Symphony 41

“Of course it is, but he doesn’t disturb anyone else. He is cheating himself, but he is not interfering with any other student’s education. From my viewpoint, that is a smaller discipline problem.”

“Not from mine. All I care about is his education.”

Neil and John Teixeira locked eyes briefly. There was no way to disguise the tension that lay between them. Neil was astonished at himself; he had always prided himself on his self-control, but John Teixeira pushed all his buttons.

“I care about Oscar’s education, too. I care about the education of all of my students, and I’ll need your help if I am going to help Oscar.”

The other parents had drifted out, so Neil said, “Let me shut the door, and let’s sit down and talk about it.”

Teixeira said, “I’m tired of talking about that boy and his problems.”

His wife snapped, “John!” It was the first word she had said, and it came out sharply, like an electrical discharge. “You won’t win this argument by intimidation like you do in the courtroom. Sit down and talk to the man. He wants to help.”

So, Neil thought, there is more to this family than meets the eye. Aloud he said, “Are you a lawyer?” When Teixeira agreed that he was, it was all Neil could do to keep from saying, “I might have known.”

Once he gave in to the inevitable, Teixeira became calm and was able to discuss his son rationally. He had always been an A student; in fact, he had never made anything but As until last year. His father and mother had been proud of him and had encouraged him to do his best.

Pride and encouragement are words which seem plain enough, but Neil knew that they cover a whole range of attitudes. How had that pride been expressed — or had it? How had they encouraged him; through praise, rewards, threats, or in some other way? Neil tried to find out the answers to those questions, with very little success. John Teixeira was too practiced in his profession to let out any information that he had not personally decided was relevant.

On the surface, the conversation was fruitful, but Neil came away feeling that all of the important issues had been bypassed. John  Teixeira himself was clearly the center of the family, and in his personality and history lay the causes and the cures of his son’s problems. After an hour of conversation, Neil felt no closer to those solutions.

# # #

When he walked out after the Teixeiras had gone, Neil found the parking lot almost empty. Only Carmen’s small sedan remained. He looked around, unwilling to leave her alone so late at night, and saw her coming out of her room. 

She smiled at him as she came up, surprising him with her friendliness. “You didn’t have to wait for me, you know. But thank you, anyway.”

“No problem.”

“Why so late?”

“I spent the last hour talking to the Teixeiras about Oscar.”

“No! Really! You must have the magic touch. Last year, he wouldn’t talk to anybody about it. It must be because you are el maestro and Oscar’s last teacher was la maestra.”

Neil shook his head. “I doubt that. John Teixeira strikes me as someone who doesn’t even want to admit that he is Chicano.”

“Oh, you’re right there. He wants to seem like an Anglo; he even got himself a blonde Anglo wife. But inside, that man is the most macho Mexican you are ever going to see.”

It was a curious observation coming from someone who was so obviously proud of her Chicano heritage. Somehow it fit, and somehow it seemed to be the key to Oscar’s problems. Only Neil could not see how to use that key. more tomorrow

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