It’s Back-To-School season, and in honor of the occasion, I’ve got a charming little bit of super-short, flash fiction to help folks bring it into focus, especially since the topic du jour is an on-going teacher shortage. (My bride taught in public schools for a long time, and I suspect this little tale may help explain a lot about school administrators.)
“The Superintendent’s on the line,” said Carla Jefferson to her boss, Juan Deangelo. She held her hand over the receiver. “You want me to tell him you’re dead?”
Juan smiled. “Nah. I’ll take it. I’m not due to die until next week.”
Carla didn’t hesitate. “Don’t you go believin’ anything that white devil tries to tell you. Like I’ve said a thousand times, if–”
“You can hang up now, Carla. I’ve got it.” Juan picked up his phone and waited for the profoundly loyal black woman to cradle hers.
“Like I said–”
“I know, Carla, I know.”
He put the phone to his ear. “Hello, Dr. Granger. What can I do for you?” He still had Carla’s attention and motioned for her to close his office door. He didn’t relax until it clicked shut.
“I’ve got wonderful news,” Superintendent Granger said, his voice unnaturally pleasant.
Juan remained cautious. Good news at Horatio Dunbar Memorial High School usually meant none of the students or faculty got shot over the weekend. “Indeed. Kindly define ‘wonderful’.”
“We’ve got your replacement staff.”
The beleaguered principal perked up. “Real teachers, or more warm bodies like last time?”
“Warm bodies! That’s a good one, Juan! But seriously, you know I’m not one to raise false hopes; you do know that, don’t you? I really believe these people, the ones we’ve got more or less lined up, can be of tremendous help to you down there.”
“You didn’t answer my question. Are ‘these people’ real teachers?”
There was only a short pause before Granger responded, but it was enough to bring Juan back down to Earth. Any teaching experience these people were likely to have probably didn’t include academics.
“They know their subject material,” Granger said. “In fact, most of them have advanced degrees.”
“And they’re willing to teach down here in the ghetto?” Juan pursed his lips. “What’s the catch?”
“What’s the catch?”
“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to hire qualified–”
“What aren’t you telling me?” demanded Juan. “They’re all convicted felons? They’ve all got some dreaded disease? What?”
“It’s nothing like that,” Granger said. “I assure you.”
“Well then, what?”
“They’re uh… They’re all….”
And, just so you know, my newest novel, Zeus’s Cookbook, will be out in a matter of days. Look for an email announcement soon. Here’s a quick peek at the cover: