This is from the novel Symphony in a Minor Key, a complex book with a number of intertwined story strands. This excerpt describes the experiences of Neil McCrae, a teacher, during Christmas 1989, leaving out a good deal of material you would have to read the whole novel to follow. I particularly like this piece because it is not a story. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end, and everything is not wrapped up in a shiny Christmas bow at finis.
Because I intend to publish the novel from which this excerpt comes, Symphony Christmas will not be placed in Backfile.
On the day appointed for Neil’s evaluation, the principal came earlier than Neil had expected and sat down before the tardy bell had rung. The more mature students tried to look at him without seeming to do so. The others just stared. Neil rapped the desk for attention and took roll. Then he said, “I had intended to tell you today that Mr. Campbell would be coming by for evaluations, but he has gotten here sooner than I had expected. How many of you have been through these teacher evaluations before?”
Probably all of them had; a third of them remembered it well enough to raise their hands.
“Who can tell me what their previous teacher told them at evaluation time?”
Tony Caraveli thought he could remember. Neil distrusted the devilish look in his eye, but told him to go ahead.
“Make me look good!” Tony said.
The children all laughed, but it had a nervous and restrained sound. Bill Campbell did not react, which made them more nervous. Neil said, “Whoever told you that was probably joking. Who else can tell me?”
Sabrina said, “Ms. Thompson told us to just be ourselves and act like there wasn’t anyone in the room.”
“Good. That is just what I want you to do. Ignore Mr. Campbell; it won’t hurt his feelings.”
This time the children’s laughter was more relaxed, and Bill acknowledged it with a wave of his hand.
Neil read to his class for twenty minutes from The House Without a Christmas Tree. He led a discussion about the story, and from that drew the children into talking about how their families celebrated the season. Neil made notes from their discussion on the chalkboard, then told them to write a paper on Christmas in their homes.
Neil’s lesson plan had been worthwhile but unexceptional. He had not intended for it to be earth shaking, but when he sat at home that night reading the papers, he found that he had cut close to the bone.
Casey Kruger wrote:
We don’t hav Christmas at our house. My parents say that it is a peagan rittul. Jesus was born in a stabul and din’t have any presents, so we don’t have any present either. I wish we did.
I would really like to have a real Christmas this year. continued