Dear Mrs. Fetig | Teen Ink

Dear Mrs. Fetig

May 25, 2021
By Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
147 articles 41 photos 1014 comments

Favorite Quote:
The universe must be a teenage girl. So much darkness, so many stars.

Mrs. Fetig was a loner at my high school. She wore the same cheesy yellow suit every day, and her hair was stiff as a protractor. We imagined her in the teacher’s longue, stiffly poking her only cigarette into her homemade clay ashtray, not speaking to anyone, just alone into her distance. Her collars were cheap, and she had bleach stains on her pants. We imagined the other teachers whispering and giggling about her melancholy personality and don’t-come-near-me looks.

            I spent every day with Mrs. Fetig, for Heath and P.E. I never knew her well, and I never cared to look in her putrid direction, fearing she would fix her ashy gaze on me and demand, “What are your goals in life, young lady, and what is the most efficacious manner of discerning your life path after high school?” No, I would rather have a broken foot than talk to Mrs. Fetig. Stuck-up thumbtack of a teacher!

            The stories were told in whispers. Ramona said that Mrs. Fetig had beat her husband to death with a bowling-pin. John said that Mrs. Fetig choked her husband. Jen said that Mrs. Fetig strangled her husband. Anne said that Mrs. Fetig had poisoned her husband’s tea. Whoever Mr. Fetig was, we all knew he had perished at the hands of our teacher. We treated Mrs. Fetig with undisguised hate.

            She smiled like she had dental floss stuck in her teeth. She had an annoying cough. Her laugh was worse. Her stenciled features were old and stern.

            What would we have seen, if we stared into Mrs. Fetig’s eyes? She was a skinny, rattling lady, like a burnt-out cigarette. She was extremely hungry and never had a good night’s sleep. Some days, she could hardly stay awake. She would press her brown, worn hands into her temples and look like she would burst out crying. She was underpaid and poor as a church mouse. Cigarettes were a luxury for her, as she would smoke slowly to make them last all day. After school, she wobbled home to her trailer, the decrepit place where we claimed she had buried her husband.

            Horrid rumors went the rounds of incoming freshman, as we sophomores enlightened the newcomers. Avoid Mrs. Fetig, we said. Mrs. Fetig was obsessed with sex, more than a whole crowd of teenage boys. The whole town knew. That was worse than killing her husband. She would go on and on for weeks about her favorite subject, assigning oral reports, requesting detailed research projects complete with pictures and diagrams. Mrs. Fetig was the homeschoolers’ nightmare. She should be fired. She was just plain filthy, we said. She’ll make you have oral reports about the most personal subjects—with your teenage brother listening in class!

            We stalked Mrs. Fetig on the internet and ding-dong-ditched her trailer, to see if she would come out with a shotgun. We spread rumors like butter. Bullying doesn’t count if it’s a teacher, we said. I remember Mrs. Fetig’s trailer was like a dark and silent gate. Poison ivy grew in her birdbath, and old lawnmower parts were scattered around the foundations. It looked as forsaken and depressing as Mrs. Fetig herself.

            “Where’s Muriel Fetig?” I demanded of her neighbor. He spoke only Hungarian. He made helpless gestures. We never could tell where Mrs. Fetig had come from or where she went.

            Holes were punctured in our pride. Sitting through a lecture on drunk driving in Health one day, the principal’s voice blared over the intercom. It was two weeks after Mrs. Fetig’s disappearance. The principal had the news from the Hades.

            “Muriel Fetig…is no longer with us…er…she…we just found out…she has…died.”

            There it was. No covering the truth. We gasped or sat frozen, stupefied.

            I guess we never knew. We never knew what she was missing. Us. We had to try and find a word for forgiving ourselves. We never knew what she had gone through, never cared to know.

            Mrs. Fetig had driven to the bridge to throw herself into the black river, but she had been taking so many pills in her trailer that she simply died in her car. The police raided the trailer and found the letter from Mr. Fetig on her table. In the letter, Mr. Feting was writing from the penitentiary, promising to escape and have her arrested for no reason.

No wonder she was always so…sad. Sadness was only a thin, frozen layer over the Artic Ocean of her life.

            Years devour us. Fear and sadness can take all the nerve out of us. Even the other teachers had mocked Mrs. Fetig. Yet I’d never heard a resentful word out of her. On Parent-Student Night, she would sit alone in her classroom, grading papers, waiting for someone to come in and visit her room—only nobody ever did.

            I gazed blankly at my last assignment graded by Mrs. Fetig, which had a C. A note scribbled on the bottom said, You are a pain, but then again, you are a wonder. I don’t need to remind you to reach for the stars. You’re already there. Keep going. You are a star.

            Mrs. Fetig had wanted to be a shrink, not a teacher. While she was silent and withdrawn, she was observing and studying our minds. As I stood there in the November funeral air, leaves blowing around us like school papers, I couldn’t help crying—not just for Mrs. Fetig, but for myself. I cried. I couldn’t help feeling that my own life was as fragile as Mrs. Fetig’s cigarette burning out. I cried for all the thoughts of us, lost in her mind—how she had loved us, and how she thought of us kids as the only family she had. We weren’t much of a family. We were fools. So I cried.

            I tried speaking to her spirit—I hope you are as happy as you deserve to be, wherever you are, Mrs. Fetig, dear Mrs. Fetig, and I promise, I promise with all my heart to be kind.

The author's comments:

A reflective, regretful piece about human nature. By the way, I never had a teacher like this. My mother might've.

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This article has 2 comments.

Lydiaq ELITE said...
on May. 29 2021 at 8:31 am
Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
147 articles 41 photos 1014 comments

Favorite Quote:
The universe must be a teenage girl. So much darkness, so many stars.

When in doubt pity

on May. 28 2021 at 9:51 pm
SparrowSun ELITE, X, Vermont
200 articles 23 photos 1053 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It Will Be Good." (complicated semi-spiritual emotional story.)

"Upon his bench the pieces lay
As if an artwork on display
Of gears and hands
And wire-thin bands
That glisten in dim candle play." -Janice T., Clockwork[love that poem, dont know why, im not steampunk]

ohhh do i hate her or pity her?