As the room fills, he moves to the front with his attendance sheets and his notebook.
“All right students, my name is Mr. Hambone. I’m going to be your ** students shoving desks | slingshoting airplanes into the ceiling’s growing collection | S and F-bombs—racial slurs | hollering rap songs | slap-fighting | bopping heads to iPods |“Oh shit! We got a sub! We got a sub—shit!” ** All right class, I’m going to ask you to refrain from abusive language in my classroom ** “It ain’t your classroom, mister.” | something in Spanish | the sound an injured hyena makes | that sound again | a backpack slammed on the floor ** All right, great, fine. Have yourself a seat and get quiet so we can get started.”
They begin to sit. Several get up to sharpen and break pencils in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder defiance. “Over there by the pencil sharpener, sit down please.”
“They’re not sharpened none, mister.”
“I don’t care. Please sit down.”
(Something in Spanish).
A female student appears out of nowhere: “Can use what restroom is? #hashtag #reallybad! 404 DNS Error.”
“What? What does that even mean? I refuse to give that statement the indulgence of interpretation. Sit down.”
“Mister, mister—I need it really BAD, mister. Mister, just LET ME, OKAY MISTER—MISTER! I GOTTA GO! IT’S GONNA BE ALL YOUR FAULT AND YOU’LL GET FIRED THEN MISTER!”
“Wait,” says Hambone. “Stop. Why are you speaking to me this way? What do you think this is? You have been disrespectful and hysterical. I award you no points. Please urinate quietly in your seat.”
“Mister! * jumping / clenching fists * Mister!”
“No! Your seat.”
“…Can I call my mom then, mister?”
“My dad’s a cop. My mom’s a lawyer. They got my back, mister. They’ll kick your ass and sue you and you’ll be a junkie outside where we live.”
“I look forward to it.” Hambone walks to the front row. “I’m gonna pass out this worksheet…err…assignment ** “We ain’t got pencils none, mister. That’s for you to bring.” | “I got one! There it go right up in the ceiling!” | “Ooooooooh!” ** You got all those pencils in the ceiling you rotten little… and if I had my way I’d scorch you in boiling lava deep within the center of the Earth so no one could ever hear you scream. You guys, I can’t—I can’t—I just can’t do the ‘I didn’t bring anything to write with’ game today. I know you’ve all been coddled by child psychologists and No-Child-Left-Behind good-intentions. If you’ve made the decision not to take responsibility for your education just imagine what you would write down.”
“We got magic markers, mister.”
“You absolutely cannot use magic markers for mathematics. Mathematics makes all that junk you keep texting on beneath your desk possible. It takes a quality, sharpened pencil with a decent eraser. Those are my standards. How many pencils could you kids buy with that iPhone or that iPod Touch? Put those away. Just leave it blank and take a zero if you must.”
“WHY NOT? OUR TEACHER LETS US.”
“Magic markers make Pythagoras cry.”
“Is he sad, mister?”
“Yes. I think he would be. Pythagoras’s students used to fast before being accepted to his school. That means they used to starve themselves for the privilege to learn what I’m trying to tell you.
“Okay, I’m gonna go over the first problem here on the board to get you started. You see we have all three sides of the triangle provided but it’s asking—kids, enough with the iPod Touches. You know your school’s policy on that.”
“MY SCHOOL’S POLICY IS YOU’RE STUPID!”
“I will not be bamboozled into contemplating that. Put the gadgets away or they’re mine.”
“This ain’t yours, mister. My parent’s paid paper for this here.”
A boy slams his book closed. “You mean they stole it from the La Hoya Swap Meet. ** “Shut-up fool. I ain’t poor. You’re the one that’s poor.” |“I ain’t poor. I see how you be living. Your dog eats cat food!” |“No it don’t. That was just the one time; I told you. Your cousin show off her booty for gas money.”
“Kids, kids. Enough. We’re all poor compared to the one percent.” He turns to the dry erase board. “Now, who can tell me what is the square of nine? ** scccreeee-EEE-eeee! | (classroom laughter) | “That makes my ears hurt. Make them stop it, mister.” | sccreeeEEE-eee-E-E-eee!” Hambone turns to face them. “Oh Jesus, Kids. I really can’t deal with the iPod Touch dog whistle app. Nor do I want to hassle with the shotgun app. Let’s not do the iPod Touch terrorism today, please? I’m asking you all nicely. ** laughter / snickering ** Alright then, fine.” He walks to a boy in a black, zip-up hooded sweatshirt. “You there, with your hands conspicuously below your desk and the earbuds snaking up under your sweatshirt: knock it off with the iPod Touch already.”
“I ain’t doing nothing, mister.”
“My ears, mister—
“Just stop it… Jose.”
“I ain’t doing nothing, mister. That ain’t even my name—damn! ** scccreeeeee-E-E-E-eeeeeee… ** I think it’s coming from over there. ** laughter / scccreeeeee! ** You might want to go check that out some.”
Hambone walks back to the center of the room. “Kids, I’m going to clear the air about a few things. You may think that because of the color of my skin and the color of my hair and the way that I talk that you don’t have to show me respect. You may think that if I call that school phone over there, no one will come to my aid (and they won’t). You may think that because I’m a substitute with all these disadvantages while on your home turf that I’m powerless to provide a positive learning environment. But what you do not know is that I have this! ** reaches into his wallet, pulls out a card | (classroom bursts out in laughter) ** Opps! My Subway Value card.
“I meant this!”
“What card that is?”
“This—my friends—shows that I am a proud, card-carrying member of The Shadowy Holy Organization of Education Standards—SHOES! SHOES! I put on my SHOES this morning kids! NOW WHO IS STEPPING ON WHOM?”
“Why your dumb club called SHOES for?”
“I just told you, it’s for adults that don’t want to be stepped on no more….ahem…any…anymore.”
“What’s a ah…ah…dolt?”
“An adult, stupid.”
“What she said.”
“There isn’t time for that today, kids. ** “Screee-EEE!” **
“Sir—sir, you are causing a disruptive and physically threatening environment in which you are endangering the hearing of your fellow classmates and myself. You are in violation of state law. I give you one last chance to discontinue use of that app and relinquish your iPod Touch for confiscation.”
“You better just do whatever you think you can do about it, mister.”
Hambone takes out his cell: “Yes, yes it’s an iPod Touch. Yes, cellphone global positioning reference point… polar coordinates: twenty degrees alpha, seventy theta, 1.6 meter radius. Yes: EMP/NiCad overload.”
“You full a shit, mister. You a big, dopy-looking Ryan Seacrest puto and if my friends ever sees you in my neighborhood when it get dark Ah-aahh—AHHHH! Hot-hot! It hot, mister, let’s squash it, let’s squash it mister, it too hot!” The young man jumps out of his desk and throws an ember-red iPod Touch onto the floor. “Ahh! Damn! It burn my hand, mister! It burn my hand?! You ain’t got no right. My parent’s bought that for me. That costs money. My hand.”
“I know it costs money. Schools cost money also. Lots of it.”
The young man lines up his bellybutton with Hambone, charges forward; punches him low in the stomach. Hambone doubles-over and falls to his knees. The kid knees him in the nose and pushes him over, tearing at his hair, his shirt collar ** growling noises ** clawing his throat. Hambone reaches out; grabs the cellphone that he’d dropped: “Help! Emergency! Next Dim! Next Dim! 1.5 meter radius, next dimension!”
A crackling of thunder.
The young man shrinks * “kaaa—zzziiip!” * and vanishes into the thin air liked a turned-off TV.
“What? Where he is? Where he go at?” a boy says. “Oh no, here it come”—vomit splashes over the side of his desk.
“What happened?” A girl stands and shouts: “What’d you do to him?”
“I Next-Dimensioned him,” says Hambone as he gathers himself. “I sent that little punk to The Twilight Zone’s cornfield.”
“Cool!” says another boy in the back.
“You can’t do that, mister!” says the girl. “That ain’t fair!”
“Why not?” asks Hambone.
“He ain’t no farmer, mister! What he gonna eat?”
Hambone dusts off his pants. “Lizard-People haunt the lands that border the cornfields. They may take him in as one of their own and teach him a trade—a lizard trade, most likely, but a trade all the same. Or they may feed him to the Restless Gwantaka, depending on how he fairs with the gauntlet run of sharpened sticks and lizard dung.”
“That ain’t fair, mister. He can’t mess with no lizards. He afraid a frogs. He bugged-out on the fieldtrip to the zoo. I’m gonna—”
“You’re gonna what? You’re gonna what? You’re gonna finish that worksheet is what.
“…What’s that? Ohhh! that’s where you keep your pencils: in your backpack… Imagine that.”
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