It’s eleven at night and the sun is just setting. Some nameless forest bird is chirping, and the newly born insects are batting at the window-screen. It was seventy-five degrees today, like instant summer, no time for foreplay when you’ve only got twelve frost-free weeks. I wanted to do so many things when I got off work today- I wanted to feel alive and present and go for a walk down by the river where I haven’t been. But instead I just sank onto the couch and watched Clueless and missed my portland friends, pulling the gauzy curtains closed against the warm yellow sun. I may be in the land of plenty, in a village so small there aren’t even any cops, just one state tropper that services fifty miles of highway, and the air may be so clear it’s like breathing the brightest morning of your life, all day long, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sink into a self-destructive downward-spiral of processed foods and mass media. This is america, after all. And I’m not even going into nature on the weekends, these days. It’s the land of ice-cream and cable for me, seven days a week until this month is over, flourescent lighting and small children with freckled noses and learning disabilities who like to hold my hand and tell me about the bible.
I work in the little school here, k-12. I’m the special ed aide. Well, technically the SUB aide, since the principal is too much of a dick to hire me for real, even though I’m there till the end of the year and I’m not subbing for anyone but myself. If you looked up DOUCHE-BAG in the encyclopedia brittanica, there would be a picture of this principal. I had no idea principals could be such soggy vomit-cartons. (I’m trying to think of alternatives to “douche bag”, my favorite insult.) I mean, I knew they were shitty when you were a little kid, but that was their job. I had no idea they were like that to adults, too! I mean, can’t they contain that shit, and just use it on command? It’s like having a rooster to protect the hen house and then having it beat up all the hens. I mean, what is even the point?
Anyway, this guy is a real winner. We’ll call him Mr. Doink, which is actually really close to his real name. In fact, his real name is even stupider. Mr. Doink wears a stupid wool hat with a leather band around it like he’s always going on safari. And he looks like this real nice, avuncular sort of fellow, like if he were your grandpa he’d show you cool rocks and then pretend to turn your nose into his thumb. But he’s NOT. It’s hard to explain his evilness, because it’s such a subtle, sinister sort of evil.
First thing you notice, is that he’ll never give you a straight answer for anything. If you were to ask him where the gym was, he’d tell you it was in the library. If you asked him for the code for the copier, he’d give you the wrong one. And he’d do these things when you were in a hurry, when you really needed the code for the copier, or when you were brand new and really needed to know where the gym was. And then he’d just walk away.
And he does these pranks ALL THE TIME. In fact, he never does ANYTHING ELSE. He’s absolutely USELESS. You can’t ask him for anything. And if he’s around when you’re doing something, he’ll MEDDLE and find some way to MAKE IT HARDER.
But not only that, he’s also an incompentant prick.
He has a math class that he doesn’t teach. He just sits at the desk with his legs propped up and plays internet solitaire, or something. He assigns a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, and the students are all expected to learn FROM THE FUCKING BOOK. MATH. FROM THE FUCKING BOOK.
Even I couldn’t do that in highschool, and I was really good at math!
Oh, but that’s not all. He also gets mad and yells at students when they aren’t able to just figure it all out themselves. One of the special needs kids, this heartbreakingly wonderful teenage boy named Micky who I work with sometimes, was asking Mr. Doink one day, IN HIS CLASS, for clarification on a chapter in the book. Mr. Doink kept interrupting Micky (that’s his other favorite thing to do, interrupt) and wouldn’t let him get his question out. It went like this-
Micky- I have a question about the-
Mr. Doink- Did you read the chapter?
Mickey- Yeah but I have a question about the-
Mr. Doink- DID you READ the CHAPTER??!
Mickey- Yeah but-
Mr. Doink, slamming finger into book- I said, DID you READ THE CHAPTER?
(and this next part is absolutely 100% true-)
Mr. Doink- What, are you some kind of RETARD?!
That’s right. He said, no SHOUTED, the word retard. In front of not only Micky, who gets help from the special ed teacher for his math, but the special ed teacher herself, my coworker Debbie.
What a rotten plastic baggie of forgotten dogshit.
He also likes to miss meetings, and then blame the other teachers for not reminding him, or reminding him too early or too late, or reminding him the way he wanted to be reminded the week before. I get to hear all about it from Debbie, while we’re in the special ed room, she goes on and on and on about it because she has no other way to deal but vent, she’s got only two more years left till retirement and he picks on her in particular, knows she’s got a lot to lose and is terrified of confrontation.
That’s the way it always works.
So I’m a total dick to him so far. I walk away when he talks to me, refuse to laugh at his “jokes”, and so he’s courteous to me, in that insincere overboard flattery way. But it might also be because he knows I hate his guts and hope he trips over a blackboard eraser and impales himself on a newly sharpened pencil. I want to beat him over the head with an outdated set of encyclopedias. And the worst part is, there’s nothing you can DO. It’s your word against his, and he’s the principal, so I guess he’s more believable. One of the teachers has even gone so far as to carry a tape recorder to record every conversation she has with him, so she can send it to her lawyer later, when Mr. Doink denies her tenure for no good reason.
I dare him to fuck with me. I DARE him. God I wish he would! If you’ve worked in a school before, dear reader, and have any advice for me on how to deal with situations like this, I would very much appreciate it. What can I do?! What?
But the good! There is so much good in working in this school. Mr. Doink is the very worst of it, everything else is shiny red apples and little girls with ADD who tell you they love you and hold your hand, and dimple-faced brothers with freckles on their noses who wear military fatigues to school and although you’ve heard that they’ve gotten in trouble for stockpiling guns in the woods and driving their ATVs in front of the school bus, respectively, you can’t help but love they way they look so earnestly into your eyes and tell you , fumblingly, about the dinosaurs, even if they are just trying to convince you of the creationist theory. They may have dark circles under their eyes and they may only ever eat top ramen for lunch, but they aren’t monsters, not yet. They’re percect little children with factory-new parts who live in a tiny alaskan village and push each other off the playground equipment, at least the ones who can focus long enough to get up on the playground equipment at all.
And then there’s Kendra, who’s like a normal teenage girl trapped in the body of a teenage girl who was beaten by her dad as a baby, giving her brain damage that makes her monosyllabic and painfully shy, and nearly incapable of learning even the most basic of math. She loves basketball tho, and she’s way better than I am. And she likes animals, and she can read, and we read young adult novels together about runaway bears and hotels for dogs, even though it’s hard for her to understand past and future tense or very many of the social situations in the books. And she had a pug but her mom took it away to go live with her dad, and at some point she might go too, to live with her dad in Oklahoma, even though he’s the reason for everything, because the world is just that fucked up. And right now she lives with her mom and her sister and brother in the apartment of the elementary teacher, Miss Slappy, all of them crammed together, because in a village like this everyone takes in stray children and kids go round and round until they find somebody that’s willing to be responsible for their care and feeding.
I want to take them all. I want to take them to the woods and raise them there. And they would never have to eat ramen noodles from the microwave, not ever ever again. And if their brain was broken and they couldn’t do math, so be it. And if their brain was broken and they couldn’t follow things with their eyes or catch a ball you threw at them, so be it. Who the fuck cares? They are precious little people and I would give them wooden toys that were mimics of everything they would need to live, and they could play on the dirt floor of our cabin, and I would read them stories by the light of the oil-lamp until they believed in magic, because that is all that matters. And we would all eat salmon and caribou and live off the royalties of my first book.
It’s midnight now. Earlier, when I was slouched on the couch in my TV coma watching some bullshit about why Heidi Klum has such nice skin, the kids of the village were ripping around on their four-wheelers in the manic spring sunshine, leaving paper cups of tootsie rolls on everyone’s doorstep and shouting “Happy mayday!”. I’m not sure what they think mayday means, or if their parents just got drunk and thought it was a good way to use up leftover economy size bags of tootsie-rolls from walmart. One of them rang the doorbell, a little brown girl in a pink shirt who might be going to a foster home because her mother’s a crack addict and there might not be a crevice in the village left to hold her. I wanted to run out after her but I was wearing my flannel pajama pants and a t-shirt without a bra with all my crazy artsy tattoos hanging out that no-one at the school even knows I have. So I stayed there slumped, and then when she left I went and fished a straberry tootsie roll out of the paper cup of candy and sat down o the couch, and swear to got it tasted like the first ten years of my life.
Oh and remind me to tell you why this village even exists. It’s basically because there’s a military base here. And… that’s pretty much it. The town is so small, it doesn’t even have a store. The library is the school library, and the post office is in a trailer. There are like two streets, not that I walk down them. The sky is a big beautiful dome, and the forest is mucky spruce-bog. And right now the snow just melted, like four days ago, so even though it’s really warm everything is brown and dead, like it’s been smothered under cardboard for nine months.
I love Alaska.