NaNoWriMo Day 21 (1702 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Markey’s second grade classroom was brightly lit and buzzing and not just with the low hum from the florescent tube lights that liked to come back on one at a time every time the Mrs. Packwood flicked the lights to regain the classes attention. The children were gregarious and often more interested in the little baubles they brought into school in their pockets than the subjects being taught. The walls of the room were covered with a blue paper and yellow borders that had been stapled to the corkboard, and the blue was tacked over with the more visually interesting of the children’s assignments. Markey was the new kid having started in the middle of an already established school semester, and none of the corkboard displays contained any of Markey’s work.

The had just finished a science assignment that was supposed to have gone up on the one of the walls over the weekend, and for some reason Mrs. Packwood had not gotten around to putting them up. She called Markey up to the front of the room. He almost didn’t hear her because the little girl sitting next to him had been showing him the spring and led dispensing portions of the inside of a mechanical pencil she had found broken on the floor next to her chair. Mrs. Packwood said, “Markey, would you come up to my desk please?”

An accusing murmur went through the classroom and one of the children said, “You’re in trouble.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “Hush class. He is not in trouble.”

Markey sure felt like he was in trouble. He heard the quiet snickers from the children he passed as he walked to the front of the room between the rows of desks where he had been seated. And he saw the looks from the other children as he passed. Billy who sat two seats in front of him on the left was even rubbing his index fingers together and mouthed the words ‘Shame, shame, shame.’ Billy knew that this was an illicit action once the class had been hushed, and he hid his hands and moving lips behind the back of the child seated in front of him, but Mrs. Packwood saw him anyway. She said, “Billy, eyes straight ahead.”

Billy said, “Yes, ma’am.” He sounded dejected.

When Markey got to Mrs. Packwood at the front of the classroom, he saw the pile of assignments sitting on her desk and his was sitting on the top. Mrs. Packwood picked up the paper and held it where only he and she could see it. She said, “Mark, the assignment was to illustrate the life cycle of a beetle.”

He said, “Yes ma’am.”

She said, “What is this?” She pointed to the section of the cycle that he had labeled ‘undeath’ and had drawn the beetle with red colored pencil on its face to show blood dripping from its mouth. She said, “You were only supposed to copy the diagram from the textbook.”

Markey said, “The lifecycle in the book was missing something. It doesn’t include death or anything after that.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “Mark, how is your homelife? Moving to a new school can be tough.”

Markey said, “It is fun. I like it here.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “You can tell me.” She waited for a response from Markey, and he looked at her and smiled. “Ok, well, you have to redo this, and only include what you see in the textbook. You will have to stay in here and complete the assignment while the other children go out to PE.”

Markey pouted. He said, “But Mrs. Packwood…”

She said, “Just follow the directions next time and you will be able to play with the rest of the class.”

The next day, Linda was called into the office with Mrs. Packwood was there with the school counselor, Mr. Bilal. She met Ms. Suzy at the front desk of the office and was led back behind the office desk and down the back hallway to the counselor’s office. The counselor’s office was small and dim. He had the blinds drawn shut as if he thought more light would make the conferences with parents less confidential. Mrs. Packwood had been waiting in the office with Mr. Bilal. They made their introductions and Linda sat down on the other side of the desk.

Mr. Bilal said, “Mrs.” He looked down at the student file that he had sitting opened on his desk. “Henderson. We have had some concern about how your child gas been adjusting to his new class surroundings.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “As a public school teacher I am a mandated reporter. Your son has made several comments of a kind that seem inappropriate for the scholastic environment. But I didn’t really start to worry until I saw this.” Mrs. Packwood showed Linda the assignment that Markey had turned in on the lifecycle of a beetle that had the inclusion of the undead segment.

Linda said, “I know. Markey told me that you made him stay in and redo this.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “Do you see that?”

Linda said, “He told me that you wanted him to follow directions, and I agreed with you. Are you saying that he still didn’t follow the directions even after you made him redo it?”

Mrs. Packwood said, “I am a mandated reporter and that is a clear threat on the school.”

Linda said, “A ladybug with a red face?

Mrs. Packwood said, “That is clearly blood dripping from that beetles face.”

Linda said, “So what if it is? There are plenty of bugs that bite. Spiders for one and mosquitoes even drink blood.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “That is a beetle and spiders are not insects. They are arachnids.”

Linda said, “You do understand that Markey is a young child, right? How is he supposed to know the difference between insects and arachnids? And how is he supposed to know that you are going to overreact to seeing a drawing of an insect with blood on its face? You do see that he labeled this stage the undead stage, and you understand that a zombie is considered to be undead and in popular culture zombies are known to bite people?”

Mr. Bilal said, “We do understand that he is a child. But threats against the school are serious and if this or something like this happens again, we will be forced to call the police on your son, and you will have to explain to them why they should ignore a credible threat just because it came from a second grader.”

Linda said, “A zombie beetle is not a threat on the school. This is the stupidest conversation I have ever had.”

Mr. Bilal said, “We didn’t call you in here so we could call each other names.”

Linda said, “But I think you did. I was told that this was a progressive school. I was told that this school was tolerant other people’s beliefs.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “You really think you can turn this around on us. We came here to…”

Linda said, “To do what Mrs. Packwood? To make baseless accusations against my son?”

Mr. Bilal said, “That thing you call a zombie beetle is…”

Linda said, “Is free religious expression.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “A zombie is hardly religious expression.”

Linda said, “What about Voodoo. Are you saying that Voodoo is not a religion? Just because it is not your religion does not mean that it does not exist.”

Mr. Bilal said, “Who are you kidding, Voodoo?”

Mrs. Packwood said, “To be honest, Mrs. Henderson, you don’t look particularly Hattian to me, and I don’t recall zombies being a big part of Voodoo unless there is some offshoot that no one has ever heard of. If you belong to one of those, I think we can discount such fringe religions as that.”

Linda said, “Is that the kind of you would like this school to be known for persecuting a second grader for believing in a slightly different form of afterlife? In fact, rising from the dead after three days sounds suspiciously close to a zombie.”

Mr. Bilal said, “I don’t think many Christians would take that as a favorable comparison.”

Linda said, “I bet they wouldn’t like it. That is why public school is not an appropriate place for a religious discussion. And a very inappropriate place for people to decide whose religion should be discounted. I imagine that people could lose their jobs at least if the whole school didn’t lose its funding all together. And honestly, I think the police are smarter than you think and if you were to report my son to the police for something as innocuous as a zombie beetle it is going to get a lot of press coverage, and since the mother of the child you are unfairly targeting happens to work for the newspaper, there is no possible way that your stupid decision would be overlooked.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “I am just looking out for the other children, Mrs. Henderson. I came to Mr. Bilal with my reservations about this drawing about a bloodthirsty beetle. I thought that there might be some things going on at home causing him to act out in such a way. He is the one that mentioned that it might be some kind of threat to the school.”

Mr. Bilal said, “I don’t think so Mrs. Packwood. You are not going to hang me out to dry. You came in her complaining to me about the crazy things Mark has been saying like his father being evil and his obsession with death and zombies.”

Mrs. Packwood said, “I don’t know now with this talk about religion.”

Linda said, “Look, this has been a trying and absurd waste of my time as well as particularly offensive, but Markey has never said anything other than how nice you are. I am willing to chock all this up as a misunderstanding as long as he continues to enjoy his time here. But I do expect to never be called back in here for anything else like this. You are both adults. Act like you are.”

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