Tag Archives: teaching

Symphony 135

As they crossed the playground, the Cinco de Mayo celebration was just getting under way. Neil said, “I want to sit next to John Teixeira.”

“I don’t see him.”

“Keep looking. I sent word to his wife to have him here no matter what.”

Janice looked curiously at him, but their relationship was newly repaired and fragile. She did not presume upon it to ask questions. Instead, she searched the grassy area where folding chairs had been set up until she saw John and Sandy Teixeira.

She parked him beside them and pulled up a chair on the other side, still puzzled.

John Teixeira met Neil’s eyes while they measured each other anew. It was almost as if they were meeting for the first time. Neil put out his hand and John shook it without hesitation. He said, “I heard what you did for the Cobb girl. If there is anything I can ever do for you, just ask.”

“There may be. Just watch the show, and then we’ll talk about it.”

In the center of the open space in front of the folding chairs, the children had constructed a cardboard fort. Carmen and Gina had arranged for a PA system with two mikes. Stephanie Hagstrom stood by one; Rosa Alvarez stood by the other. They read the narration, first Stephanie in English, then Rosa in Spanish.

The year was 1862. Using independent Mexico’s debts to European powers as an excuse, France had decided to invade Mexico. The French General Laurences arrived:

“So this is Vera Cruz,” Stephanie read. “What a beautiful country Mexico is!”

“Asi es Veracruz,” Rosa echoed. “Que campo tan hermoso tiene Mexico!”

The French army arrived in construction paper hats, carrying broomstick rifles, and attacked the fort at Puebla. Regular Mexican troops and Zacapoaztla Indians rose up from where they had been hidden behind the walls and defended it. Three times the French attacked. Three times they were repulsed. When the day — Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May — was over, the French invasion had failed. Never again would a European power invade the Americas.

When the applause had died down, Neil said, “What did you think?”

“It was very good,” John Teixeira admitted. “You must have put in a lot of work on it.”

“Not me. I was in the hospital.”

“Mrs. Wyatt then.”

“Not according to the reports I got. She said she just sat back and let the person in charge do his job.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will. Here comes the person who wrote, produced, and directed the whole thing. He did the research; he organized the kids. He harassed them until they learned their lines and got their costumes together. He made it work.”

Oscar came walking up as Neil was speaking, with a smile that threatened to break out into a grin — or to go away altogether. Neil reached out and shook Oscar’s hand gravely. He said, “John, meet the one who put it all together while I was in the hospital. The boss. El patron.” more Monday


Symphony 134

He thought back. “I guess I didn’t. I felt my jaw give way when he hit me, so when I woke up with my mouth wired shut, I thought I knew the whole story.”

“It was more serious than you realize. The doctors tell me now that you will be fine, but we didn’t know that at first.”

Carmen took both his hands in hers and kissed his knuckles. She said, “I love you, Neil McCrae. When I thought I was going to lose you . . .”

Neil put his arm around her and drew her close. He ached to kiss her. He said, “You don’t have to lose me. Ever.”

He swept the hair back from her forehead. He admired the shape of her mouth, and the dark depths of her eyes.

“Bill offered me a job,” he said finally.

“I know. I knew about it yesterday.” She paused as if she were afraid to go on, then asked, “What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything. It all depends.”

“On what?”

“On your answer to my next question.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to go on teaching at the same school with you, if you turned me down when I asked you to marry me.”

# # #

After Carmen left, Neil lay back thinking of the one irony everyone had either missed, or had chosen not to comment on. When it came down to blood and dust, he had believed Lisa instead of Jim Pollard. He had never even made a decision; it had been automatic. Just as automatic as the decision the community had rendered against him in Oregon a year earlier.

# # #

Bill had been right about how long it would take Neil to recover. By Friday morning he was still seeing double and he could not stand up for more than ten minutes at a time. The blows to his head had been a terrible shock to his system.

He badgered his doctor into letting him out by promising to stay in a wheelchair so he couldn’t fall and re-break his jaw if he passed out. It was nearly eleven by the time he had finished the paperwork. Janice Hagstrom picked him up at the hospital entrance, and stowed his folding wheelchair in the back of her station wagon.

He said, “Thank you for picking me up.”

She laughed self-consciously. “If ever there was a case of ‘the least I could do’, this is it. I still don’t understand why you don’t hate us all for the way we treated you.”

Neil closed his eyes against the brightness of the day and said, “That’s easy. You were just trying to protect your children. How could I hate you for that.”

“I would think it would be easy to hate us,” Janice said as she pulled out, “but I’m glad you don’t. Is it true what we hear?”

“What do you hear?”

“That you are going to keep on teaching here, and that you and Ms. de la Vega are getting married.”

“Yes and yes. June fourteenth.”

Janice took pity on his obvious exhaustion and let him sprawl quietly in the front seat all the way to the school. There she pulled out the wheel chair, and then had her hands full keeping his kids from trampling and battering him with greetings. more tomorrow

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

Symphony 132

His memory was there, but it was like a jigsaw puzzle that had been dumped on the floor. A lot of it was just scattered pieces, but large chunks here and there retained their structure. He remembered Lisa’s distress; he remembered talking with Bill about what to do, and arguing with Mrs. Cobb and Jim Pollard.

He remembered the fist coming in and the feel of grating teeth. That was very clear. But the rest of the fight was a complete mystery, and he would have to wait until nearly four to get his answers because Carmen and Bill were both at school.

# # #

When Bill came in, Neil’s first question was, “Where is Carmen?”

Bill laughed, pulled up a chair, and said, “Well, thanks. I guess you are getting better. She had a conference with a parent, but she will be along in a half hour or so.”

Bill reached out and took Neil’s hand, like a father taking the hand of his son. Neil squeezed his fingers. He said, “Where is Lisa?”

“They put her in a foster home. I don’t think she will be there long. Her mother is in counseling, and I think Lisa will be able to go home in a few weeks. With Pollard out of the picture, she will be able to think of her daughter again.”

Neil said, “I don’t have a clear picture of what happened after Pollard broke my jaw. I do seem to remember jumping him and hanging on.”

“I’ll say you did. That was the only thing that saved us. He’s right down the hall now, and when he leaves it will be to head for the county jail.”

“What happened?”

“It was the strangest thing. I was trying to get out the door to go for help when you came back to life, jumped on Pollard and dragged him down. He thrashed around like mad, but you had him in a grip that he couldn’t break.

“That’s when Judy Cobb went crazy. She had been standing there like she didn’t know what to do, but when saw him down, struggling and helpless, she started screaming curses and jumped right on him. She beat him with her fists until he shoved her off, then she hauled back and kicked him as hard as she could right in the crotch. That took the wind out of his sails.”

“She put him in the hospital?” Neil asked in awe.

“Not exactly.” Bill looked embarassed. “What she did, she got his attention and let me get to the next room. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and put a dent in his skull. That’s what put him in the hospital.”

Neil grinned, then cried out in pain. His eyes watered as he got control of himself again. “Don’t do that to me, Bill,” he said, “I’m in no condition to move my mouth.”


“So! You accused me of being a hothead. It seems you still have some steam in your boiler, too.”

“I have to admit that seeing a good friend getting beat up started my adrenaline pumping.”

You never called me that before, Neil thought.

Neil raised his hand and Bill took it without embarrassment. To change the subject, Neil asked, “How are my kids taking it?”

“Fine. Gina Wyatt came back to fill in for you. She says she misses teaching and was glad of an excuse to get back into harness.”

Neil said, “Oh.” He wasn’t sure that he liked a teacher as popular as Gina filling in for him. more tomorrow

Symphony 131


If he tried really hard, Neil could remember the ambulance, and the uniformed officers standing around taking statements; but it was vague, like a memory belonging to someone else, so he let it go.

A doctor said, “Can you feel that?” and Neil was surprised to realize that the pain had gone away. He tried to shake his head, but something was gripping him so tightly that he could not. He was trying to puzzle that out when the darkness came again.

Later he saw a moving grayness, like the unrolling of an unexposed film. Round objects swept into his field of vision from below and disappeared above. When he finally recognized them as electric lights, the grayness came into focus and became a ceiling sliding by above him. He felt the lurching of a gurney and the jar as they stopped. Hands lifted him into a bed, and he tried to say, “Where am I?” It came out as an infant’s shapeless gurgle.

Then the world went away for a century or so.

# # #

Neil was not sure when he wakened. The world was a slow, abstract dance of unrelated patterns for a time, and he could not judge how long that time was. Eventually the blur of light became a window, the swaying blot suspended above him became an I. V. bottle, and the smear of yellow close in at his right side became a blouse, with Carmen wearing it.

When she came swimming into focus, he said, “Blumurf.” She smiled and swept her hand across his forehead in a caress. Neil said, “Whisimulf.”

“I’m sure that makes sense to you, Love, but you are going to have to learn to talk with your mouth wired shut before the rest of us can understand you.”


She leaned over and kissed his forehead. There were tears in her eyes. She said, “You had us worried. You had me worried; the doctors said you were going to be fine.”


“What happened? You were very brave and noble and got the crap beat out of you. Don’t you remember?”

“You ‘ont sunn vry worrd t’me!”

Her mouth quivered and she bit her lip. Tears ran freely down her cheeks as she threw her arms around him. With her face buried in his chest, she whispered, “You’ll never know how scared I was!”

# # #

Things stayed blurry all that day. He knew it was Sunday because someone told him, but he couldn’t fit that into any kind of personal time line. He kept remembering his time of crisis in Oregon. He could remember that it was in his past, but it felt like last week, not a year ago.

If today was Sunday, then tomorrow was Monday and he would have to make up lesson plans for a substitute. He asked for paper and pencil, then sat for five minutes trying to remember what chapter of Macbeth they were studying before he finally remembered that he had been teaching that a year ago and five hundred miles away.

After that he just slept.

He slept until ten o’clock Monday morning, then woke clear headed. He found that his mouth was wired shut; his lunch consisted of mashed bananas and cream of wheat. His memory was there, but it was like a jigsaw puzzle that had been dumped on the floor. more Monday

483. Blogging Calendar

I actually post from six to eight times a week now,
but the disclaimer above was placed into my posts
in November of 2015. I’ll tell you why, below

I recently wrote a post called How to Get Readers for Your Blog. It was mostly for fun. You see, the only post I ever made with Porn in the Permalink got more views than anything I had ever written, even though there wasn’t a naked woman in sight. It cracked me up, and I wanted to talk about it.

I actually don’t know much about getting viewers. Of course, I’ve read every book on the subject. They all lie. That isn’t anything new, however. When I was a new writer in the seventies, I read every book about how to get published. They all lied, too.

I did get published, and I do get viewers — you’re here aren’t you — so I know something, but it’s a tricky world where they keep changing the rules.

I’m going to give you links to my three sparse posts of wisdom, and then I have one more thing to add.

Behind the Curtain

Wordcamp Sacramento

Blogging Hints

Most people who read our blogs are bloggers themselves, and most of them find us initially through Reader. It took me a while to figure that out, and longer to realize that those Reader posts go by fast. Did you look at Reader as your last post hit the airwaves? Go back in an hour and see if you can find it. You may have to scroll down a mile. Those Reader posts just keep on rolling in, and you (I, we) keep sinking out of sight.

You could repost every hour, but the powers-that-be would get very angry at you, and you can’t afford that.

After a couple of months as a new blogger, I realized that all my posts were going out between 7:30 and 8:30 Pacific Time because I am an early bird. Suppose someone lived in Boston. My posts would be reaching his Reader about 11 in the morning. If he/she wasn’t on her/his computer at that time, chances are that person would never find me. What could I do about that?

I went to my spreadsheet and made up a calendar, which I still update and use. Column one was the dates I post, skipping weekends, since I don’t post then. The second column was for the Serial post and the third was for the A Writing Life post. Words don’t do this well, so let me show you:

                    Dec. 14, 2015                 8:45                 8:55

                    Dec. 15, 2015                 9:45                 9:55

                    Dec. 16, 2015               10:45               10:55

                    Dec. 17, 2015               11:45               11:55

It is an artifact of a previous way of doing things that the A Writing Life post always comes ten minutes after the Serial post. The next set of numbers would repeat the hour and move both minute settings forward ten minutes, so that we get.

                    Dec. 18, 2015                  8:55                  9:05

This one worked for me, covering most of the US for most of morning and early afternoon by the time it had cycled through roughly a month. I could add details, but why bother? If you like the idea, you will certainly set up a posting calendar that meets your individual needs.

It looks logical, but can you tell me why more than half of my views come from every country other than the United States? I love it, but that part is a mystery.


UNRELATED, BUT FUN, and it fits into the spirit of this, on April 10, I hit 1000 posts.

Symphony 130

Neil knew he had to do something now to break Pollard’s calm and drive a wedge between him and Judith. “Mrs. Cobb,” he asked, “haven’t you talked with Lisa about all this? She must have come to you.”

“Lisa complains all the time,” Pollard cut in. “You can’t listen to her.”

“I was talking to Mrs. Cobb!”

Pollard’s face darkened. He said, “I can speak for myself, whenever I want to.”

“Yes. So you can. But can she?”

“Judy can talk for herself.”

“So, let her!”

Judith Cobb hunched down and looked miserable. Neil asked again, “Didn’t Lisa complain to you?”

Pollard glowered at her in silence. She shook her head.

Neil swiveled around to Bill Campbell and said, “I think one of us needs to talk to Mrs. Cobb alone.”

“No!” Pollard took her by the shoulder and half dragged her to her feet. 

Pollard was getting desperate. Neil felt his heart sink. This had started as attempted rape; it could end in murder.

“Judy and I just came to get her little girl,” Pollard shouted. “You’re trying to keep her from her own child. That puts you in the wrong. Now give Lisa to us or I’ll call the police.”

Bill Campbell said, “I already have.”

Pollard’s face went dark with rage. He bunched his fists at his sides and he was all but trembling. His powerful chest was straining the fabric of his shirt. Neil stepped between Pollard and Bill Campbell just as Pollard threw a hard right. He didn’t have time to dodge.

Neil felt his jaw move violently sideways with a dull snap, and saw the darkness coming in from the corners of his eyes. Bill’s desk top caught him across the buttocks and he fell, flipping backward like a stunt man in a movie. He landed on his hands and knees on the far side of the desk, swayed, then staggered to his feet again. The world skidded sideways and he fell back to one knee.

He felt hands on his shirt. Pollard jerked him upright, then hurled him backwards to slam into the wall.

This was not the way it was supposed to happen

Neil threw up his hands to ward off another blow to his face, but Pollard shifted and hit him in the stomach. It doubled Neil over, and he hit the floor again, on his knees this time. Pollard’s legs were in front of him, so he threw his arms around them and tried to pull him down. Something hit him hard at the base of the skull and he slid the rest of the way to the floor.

Neil rolled over. The world was a gray blur. He could see a swirl of interacting figures, like a strobe-lit dance, but none of it would come into focus. Bile tickled the back of his throat, and he fought against the need to vomit.

He was leaving Bill to face a raging bull alone. And after him, Pollard would turn on Carmen and Lisa. 


Neil forced himself to his feet again. He could barely support himself. He tried to bring the room into focus and failed.

Failed! How he hated that word.

He concentrated on Pollard, picked his figure out of the swirling mass before him and launched himself toward it. His arms would barely respond, but Neil managed to throw them around Pollard’s chest. He wrapped him up in a death grip and let his weight pull them both down.

He felt consciousness fading and willed his arms to lock, to cling so grimly that death itself would not loosen them. Then he saw the great, gray spiral that led down into blackness, and fell into it. more tomorrow