Where were you when the world ended?
For Neil McCrea, the world he had built for himself ended on a gray Friday afternoon in March, at eleven minutes after two, among familiar surroundings.
Neil was teaching his sixth period class, literature for high school seniors — feeling end of the week weariness, counting the minutes until the end of the day, and passing back student papers he had spent far too many hours correcting. He stepped carelessly between the backpacks, purses, and spills of schoolbooks that littered the aisles between the rows of desks. With Shakespeare and Lincoln and Martin Luther King watching from posters on the wall while the day faded outside, he called his students’ names and handed back their essays.
Alice Hamilton sat at the back of the third row. She was blonde, spoiled, and at least half as pretty as she thought she was. Neil dropped a bluebook on her desk and moved on to the next student. Then he heard the hissing intake of her breath.
She slammed the bluebook down and screamed, “How could you! How could you give me a C after all I did for you!”
Neil just stared, too astonished to respond.
A slow flush rose up Alice’s neck and spread across her face; then she leaped to her feet and fled the room. Neil watched her go, carrying his hopes and dreams with her.
Innocence is no shield, when the world ends.
So begins Symphony in a Minor Key, a novel written in real time, before the concept of real time was ever heard of.
Briefly, I started teaching when it became apparent that I could not make a living by writing. It was a day job at first, but it was a very satisfying day job that I eventually held for twenty-seven years, and from which I eventually retired.
About five years in, I decided to write a novel about teaching. I also decided to write of a fictional school year while a real school year was progressing. Rainy day in my world; rainy day in the book. Opening day on opening day, Christmas on Christmas, and so on. If you look at the table of contents (tomorrow’s post) you will see how that worked out.
Despite what Alice Hamilton implies, Neil is a good guy. Take my word for it. He’ll explain it all to you over the next several posts.
Today is August 12. I’ll be telling the tale as a serial, beginning September 12 to give myself time to get organized, and carrying on to something close to May 11. That is fairly close to a school year but, although I wrote this in real time, their Christmas and Halloween probably won’t fall exactly on our Christmas and Halloween.
Stick around. I think you’ll like it.