Miller Time
Night School 108: Juneteeth
By Grady Miller
Feb 24, 2013 - 9:18:45 AM

HOLLYWOODDirectly behind in the rearview mirror at the end of a cloudy tunnel was gathered glowing lava-red as the sun's ball set behind the Santa Susana Mountains. Behind Jason, lay the embers of the day, before him, the endless night. . .


As Jason flew down the freeway, the trunk lid blew open. The steel oblong obliterated the glowing red intensity of the descending sun's molten disc. Then one sheet of paper, a memo printed on a particularly listless shade of green, popped out from the gloom, looked around and liked it outside Jason's trunk. One by one papers came out, a memo here a worksheet there.


Moldering in corners of the trunk for months, the paper was suddenly alive and taking flight. Paper birds fleeing the nest. He would miss his faithful students, the little bastards; their example of towering generosity, Jason would miss dearly: they who had so little yet such big hearts. He would miss their flowery signatures on the attendance sheets that inspired his autograph. Now the papers and stuff came in a flurry, sheets of uncorrected tests, workbooks, flashcards, nasty notes from the day teacher indicting Jason's housekeeping habits, lesson plans in a code indecipherable to all, but Jason, copies, memos, contracts, alphabet cards, books hoarded in abeyance to the notion that they might be good for something someday, "that rationale for all hoarders everywhere blizzarded out of the mire in the trunk in a turbulent spiral, that followed the Nissan like a comet's tale, littering the freeway behind him." Unaware of whether some sheets flew in jubilant flight and plastered on another windshield and caused a motorist to swerve and crash, Jason was thinking of his students still. Tears streaked his eyesight. He would miss the spur of their tepidness, who taught him the value of speaking up and sitting unapologetically up front. Being fearless he owed them that lesson. Who sold their lives so cheaply taught him to treasure his. We have a time allotted on this earth, and not all the gold of Midas can buy back one solitary second. Somewhere immersed in that paper storm, Jason would later realize with a jerk of sadness, had escaped the greeting card that always released furious applause and two-finger whistles when you opened it up. That electronic ovation he would miss dearly. He would miss his students, all right, immersed back in the shallow world of auditions, healing face-lifts, and the quick-fix validation of being cast. His chances were not good, but hope was always a phone call away. The resurrected Jules Kaminsky might call from Cannes, to tell him he'd won the Palm d'Or, and come be in my next picture.


Jason was following his heart. It was terrifying and cleansing. At night school "the alternative was also terrifying." He had seen the fever-gleam in teacher's eyes, their hair lightning bolts, their heads jabbering skulls on rattling skeletons, their clothes ragged tatters, their bones weary and aching, to contemplate a the yawning emptiness of a life settled. The abyss taunted him. Suzanne was calling from the Hollywood night. Suzanne. Candy was coming to him under the banners of "Save Our Schools S.O.S." and the chants What do we want? Education. When to we want it? Now and picket signs, Don't Take Away My Dream.


Yes, there were plenty of days ahead, warm summer sweltering days when he'd go to the city pool across the street from his apartment balcony, and teach his daughter, Kit, to swim amid the splashing, squealing sun-browned families, sun burnt old Russian men and saggy-breasted matrons, and youth sleek and indifferent. He would watch Kit float and relax. She would learn to stop thrashing, let go, and discover water was her friend. Long summer days lay ahead when Candy would melt into him. . .


As dusk turned to night, Jason saw a family stranded on the side of the freeway, huddled around a raised hood, white steam billowed out. Maybe he would know how to fix it, maybe not. He didn't know a damn thing about cars. Still he followed an urge to stop. He was ravished by sweet release in the act of pressing the brake on the Sentra and stopping to help.


The End

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