HOLLYWOOD—Jason stood in the principal's office and cleared his throat. Principal Cloud strolled around her desk, adjusting the scarf tied jauntily around her fleshy neck. Her eyes met Jason's when she took off her sunglasses. They were still a dazzling cornflower blue. She stuck a long-nailed finger in his collarbone. Jason sank slowly back into the cushy smooth vinyl chair.
“It's only five weeks of summer school,” she said, “and summer's always easy breezy.”
“Roxie, you're so naughty. You give that glimmer of hope,” Jason smiled. “Hope tortures too. It crushes a course of action I've decided. That's not nice. Crush people's will 1000 times and you get twisted lives.” His head jerked like a horse bristling at its reins. “You get an Abby Fenwick.”
“She was a devoted teacher.” Roxie looked up, now seated in the matching vinyl chair across from Jason. Her voice trailed off.
“Stuck a garden hose in the window of her Dodge Dart, monoxided her ass. If I keep it up, that's where I'm going,” Jason said. “There's this one molecule suppressed, that one molecule of my being that never capitulated to the love of this slavery. It always shouted NO, in me.”
“Maybe that's the one molecule that universe had to overcome to say YES to be born,” Roxie pursued in her soothing, spacey voice. “All the planets and galaxies condensed to a subatomic little particle that said yes, when it could just have easily said no, and contracted into the birth of time, and then came the big bang. . . .”
“Have you been smoking something?”
“You know, we should smoke a joint sometime when all this is over,” said Roxie. “Oops, that wasn't professional of me to say that.” She still had her decorum amidst the chaos. “Five more short weeks, and you keep your benefits,” Roxie pressed. “Think of your little girl,” she added, but didn't give him time to think. “You're to good an instructor to lose.”
“To teach or not to teach,” said the youngest student who had ever played Hamlet at
College. “That is the issue. Whether it's nobler to not mind suffering the sighs and yawns of bored-to-death students. . . So I say yes to your offer, and we're just going to brush over these month's of silence, never knowing what's going to happen, being told the adult schools are saved, and then they are going to close. Students asking me, where do we sign up for class next year? And I tell them next year may fall off the calendar. The tension has been unbearable. I could scoop up the darkness and make snowballs out of it. I must be going, Roxie, I must stick to my guns.”
“You've got it better than most,” she said. “There's a whole underclass of untenured teachers, they get bumped, up-rooted every three years. They're rootless as farm workers, no rest, robbed of stability. At least you can live in
Hollywood and go out on auditions. And our school isn't so bad. Giving class is performing in a way.”
“There is peace in finality,” Jason said. “Damn you, you're taking away that peace, the glimmer of hope, dangling summer school in front of me. Nooo!” He heaved himself out of the chair. “I'm an actor not a teacher.”
After a long pause Principal Cloud, “I went through the whole Julliard thing to become a concert pianist. And when it came time to perform, I couldn't do it. To be vulnerable to rejection wasn't for me. . . You're different.”
Jason and the principal shook hands as professionals, suppressing a strong desire to hug that hovered between them.
“We made beautiful music together.”
Bounding out of Principal Cloud's office, Jason ran into a student in the hall of the Boise Cascade bungalow. Lost and dazed, the student said:
“I need an id.”
“Please repeat that,” Jason said with poorly masked impatience.
“My id,” said the student.
“Isn't what Sigmund Freud was talking about?”
“Id—you know with the picture?”
“Oh, I.D.,” Jason exclaimed.
He was going to miss zany moments like this.
(to be continued)