I think Mr. W looks like..."

"...a baseball player."
"...a college student."
"We love each-other just as much as we love diversity!"
"...a game show host."
"...a high school student."
"I'd love to go to the Max, but I've got a study date later with Kelly..."
"...a male gymnast."
I'm actually okay with this.
"...a person in a band."

"...Adam Sandler."
Not cool.
"...Bill Nye in his early years."

"...he's too buff for his shirts."
God, I hope so...
"...Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon."
This is...not too terribly far off, actually.

"...I guess Johnny Depp??"
"...Ian Somerlander." aka Ian Somerhalder
So I look like a college vampire.  Got it.
"...Ironman." or "...Robert Downey Jr."
Probably the sarcasm?
"...Jeremy Renner."
Nobody wants to be Hawkeye.  Not even Hawkeye.

"...Rob Lowe's younger brother."
This is acceptable.
This is probably what they were going for.

"...Zac Efron." or "Zach Effron" or "Zach Efron" or "Zack Efron."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 12 - A Return to The Beach

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11

"I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that." 
- Detective Rust Cohle, True Detective
Like the shores of Normandy, Will’s phone exploded with noises and flashes indicating that SOMETHING had indeed occurred: two missed calls, a voicemail, and six text messages.  Will first noticed the text messages, not just the numbers, but the sources:  all references.  Will’s heart would only have the opportunity to rest for a few minutes from his bout with a treadmill, but it again kicked into overdrive.  “This is good,” he thought to himself.  As he read through the text messages, he saw that all of his references had been contacted, and all of them informed Will what they were asked and how they replied.  Finally, Will braced himself as he hit “play,” on the voicemail.

“Hello Will, this is Miss Director of Teaching and Learning from Rural Local Schools.  We wanted to get in touch with you in regards to the position you had interviewed for.  As we mentioned in the interview, we wanted to wrap up the process as quickly as possible, so if you could call me back at my cell-phone at your earliest convenience, that would be great…”
The remainder of the phone-call might as well been gibberish for Will.  He quickly scribbled the numbers down, entered them into his phone, and hit the green “call” icon.  Will could see his shirt visibly pulsing in front of his heart.
“Hey Will!” Miss Director greeted him, “thanks for getting back to me so quick!”
“Not a problem!” he politely replied, trying to hide his excitement.
“Well, as I said in your voicemail, we wanted to go ahead and move forward with the selection process.  We talked to your references, and were very happy with what we heard.  And with that, we would like to offer you our 8th grade science position.”
There was no hesitation in his voice:  “Absolutely.”

With that, Will deviated his day.  Rather than head home, he immediately drove to see his fiance at her summer job.  He walked into the store, his shirt saturated with sweat.  Her face lit up.  “Hey!” she greeted him, “what are you doing? How did it go?”
“I figured I would stop by on my way home...I think it went well.” Will said.
“Good!  When will you know?”
“Pretty soon,” Will said, withholding the emotion for just a moment more.
His fiance continued to talk to him about her day, asking what he was going to do, and asked what they would do for dinner.  It was then that Will struck.
“I think we should go out to eat,” Will said.
“Ok.” Fiance said cheerfully.  She smiled.  Maybe she already knew.  Will smiled back.
“Hey…” Will began quietly, as he didn’t want to cause a scene at her store, “I got the job.”
Her mouth gaped open with her Cookie Monster smile, and her eyes welled up.
Pretty much, yeah.
The old saying goes “when it rains, it pours” and at that moment, it was a damn monsoon.  For months, Will had endured the rantings of an apparent lunatic, as well as the manipulation of a so-called “leader.”  But there seemed to be something supernatural at work.  The flood waters had piled up and were flowing in singularity.  As a matter of physics, it did not seem possible for the rain to not only stop, but to actually reverse course.  Will had endured many peculiar things in his life, but this may have been one of the most strange of any series of events...
Mrs. Handler texted Will a few hours after accepting his new position to congratulate him, and informed him that the state exam scores came in. Science apparently tested at a 7-year high.  Will felt somewhat justified now, as Mr. Evans had let go of ⅓ of the people responsible for this.  “I bet he feels like a jackass,” Will thought to himself.  As fate would have it, Mr. Evans probably did, amongst other emotions.
Will then got another message, this time from another one of his references (the one who’s wife worked with Mr. Evans).  He, too, congratulated Will on his new position, and concluded his message with a little nugget of joy: “rumor has it that your old boss is getting forced out.  If so, KARMA!”
Will texted Mrs. Handler in a fit of joy: “I don’t mean to be the rumor mongering type, but is there any truth to this?”
Her response was simple: “Yes.”
Apparently, Mr. Evans had burned his last bridge and was more or less demoted into some sort of administrative job within the district.  He would no longer serve as principal.  The witch was dead.  His lifeless little legs outstretched from under a gigantic house.
Call it karma.  Call it fate.  Call it divine intervention.  Will hadn’t seen this type of reversal of fortune since 3rd grade when he read a Curious George book.  He had been to hell and back.  All the drama, the stress, the work, and to not only have things not only work out, they appeared to work out better for everyone.  Will was employed.  His former colleagues now rid of Mr. Evan’s reign of terror. Perhaps Will had been a martyr in all of this. He didn't care to know.
For 300 days, Will had endured more than anyone ever should have endured.  He weathered the perfect storm of personalities that seemed to have led to his dismissal.  And while his psyche and his physical state were made leaner than before, he did not falter….


The hot sun, the warm Gulf breeze, the drink in his hand; life wasn’t too bad, even if the rum was a little warm.  Mexico will do that to you.  Somewhere bordering the two oceans, one of beachgoers and one of the saltwater variety, Will sat and contemplated the ongoing saga that was once his professional life.  To say that Will had been persistent was an understatement.  For 300 days, Will experienced stress he had never undergone before. A mere two weeks after the school year, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a small, rural district some 35 minutes away.  While Will’s confidence had been shot for a moment, his desire to rid himself of the ice cold grip of the tyrant outweighed it.  He had escaped, and landed into a better spot than he probably deserved.  It was this stern desire that guided him all along.
He leaned his head back on his beach chair, fixated next to his wife’s, and sighed a sigh of relief. Beads of sweat streamed down Will’s sunscreen slathered body and plopped into the hot sand, evaporating instantly, like all of Will’s 300 days of apprehension, scorched away in only an instant in the hot summer sun...
The End.

For those that endured...thank you dearly for reading.