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A Bitter Old Man

“It might be over soon,” Winston murmured to himself, his eyes skimming over each part of the room except for the glaring, blinking digits. It was a trick he had picked up his first year of teaching, the longer he avoided watching the clock, the quicker time went. He had also decided in his first year of teaching that resisting the temptation to look was a feat no man could conquer. Really, at least an hour must have passed, but the clock corrected that it had only been fifthteen minutes. Winston sighed deeply, at least for this particular day, there was only one class left. Bitterly, he took one last bite of his bland processed cheese sandwich, which was somehow slightly soggy. As the bell blared Winston pushed back the chair, brushed the crumbs off of his protruding stomach, shuffled his papers, and pushed his glasses up his nose with a sense of importance. Maybe, just maybe, he could make a difference today.
In fact today Winston was teaching his best subject, history. Truly a glorious subject he believed, and one of the most important. Why math was required for four years of high school, and history only for three, Winston could not fathom. How would math help the future generations make any decision of importance to the country? Would math teach them to weigh the costs and benefits of war, of the potential danger of religion, and of the value of education itself? No of course not! His face went red as he reveled through these points, wringing his hands in frustration as he did so. Winston often thought he was the only person with any sort of sense in this school system. He had tried in vain to discuss the matter with his coworkers, administrators, and even the school board committee itself! But alas, he was only met with blank stares and the same blatant statement; “you wouldn’t understand”.
“Pretentious pricks,” he scorned aloud, faint giggles scattered across the room. Winston felt a heat crawl over his face again, he hadn’t heard the students come in. “Nothing to worry about, just take your seats.”
He winced at the own harshness of his voice and turned his back to the class to read over the lesson plan.
“Oh no,” a hushed voice said as began writing his name on the board.
“He’s awful isn’t he? That’s the one that reports everyone,” Another student remarked, without the same discretion. Winston felt his hands began to shake, honestly they must think him deaf or stupid. As he turned back around, he caught the sight of three boys walking in, much taller than himself. He narrowed his eyes, he knew their type, those kids were the ones who walked around as if they were the center of the universe itself. They smiled lazily, and sat down in their seats still talking in an obscenely loud voice as the bell rang again. Ten seconds Winston told himself, ten seconds and he would get their attention without any complications. He counted slowly, taking a deep breath, pleading with any god for just this once for a class to listen.
“Settle down, settle down now,” He called. Winston smiled to himself, his voice had been perfect, not too loud with just enough authority. His spirits soared as the class did indeed obey, watching him with curious eyes. Maybe, just this once, things would go his way.
“Now if you look over to your left, you’ll see the warm-up question, ‘Explain the discovery of Ponce de Leon and address what he was originally looking for,’and you are to answer this on your own sheet of paper.” There was a shuffling of papers as he spoke.
“As you answer this question, I’ll be passing around a sign in sheet. Make sure-,” At this point a booming laugh came from the other side of the room as one of those boys showed his friend something on his phone, completely oblivious to anything Winston had said. The back of Winston’s hands began to prickle as he wrung them,of course they would be on their phones during class. Humanity finally had the vast knowledge of the world at its fingertips and this is what it was used for, mindless entertainment.
“Hey, you,” He spat looking firmly at the kid, who still payed him no attention. In fact the kid had enough cheek to continue laughing with his friend. Winston began to feel hot in his face, he would report that kid as soon as the lesson was over, but right now he had to stay calm.
“Hey are you going to the game tonight?” The boy turned to his friend beside him with a foolish grin, he knew exactly what he was playing at. Once again the giggles broke out, eyes watching him to see his reaction, to see him lose control. That did it for Winston, there was nothing more that he hated then the blatant disrespect these kids showed.
“SHUT UP ALL OF YOU.” Winston slammed his fist down onto the desk, breathing heavily, and at that the kid finally looked up.
“What?” The kid looked up at him, his smile even brighter as he taunted him further.
“As I was saying write legibly or you will be marked as absent,” Winston began to shuffle around the room placing the paper before each student. His eyes betrayed him once again as he looked at the clock in desperation, only fifteen minutes had passed.
“Okay let’s go over the warm-up, who can give me the answer?” Winston scanned around the room, meeting only blank stares in return, and instead glanced through the attendance sheet. His eyes settled on one name in particular, Dylan Gordon, the boy with the far too large, white grin.
“Dylan Gordon?”

“What?”

“Answer the question.”

“What question?”

Winston sighed at this, what else had he expected?

“The question you have had fifteen minutes to answer on that-” at this he jerked his finger sharply, “-board right in front of you, now I’m not sure if you’re blind, stupid, or both boy but you better get that sorted out.” The class gasped and once again Winston heard the brief whispers of, oh how mean he was, but to this he payed no attention. Dylan had turned a dark shade whether from humiliation or rage, and at any rate began to copy down the question.
“Now for the answer,” Winston looked upon the notes, “Ponce de Leon was the first European to set foot on florida and he was originally looking for the Fountain of Youth-”
“I bet you’d like to find that,” Dylan said just loud enough for his surrounding peers to hear, earning snickers, and from this Winston could gather what had been said.
“Would I again want to be an obnoxious, young teenager who peaks in high school but after that goes downhill? No I think not Mr. Gordon,” Winston decided he had had enough of teaching for one day, after all the kids were not going to take in a word he said.
“Now if you will open your books to page 118, your assignment for today will be to read chapter five and to answer the questions on page 138. If you do not finish, your teacher will collect it tomorrow.” And with that, Winston said no more.
As the last bell finally rang, and the students rushed out, Winston retired to the desk. His hands swept over the desk, but he was done pretending. He knew he was not a teacher and he never would be. Winston had lied to Dylan, if he could have drank from the Fountain of Youth he would have without a second thought. To be young again would be a blessing. To be young, but not careless, and to once again have an opportunity that had passed him by. Perhaps he could have influenced these young minds, and perhaps they would have let him.

But what did he know, he was only a substitute.




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