Fall 1998, Volume 16.1
Tom Cody has published short stories in The Alabama Literary Review, The Long Story, Tomorrow, Samisdat, and The Volcano Review. He has had three plays produced off-off-Broadway by The Theatre-Studio, Inc. He is also a recipient of a New York State Foundation for the Arts grant for a collection of short stories.
Stand in back, stand in back. Size places. Shit, it start all over again. Shortest, tallest. What I crabbin bout? Get to sit in last row, tallest girl in class. Only good thing bout bein tall, can diddle myself if I feel like. Nobody could see me. The teach, a runt, don’t come up to my titties. A new one. Every year half the teaches new. Can’t put up with our bullshit. Leave to work out in country or in office. This teach, his mouth twitchin and he be nervous. Try not to show it. All teaches get shitty drawers start of school. Try to act like they confidence. Really scared shitless, prayin they get through school year in one piece. Make out they happy be back in school from vacation. They think that then they be crazy like bedbugs.
Now we be seated. Damned ittybitty desk and chair, made for goddamned midgets. Everybody talkin, teach say be quiet, not talk unless permission. Jimmy Williams look back at me from next row and say, "Hey, Ruby, the teach a real tough man." I say to him, "Don’t be pickin on the teach, Jimmy, he a real cute little guy."
The teach turn to blackboard, write his name. Mr. Harrison. Just as he turn from board Jimmy yell out, "Faggot, Mr. Faggot, that’s his name."
The teach see it Jimmy who rank him. He look at Jimmy a while like he decidin what to do. He do nothing. Oh, oh, I say to myself. Teach, you make big mistake not challengin Jimmy. Now Jimmy know he got another scalp. That’s how Jimmy brag, got a teacher scalp. Since we in fifth grade together he collects teach’s scalps, got one or two for every year. Last year he got quickest scalp, first day of class. Little white Miss Prissy so nervous chalk fall out hand when she try to write name on board. Jimmy jump outa seat, pick up chalk, sayin he help her. He make her spell her name and he prints it on board. When he give her chalk back he squeeze her hand and then he puts her hand on his crotch, make big circles while winkin at shakin teach. He tellin her two things, he boss in class and if she stay round long enough he gonna put that big cock between those shakin white legs. He gotta big cock too. I let him give it to me once in a while when I feel hot and horny. Not other times.
The teach say we ninth graders, top class in junior high school, be graduatin in June, set example for rest of school. Everybody laugh at that like they think the teach tryin to make a joke. Us examples. We the biggest fuckups in school.
Now he tellin us he be our English teach besides bein our home room teach. Tell us what we gonna accomplish this year. Same old crap. Give us books with famous names, everybody know them. But on bottom of name page have the word, adaptation. Means book made easy to read. They think we too dumb read real book, have to make it easy. Should give us comic books, be done with it.
I go home Mae ast me what I be readin in school. I tell her the deer story, Yearling. Mae be ohing for five minutes, sayin, oh daughter, that be famous book, good for you to read. Mae think she hot shit cause she graduate high school, work in big office. She make good money too, but it don’t do her no good. She give it all to that bastard she sleep with on weekends. Tell her she fool give her money to him so he sleep with her. She get real mad at that, call me rotten daughter, ungrateful for all she do for me. I look her in the eye, tell her she ain’t doin shit for me cept bring that hophead home to sleep with her, and then when she go to work he wanna sleep with me too. One time I take kitchen knife, tell him he don’t leave me alone I’m cuttin off his cock, tie string round it, hang it out window. Everybody passin look, they know who be walkin round with no cock.
Class finally over and on way out to next class, just when we get to door, Jimmy yell out, "Mr. Faggot!" He yell so loud whole school must hear him cause from then on the teach ain’t Mr. Harrison no more, he Mr. Faggot. When talkin bout teaches in lunchroom, who come to school drunk, who smell bad, he always Mr. Faggot. Might as well change his name, legal-like. Take all his papers, birth certif, driver’s license, rub out Mr. Harrison, put in Mr. Faggot.
Jimmy bring me up here from community center in basement. Sittin on steps between floors, up from classroom. He say he wanna tell me somethin important. Shit, I know what he want. I say to him, "Why you bring me up here?" "I gotta have it, Ruby," he say almost pleading. "Come on, give it to me." I tell him I don’t feel like it now. He come back with I did it the other times. Tell him I was hot other times but I ain’t now. He start yelling, like he think that do him any good. "Hey," I say, "the teach is down there in his room, the door’s open. Maybe he could hear us." "Screw Mr. Faggot," Jimmy say, "He come up here I’ll pull his face off." I ask him why he get on teach so much and Jimmy snarl, "He’s a faggot. Why he stay in school after three o’clock? Why he don’t be like the other teachers? Three o’clock, they run out like school’s on fire." "Hell, Jimmy," I say, "teach just tryin do the right thing." He don’t listen to me, all he care about is gettin some. "Ruby, please," he beggin, "let me get in. Me and you been together since fifth grade, even left back together in seventh grade." I laugh at that, Jimmy one of them guys, funny without mean to be. Shit, like we left back together mean I gotta lay for him. He got no shame, almost blubber, "Ruby, please, won’t take me long, no time at all, I’m hard like a rock." I see his pants bulging, put my hand on bulge, say, "Whee! Man, you sure be hard. But it still ain’t doin you no good. I ain’t hot and when I ain’t hot I don’t give it to nobody." "You bitch," he shout at me, "just wait till you want something from me." "Ain’t nothin you got I want," I tell him. Then he tries sweet approach with me, use sweet soft voice. "Just let me feel you then," he say. "I’m so hot I get my gun off right away." "Shit," I say, "go ahead, get youself a good feel if that how you get your charge." He grab at me like I’m some piece of meat in butcher store. Trouble with him, with most guys, they sensitive like toilet seat. While he jabbing away at me I look down stairs, see teach peek out from open door. His mouth drop open and he quick duck back into room. I don’t tell Jimmy cause I know he go down, mess up the teach. Maybe I save teach for me, mess him up in my own way.
Jimmy finally done with his pawin, let out big moan. Then back to usual snotty way he talk. "Come on," he say. "Let’s get away from this shit place."
Next day rush home from school, change into tight black leather pants. Show off long legs. My best part, long legs. All guys go for gal with long legs. Think bout having them wrapped round back. Put on red blouse, open top three buttons. Show off second best part I got, firm round titties. Fix hair, plenty makeup. Mae say I look like Paris whore when I dress. Question is, how she know bout Paris whore? Only time she see Paris is in movie.
He sittin at desk, jump like bomb go off under his chair. He got jacket off, tie loose, shirt sleeves rolled up. I walk over, sit on top of desk near him. He don’t know what to say, like his tongue cut off or he forgot how to talk.
"I’m goin down to community center in basement, thought I’d drop in, see you."
He still tryin get his tongue workin. While I wait I swing my legs, back, forth. He looks, I know he will, only like all guys, make out not lookin. They lookin all right.
Finally he get tongue loose. "Ruby, you know the rules, students are to go directly to the community center and stay there. You’re not to wander through the halls."
"Crazy rule. I don’t steal nothin, don’t hurt nothin."
"But rules are for everyone. You might not do anything wrong, but someone else might. They might…
I cut off what I know gonna be long teach speech.
"You married?" I ast him.
He look around before answer, like what he tell me a big secret.
"I was. My wife died in an auto accident."
"You go with anybody?"
He shake his head, look round again like now he need somebody help him with the answers. But don’t need nobody help him take sneaky look at my legs. He do that all right himself.
"What you do for excitement?" I say and now I feel like I’m the teach, him the pupil. I like the feelin.
"I read most of the time, and occasionally 1 go to the movies or a play."
"Books!" I spit out the word. "What good it do you spend all your time readin dumb books? Books ain’t doin nothin for you. Don’t make you feel happy when you got the miseries. Don’t grab hold of you when you lonely and need someone to be with. Like that junk you make us read in class. That nutty old Silas Marner. Anybody dumb as that guy ain’t got no right to be alive. Who cares bout him? Not me, not nobody in the class neither. Why you waste our time with that junk? That old Silas, countin his money every night. What good that do him? That be my money I be out-every night havin good old time."
Teach look sad, say, "But, Ruby, life can’t be just a series of parties."
"Who say so?" I almost shout at him. "I got money, I do what I want with it. I wanna party every night, then that’s what I’m doin. Ain’t nobody tell me I can’t."
Teach shake his head again like somethin wrong with his neck. "But don’t you want to do anything worthwhile with your life?" he ast me. "Don’t you want people to respect you?"
I look at him, see if he be tryin make joke. No, he be serious and I laugh so hard I almost fall off desk. People respect me, hot damn. I tell him, "Ain’t nobody respect me. Don’t bother me none neither."
"But it should bother you, Ruby," teach say real serious like. "And you can make them respect you, you can start right here in class. Pay attention to what we read. You don’t think much of Silas Marner, but don’t think of him as someone in a far off place or time. Think of him as someone you know, a man who, through no fault of his own, becomes an outcast, shunned by society. He is a victim of society, of unthinking, unfeeling people. And literature can teach you so many things, it can put you in touch with your feelings, so you can get to know yourself, know about others. Shakespeare gives us so many examples of human behavior and by reading…"
"Stop!" This time I do shout at him. "Don’t be tellin me nothin- bout that Shakeguy. Last year they take us in a bus to someplace and we see that play, Julie and Romey… "
"Romeo and Juliet," he say, back to bein a teach again, correctin me.
"We see them and how you expect us to unnerstand that funny talk? Shakeguy don’t know right talk."
"But the story is so simple and clear," he say. "Two young people, your own age group, in love and being opposed by their parents. It’s a story for all time, Ruby, it’s a story for today. Surely you know cases of a similar nature, parents who object to their children’s boyfriends or girlfriends."
"My mother don’t like the boy I pick I tell her, ‘Mae, I like Bill or John or Tom, you don’t like them that’s too bad. You don’t be sleepin with them, I be sleepin with them.’"
Teach shake that head again and a sad look on his face, like he think they be no hope for me. He tell me I have to go, he leavin. But he give my legs one more look before I get off desk and go to door. Before I go I say to him, "You a cute little guy but you sure don’t know from nothin."
Teach like my legs so much I figure I help him out. Start wearin short skirts to school, no more jeans. Hang legs outside desk, cross and swing top leg out and back. Couple of days teach don’t look, least I don’t catch him. I speed up swingin leg and then I see his eyes peekin over book he supposed to be readin. He ain’t readin, he lookin. Maybe he thinkin it nice to get between Ruby’s long legs, nice have Ruby’s legs wrapped round back. Wait, teach, you got somethin better comin up. Just come to me, terrif idea, so good I proud of me. Should join army, I become general in no time. Idea for day he give back spellin papers. He come down aisle, stop every desk, show what wrong on paper. Me it’s always same, two damned ittybitty letters, i and e or e and i, never know which is which. Teach always tell me some rule. It be crazy rule and I ast him if he know what the word is even if i and e be in wrong place. He have to say he do and then I ast him what difference it make then. Sometime he try explain why it make difference, sometimes he don’t bother.
Now it be spelling test give back day and I ready with my terrif plan. Not wearin short skirt, wearin dirn somethin, it be Mae’s. It colored like a rainbow but it be full, which is needed for my super plan. Don’t wear it if not needed, it cover up my shape, but Mae think she hot shit when she wear it. That’s cause it be skirt worn by some foreigns, that make big hit with Mae.
Oh oh, teach be in my aisle now, comin to me fast. Now Ruby, push self up from seat, pull skirt all way up. He at my desk now and now I spread my legs. Teach don’t move, stop like he paralyze, his eyes they be starin at Ruby’s pussy like maybe it a magnet. Whole time he just stare, then sudden his face begin turn ten shades red purple pink. Funny sound come from his mouth, like he garglin with somethin burn his mouth. He turn right round, ain’t tellin me no "e" and "i" and "i" and "e" rule today. All way to desk he make that funny sound and whole class lookin at him. Thinkin maybe he havin heart attack. Be first time my pussy done that to anybody. I’m happy, good plan, work just fine, real fine. Now I leave teach alone.
Teach be happy. Bouncin round like rubber ball. Probably happy cause last week before summer vacation and he still in one piece. After all the shit this class give him he sure lucky be in one piece. Specially Jimmy, he give teach baddest shit. Always braggin he get teach’s scalp soon. He really hate teach and teach do nothin against him. That Jimmy he be one mean sonofbitch. Almost kill teach one time. Teach have back to class, writin on board. Jimmy stand up, big bolt in hand, throw it at teach’s head. Lucky Jimmy have lousy aim, bolt hit board foot from teach’s head. Put big hole in board. It hit teach’s head and that’d have hole in it too. Teach shakes, turns round, real mad. He say whoever done that, stand up. I demand know who done that. Dumb question. Like Jimmy or anybody gonna stand up, say I did it, teach. Teaches must go special schools, take special courses in dumbness.
Now teach callin on rows, go to board, write sentences from work book, correctin mistakes. Get to Jimmy’s row, everybody go to board cept Jimmy. He tell teach he don’t feel like goin board. Teach just smile, say it’s all right, Williams, I guess the class can get along without your help. Everybody laugh, yell out that the teach just ranked Jimmy. Jimmy don’t laugh, can see his jaw get tight. Somethin goin on in his head. I know Jimmy, he ain’t lettin’ teach rank him out in front of whole class without he doin somethin. Don’t have many brains, Jimmy don’t but what little he got he usin to think how he get back at teach.
Teach finish correctin row at board. They sit and he call on nother row. They be all girls and they start on their mistake sentences. I look at Jimmy, he sweatin. Thinkin be hard work for him. What Jimmy be doin, I wonder. Don’t have long before I find out. Jimmy jump out of chair, run to board and he smack girls on ass, yellin out, hot ass, hot ass. He hit every girl, they turn round, start yellin. Then Jimmy start hittin them in f\ront, yelling, juicy cunt, juicy cunt.
Teach standin at side of room, starin like he can’t believe what he see. All girls screamin now and teach drop his mark book and pen on floor. He rush over to Jimmy, spin him round,smash his face, back forth, back forth. Then he throw Jimmy against board, Jimmy bounce off just like that bolt he throw at teach bounce off board.
All girls hurry away from board, just teach and Jimmy in front of room. Jimmy double up his fists, scream, at teach, faggot, faggot, Mr. Faggot. Teach move to Jimmy, smack him across face again.
Everybody expect Jimmy hit teach back. Not me, I know now what Jimmy doin. I seen him do it in sixth grade. He get teach to hit him, teach get fired. Can’t hit kids, specially white teach can’t hit black boy.
Jimmy open fists, mean smile on face, he say to teach, "Now you done it, you done it good, Mr. Faggot. You hit me in front of whole class. Now I got your ass in a real tight sling. I get in a little trouble, that’s O.K. but it ain’t nothin to what’s happenin to you." Jimmy does a dance step to the door, stops and yells at teach, "Knew I’d get your scalp before end of year, Mr. Faggot."
Class know Jimmy on way to principal’s office. Teach know it too. He go to desk, looks at class, like he expectin somebody say something, like maybe they sorry what happened. Nobody sorry for him, they soft laughin, enjoyin his big problem. Everybody like see a teach in trouble instead of always the pupils.
Teach see nobody sayin nothin and he laugh, but ain’t regular happy laugh, nothin happy bout it. Then he sit at desk, still lookin at class, waitin somebody to help him. He wait long time if he think anybody help him. Class happy, best fun anybody have in long time. Teach finally see he all alone, and he stretches arms out sideways, like maybe he think he be Jesus on the cross. Then he puts head down on desk, starts sobbing and wailing while his shoulders jerk up and down, like somebody sticking long knife up his ass. Pretty soon he starts pounding on desk and while he pounding sobby sounds become louder and louder. Nobody say nothin, even stop soft laughin. But I can’t keep still, and I say real loud, "I’ll be damned! Mr. Faggot’s cryin like a baby."