Tales Out Of School, A Novel by Shirley Ann Howard
Heat rose from concrete and
asphalt pavements, and humidity much too steamy for September, hung thick and
heavy in the air. Sandra Scott stood in a cavernous classroom behind a colossal
oak desk—the teacher’s desk—amid stark fluorescent lights, a wall of open
windows, and the smell of dusty grammar books on the shelf below. Stacks of a
rebound literature anthology, green to match the boards, towered on the sills. It was the first day of school at
Somerville High, five miles north of
Relentlessly, it beat in her
ears, like A Tell-Tale Heart.
Brrrinnnngggggg…… She flinched.
The harsh, high-pitched clang—the signal to stand outside the classroom
door—lasted a long time. Waves of teenagers rounded the corner, wearing trendy
new clothes—baggy shorts and flashy sneakers for the boys, clingy tank tops and
flip flops for the girls. They carried new notebooks and spotless backpacks in
lime green, hot pink, electric blue and camo. Some walked with a boisterous
bounce, their skin glowing with remnants of summer sun. Others hung close to
the wall, their faces a mixed contortion of anguish and laughter.
One entered Room 232, then
another, and another. They took seats tentatively, as if fearing something on
the chair might sting them. She waited for them to settle, then walked up
“Good Morning,” she began, while
some were still talking. “I’m Ms. Scott. This is homeroom and also Freshman
English. Is everyone in the right place?” Nobody said anything.
Perspiration moistened her neck.
“We have a few registration tasks to accomplish,” she said.
ATTENDANCE was listed at the top
of her note card. Adam Adams—here, Kenneth Glenn—present, all the way through
to Andrea Ventura.
“AhnDrayAh,” the student
corrected. Ms. Scott repeated it, calling it a very beautiful name.
“We have these forms to fill out
today,” she said placing them on the front desks. “Emergency and health
insurance information, personal data sheet.” A flurry of papers flapped over
shoulders and down the rows.
Then, someone called out from the
right. “I don’t know my father’s work phone number.”
“Can we bring these home?” A
boy’s voice bellowed from the back.
“What if you don’t have
insurance?” questioned a girl with red hair.
“I live with my grandmother.
Should I put that where it says Mother’s name?”
“You’re in high school now. How
does it feel?” No response.
“How many of you think English is
your best subject?” More silence. GET ACQUAINTED was not going well.
Twenty minutes left? Her stomach did a slow motion cartwheel.
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