Saturday, September 5, 2009

ERASING THE PAST - short fiction

This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega challenge:
Spam, perpetual motion, sprinkle, telephone pole, stains, alphabetical, surgery, flattery, liberty, preservation, shadows, singularity, Florida, caterpillars, copy
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

After a morning filled with boring meetings, Ashley sat at her desk deleting hundreds of spam messages that had accumulated over her summer break. It was the first of three in-service days at the school where she had been teaching Social Studies for nearly three decades. A thousand human perpetual motion machines would show up on Thursday morning.
Ashley wasn’t sure she was ready for the preteens. The previous spring, her mother had died. Then she discovered that her brother, a financial planner, had embezzled everyone’s investments including her own and her mother’s, leaving Ashley and her sister to borrow money for the funeral. Over the summer, Ashley's landlord threw her out because she had left her tub overflow into his apartment. To make things worse, Ashley was going through menopause, which caused extreme crankiness. With those problems and her surgery in June, she didn’t feel like herself. But Ashley was determined to put all of that behind her.
Her sister Marilyn had suggested a sabbatical for Ashley to join her in Florida, but her older sister had never stopped bossing her around. Ashley preferred her liberty to a semester with an overbearing sibling. Besides, with no savings, she couldn’t afford a leave of absence. She was sure she could handle returning to work.
Once the junk mail had been deleted, Ashley popped a few aspirin, then found her printed class lists and began to copy students’ names into her electronic grade book in alphabetical order. She recognized family names of students she had taught in the past, some welcome and some sure to sprinkle her classes with a few troublemakers. Her right hand began to tremble as she typed the last of the names.
She attempted to deal with disruptive students with humor and flattery, or anything else that assured the preservation of her sanity, but she was not always successful. She believed in the singularity of each student and made a supreme effort not to force them all into the same mold, but there were always a few incorrigible ones who drove her crazy anyway. She dug in her purse for a valium.
When Ashley peered through the slats of the blinds on her classroom’s windows, she realized that shadows had grown long. It was time to go home.
Ever since the accident, she was leery of driving, especially after dark. In the evening dusk, Ashley’s car inched out of the parking lot as slowly as a caterpillar. A child on a bike pedaled past the school's driveway. With a piercing pain in her head, Ashley flashed back to that day in June.

On the last day of school in the spring, she had stayed late to make sure all grades were recorded and her classroom was ready for summer cleaning. After all her troubles, she felt as if she had just barely survived the last grueling days of the school year without falling apart. It was nearly dark as she left the building. When she drove from the school parking lot, she saw her nemesis Billy Brandoff on his bike. She had a nearly uncontrollable urge to run him down. She aimed for him and stepped on the gas.
At the last second, she had swerved to avoid hitting the boy. Instead, she ran head-on into a telephone pole, resulting in her fractured skull. Afterward, she claimed she had no memory of the event. No one suspected it was anything but a freak accident, so there was no stain on her driving record nor on her teaching credentials.

Ashley snapped back to the present. Billy was at the high school now and she hadn’t seen any Brandoffs on her class lists for this school year. Trying to control the tick in her left eye, Ashley vowed to drive home very carefully and slowly every day. She would attempt to control her temper.
And if she couldn’t, she’d just have to think of a better way of erasing her troublesome students.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)


Argent said...

Another great story, CJ! I love hou you gradually built in all the details of Ashley's life in such a natural and non-intrusive way. Ashley came across as a very real person to me.

If you had'nt made them bold, I would be hard-pressed to spot the set words as they fitted in so well. I bet most teachers have at least one student they'd like to erase.

Dr.John said...

Loved it. Get that teacher a new eraser. You made all those non-related words just come together in one scary story.

Reston Friends! said...

ahh..the Billy Brandoffs of the world...annoying little jerks

Ashley is a wonderful character. I look forward to reading more of her.

Raven said...

Loved it.... I didn't see Billy B. coming. Poor Ashley has had a rough time.

Quilly said...

Your words fir into that story so beautifully I didn't even notice them. Well done.

I'm a teacher and I believe I worked with Ashley my last year in Vegas. She spent quite a bit of time in my room crying and rocking back and forth on a chair. Poor lady.

Fandango said...

We dragons would love to help get those kids in line. We could throw a little fire where it will do the most good.
Great writing. We loved it.

Richard said...

I always suspected my teachers might take a shot at me if they had the chance. At least she didn't do it. Very interesting read.

DawnTreader said...

Well written story with surprising twist at the end. Enjoyed it! :)

Nance said...

Thanks for directing me to this story. Poor Ashley--part of her problem stems from working too long at school! Hee hee. Give me her number and I'll take her out with me for martinis. That's how *I* avoid aiming at the Billys. That, and remembering what a bitch those high insurance premiums can be.