Symphony 133

Neil said, “Oh.” He wasn’t sure that he liked a teacher as popular as Gina filling in for him. “I’ll be back on my feet in a day or two.”

Bill chuckled. “That’s what you think. You feel good because you are doped to the eyebrows. Wait an hour or two until the codeine starts to wear off and tell me how soon you will be back on your feet. You just stay here and recover; we’ll take care of school.”

“Do me a favor, then. Tell Gina to let Oscar Teixeira have his head. He is in charge of a student committee that is going to put on the Cinco de Mayo celebration. She needs to trust him, and give him all the freedom he can handle.”

“Oscar Teixeira? Are you out of your mind?”

“Trust me on this one. I have something brewing.”

Bill shook his head. “Don’t you always? Oh, by the way, we had a special board meeting on Sunday afternoon. They were naturally interested when you caused a brawl in my office.”

“No doubt,” Neil observed dryly.

“While I had them together, I made arrangements for shifting some teachers around next year. The state finally acted on Glen Ulrich’s request for disability retirement. Now he can get away from kids and rest his ulcer. Carmen has a math credential, so she agreed to take his place. Gina will be taking her sixth grade core back. That leaves me needing a teacher for seventh grade core. Do you want the job?”

Neil had to turn away to hide the emotion in his face. Did he? How could there be any question? He would miss the maturity of the high school students, but in his five years of teaching he had never grown so close to any children as he had here. They had been like babies when he got them. He had led them through puberty. He had seen them grow taller, stronger, more confident. To teach them for another year, and watch them grow further . . .  He could not express it.

Bill withdrew his hand and said briskly, “Got to run. I’ll tell Gina what you said, and I hope you know what you are doing. You won’t be wanting to see me for a while anyway.”

Neil turned to see what had changed Bill’s attitude, and saw Carmen standing behind him. She was hustling him out the door.

She came over to sit beside him and he lay quiet for a moment, just drinking in the sight of her.

She leaned over and kissed him ever so gently on his swollen lips. There were tears in her eyes again. She said, “I wasn’t very nice to you the last time I was here. I was too flippant, and I didn’t take the time to tell you how very proud I am of you.”

“For getting the crap beaten out of me?”

She winced. “I don’t know why I said that. I was just so relieved to see that you were going to be all right.”

“All he did was break my jaw.”

“That’s not true. You were unconscious for twenty hours from the blow. From both blows, actually; the one on the jaw, and one when Pollard threw you against the wall and you hit the back of your head. They took E. E. G.s and a dozen other tests before they would even set your jaw. They were afraid to administer anesthesia.”

Neil said, “No one told me.”

“You probably didn’t ask.” more tomorrow

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