“So,” the principal began wearily, “do you know why you are here – again? Hello, Mr. Kintyre, did you hear me?”
Of course, I had heard her, but my attention had been drawn immediately and magnetically to the four pictures on the wall above her head. The Beatles! The famous Richard Avedon Sgt. Pepper era Day-Glo psychedelic photos; emanating color and vibrancy that, in contrast to the surrounding drab of the principal’s office almost felt like a micro dose of LSD itself. Not that I would know. I didn’t even smoke pot. My parents were so thrilled they could buy it legally. How cool could it be if your parents did it? A few beers on the weekend usually did the trick.
“Have,” I slowly began to respond, suddenly noticing my tongue becoming heavy in my mouth, “those pictures always been here?”
She turned her head upwards to gaze at them herself, then back to me, impatiently, “as many times as you’ve been in my office you’ve never noticed them?”
As I looked at her to answer her face suddenly began to pulse color! Pleasantly, coolly, multi-palette swirls as if she were a fifth female Beatle somehow. She went on talking,
“But let’s come back to the subject at hand Mr. Kintyre! This is the third time you’ve been caught in the library instead of where you’re supposed to be- in algebra class!”
“I’m sorry Ms. Diamond. It’s just that I really algebra. I really hate coming to school period.”
“Have you tried work? Because that’s all there is for the next forty or fifty years,” she said dourly, her face still a kaleidoscope of pastels which was becoming increasingly unnerving, so I shifted my focus to look down at the part of her body above the desk and, incredulously, alarmingly, it took on the shape of a bagpipe, all Scottish plaid and bulbous, the pipes protruding outward in disquieting randomity. And then she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her midsection and don’t you know that bagpipe sound that I never really liked began to fill the room!
“No, I haven’t tried work,” I managed to get out, trying not to let on how disoriented I was, “But I think I might like it, some of it.”
“Like what?” she asked, shifting in her chair again and now it sounded like a whole frigging marching band of bagpipers!
“I’m sorry, Ms. Diamond I’m not feeling well, I think I better go back to class, I’ll report to detention hall this afternoon.” Without waiting for a response, I stood up and bolted from her office, the bagpipe sound following me out the door. I practically ran all out to the algebra classroom, happily anticipating being lectured about being late and then being able to settle down for thirty minutes or so of Mr. Kite droning on about polynomials and coefficients.
But it was empty; ghostly empty, like it was the middle of summer. I ran to what would have been my next class, English literature, but behind the door was a grimy assembly line of glum grimy people attaching parts to gray, grimy office fans.
Work, that’s all there is for the next forty or fifty years, Ms. Diamond’s voice rang in my head. I went to slam the door shut but a slender female arm held it open and I heard, “Wait! I’ve got something for you.”
I let go of the door, watched her walk out of the room, all willowy tie-dye denim hippie beautiful like she just walked out of the Woodstock film, and just then the bagpipe music stopped. She handed me a fan shaped like the ones on the assembly line, except it was glowing with a brilliant, Van Gogh starry night blue.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked.
“Take it to class, teach people how to use it.”
I walked to my algebra classroom carrying the fan, and when I went in, Mr. Kite said, as expected,
“So nice of you to join us Mr. Kintyre. You’re just in time to solve for -x- in the problem on the board. I don’t believe we’ll be needing an office fan at this time.”
I set it down on his desk; and as I did, it made a sound that snapped the window on the psychedelia shut tight with a resounding thud. I was relieved, until I somehow saw the window in the back of the room behind my head ever so slightly ajar. As I put the chalk to the board the faintest, loneliest, most beguiling sound of oh so distant bagpipes wafted through that crack and I solved for x, effortlessly and efficiently to the teacher’s great surprise as well as my own.
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