Symphony 61

Neil’s eyes swept the room. Duarte, Oscar, Sean, Stephanie, even Tanya. Those students he knew fairly well. He knew Tasmeen’s history and she had done nothing out of character for the person he assumed her to be, but she was too quiet, too enclosed, for him to honestly say he knew her.

Casey, Larry, Lauren, and Linda. They were all transparently easy to know. Olivia, Rafael, and Flavio were more restrained, but he had made the effort to reach out to them, and could say that he knew them. Tony he knew well, though they had an antagonistic relationship.

If they are smart or friendly, I know them. If they are notably ill behaved or stupid, I know them. But if they are ordinary, they remain strangers to me.

That was a problem to be worked on.

Oscar raised his hand and said, “I’m done.”

“Fine. Find something to read or draw quietly until everyone else is finished.”

“Can I read mine now?”

“When everyone is finished, Oscar.”

That took a while. For most of the students, most of the time, writing was a weary, difficult business. When the bell rang at the end of the second period, Neil announced that they would have no more time. Students would begin reading as soon as they came back.

As he walked out, Tony muttered, “Maybe I just won’t come back.”

Of course, he did.

When the children returned, Neil let them volunteer to read, knowing that he would not get to them all that hour. It was a trick, but not an unkind one. Those who most hated the idea of reading to the class would have to sweat out a sure knowledge that they had to read, only to be given a reprieve when Neil ran out of time. The next time, he would call on them first, before they had time to sweat.

Six hands went up immediately. Neil let Oscar read first since he had been the first to finish. He carried his paper to the front of the room and leaned back against the chalkboard. Richard Lujan, who was Oscar’s friend, whispered, “This will be good.”

It was Halloween night. Three boys named Oscar, Richard, and Rafael were going out trick-or-treating. They had costumes on. Oscar was dressed like Dracula. Richard was dressed like Ghostbusters. Rafael had on a Freddie Kruger mask. He also had popsickle sticks taped to his fingers to look like long claws.

They went to this first house and got candy. Then they went to this second house and got more candy and some gum. They went to this third house and nobody was home, so Rafael said, “Let’s egg it.”

“We don’t have any eggs, Dummy,” Richard said.

“Well, maybe there are some chickens in that little house out back,” Oscar said.

They all went out to the back where there was this old shack. Richard said he could hear chickens, but Rafael said he was nuts. Then Oscar found a nest with three eggs in it under a rose bush. 

“You can’t egg a house with only three eggs,” Richard said. But Rafael threw his anyway. It smashed against the front door and ran down the front door like slime. Richard yelled, “I’ve been slimed,” and held his throat. Rafael thought that was pretty funny. Then Richard threw his egg and it ran down the front door the same way.

Then Oscar decided to throw his egg against the window, but the window broke and the boys decided to run away. But before they could turn around a big, tall, dark guy said, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“What’s it to you?” Oscar yelled, and they all ran away.

All the kids thought that was great. Rafael wanted to go next. He had taken Neil’s advice about making up his own Freddie Kruger — sort of. His villain was named Sammy Kruger. Otherwise, Neil could see no difference from the original. more tomorrow


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