Principal Cloud was immobile, behind her oversize sunglasses, seated at her desk. Jason was unsure, for a moment, if she might be taking a nap or she could be dead.
“Mr. Finch,” she said. After a catch, “I'm so sorry.”
He shook his head: till the obligatory condolence was swept away by the next item on the agenda. That's what happens when you have a loved one who's passed; everybody interrupts the conversation to say how sorry they are. Jason felt sorry that she had to feel sorry for him. After a sufficient pause, during which Jason gazed at a photo of a golden retriever, Roxie inquired:
“How is your daughter?” Jason suppressed an urge to say something really nasty after last night. Roxie hastily added, “I mean it must be terrible for her to suffer the loss of her mother.”
Jason shook his head and tried to look somber.
“I was going to call you in,” Roxie resumed. “I've seen documents from downtown. Nobody else knows about this yet. We're going to have a short summer school session. It's being shortened to five weeks,” she took off her sunglasses and revealed her cornflower blue eyes, for what seemed like the first time in months. Ran the tip of her index finger around her lined eyes. “Would you like to do intermediate low? It'll be a new level for you. I think you'll be wonderful.”
“Wow,” Jason opened his mouth and sat with it agape.
“Wow is right. Nobody else has seen the documents. Somebody leaked them out of the 24th floor, downtown, I'm not telling who. They found some funds at the last minute, but it's not public yet,” she broke into a warm smile. “OK, it was Mad Georgia who leaked. She still has connections in high places.”
“It's funny how they find the money,” Jason said. “So they are going to sweep all this silence and psychological torture under the carpet. Poof! Like it never happened. And the teachers, the teachers tossed around like a soccer ball. McNutt here is going berserk. I'm worried for him.”
Jason blew warm moist air on his clasped hands: “I came in here to tell you one thing.” His hard gaze pierced her oversize sunglasses, right through the lenses that bled like a tequila sunrise from yellow to bright orange to dark crimson at the top. “I'm quitting,” Jason didn't stammer a bit. Roxie looked at him aghast.
“But what about your benefits? You'll be leaving your benefits.”
Jason took a deep breath. “Roxie, I'm so grateful. You're the first person in the administration who ever watched out for me. You asked if I had benefits. Nobody ever asked me that before. But like I'm supposed to writhe and tremble and feel responsible for this huge thing: being uninsured. Like it was a sin. The sin is not caring.” Jason stood up. “We don't care as a country. That's the bottom line. And the teachers are chumps and losers, trained to be grateful for every crumb the administrators toss our way.
Our shoulders and backs are humbled by milk crates on wheels and heavy tote bags. We get tennis elbow, as the greedy book publishers fatten their texts and bleed the students. I hate school! Always hated it. Being told what to do, scolded for talking too much. Hated being on a hamster wheel, the childish counting the days till Thursday. Calculating after Monday: I made it! 20 percent of the week has been used up. After Tuesday, I made it! Only 60 percent of the week to go! And the lifers, losers and settlers all count the days till their retirement.
And between paydays, you see the people age before your very eyes I didn't have time to scratch my nose, and all the prep time for class is a cleavage between me and daughter. Only a chump would submit to this servitude and not have any Social Security. That's insane; can you believe teachers, who by and large give their all, don't get a cent of Social Security?”
Jason and Roxie looked at each other.
“In my heart I must save my soul, and leave teaching, it's. . .”
“I know it's hard, Jason. I understand. Look at us administrators. Most of us couldn't take the heat of teaching, so we went became principals and vice principals,” she chuckled. She shook Jason's hand and they stared deep into their respective sunglasses. “Goodbye and good luck.”
(to be continued)
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