We thought it’d be fun. It’s an open secret that teachers can be as bored as their students. Why not mix things up? All the classes participated, from 1A to 5F. We put the pi symbol on bulletin boards, had classes make posters with facts about circles, pi, famous mathematicians. 2E filled a poster up with as many digits as they could. And on the 14th, each class brought pies for everyone to share. We set it all up in the gym. You just want to make the day different sometimes, you know? We thought it would be fun.
What happened was, Abel Matthews in 4D brought his own pie. Which should have been fine. We wanted as many pies as possible — too much is always better than too little when you’re dealing with kids’ expectations. But the other kids, their parents had brought us pies — mostly cheap storebought. A few homemade. Abel’s pie was homemade. He made it himself. A dark chocolate pie — at least, that’s what it looked like — with a homemade crust, no whipped cream. When I say dark, I mean black, like a new moon. A new moon invisible in the night sky. With a shine you’d think meant a reflection, but when I bent over it, there was nothing but the absence of color.
It was a creepy pie. I know how that sounds. You just have to take my word for it. But Abel wasn’t a creepy kid. Just an odd one. You know the type. Maybe you were one. I was one! I was playing wizard in my backyard well into the sixth grade. Abel was odd. Very prim. Even though all our kids wear a uniform, he was the only one who looked proper in his. That was the word for Abel. Proper. He wasn’t bullied, as far as I ever knew. Teased, maybe, but not bullied. I don’t think any of the kids wanted to muss him up too much. Imagine a twelve-year-old English butler. That’s Abel. He did things properly. So when he baked a pie for Pi Day, he did it properly.
It tasted good. Dark chocolate with an odd, though not unpleasant, aftertaste. Miss Henry, who taught his class, cut out the first slices. More teachers than students partook; there were funner pies for the kids. What kid wants dark chocolate? What kid makes a dark chocolate pie? I had a slice. Lucia, who teaches 3F, she and I were laughing together about what the mysterious flavor was – gross guesses only. Then Miss Henry, who was a year from retirement, came and quietly asked me if I couldn’t come over. She had nearly finished slicing up Abel’s pie. About a fourth of it was left. She handed me the silver pie slicer she’d brought from her own home. She said, “I know it’s strange, but do you mind slicing the rest up?”
There was something in her tone, but I said sure. I stuck the slicer in, had to put a little oomph in it. “This crust is tough,” I said to her. “It didn’t taste this tough.” She just nodded. Her eyes were on the pie. I eventually made it though, pushed a slice free, put it on the plate. Did it again. And again. And again. About the fifth slice, I stopped. She nodded at me without taking her eyes off the pie. There was still about a fourth left. Maybe a little less. In fact, definitely a little less. But not five slices less. So I went at it harder. I pulled out ten slices. A little less than a little less of a fourth left.
“I’m just going to pull the whole thing out,” I said.
“Okay,” she said. No one was paying any attention to us. As a surprise, we had setup a little cream pie throwing booth, for the kids to try to hit their teachers. That’s where all the kids were. Even Abel Matthews, as excited as the rest of them. He might have been an odd kid, but he was still a kid. His pie, though. I tried to stick the pie slicer under the whole section of remaining pie. It was like trying to pull up a brick wall. I tried going through the rim. Nothing. I lifted the glass pie dish, turned it upside down, and shook. Crumbs and flakes of pastry fell out. Nothing else. I put it back on the table.
“Okay,” I said. “Here’s what we do.”
What we did was tell Able Matthews that we had dropped his pie and shattered the pie glass. When his mother picked him up, I took the blame. I apologized profusely. I told her that I would replace her pie dish, and I did, though she told me not to. Abel was mad, wouldn’t look at me. We adults had a laugh about it. “Abel, you won’t forgive me?” We saw them off. It took a lot of effort to smile through it. Miss Henry and I never spoke about Pi Day again. We didn’t agree to it; we just knew. She retired the next year. Full pension. We threw a big party for her, with a square cake.
I still have the pie. I keep it in the back of my refrigerator. I’ve gotten it to about a centimeter. I’ve had to special order knives, but soon it’ll be outside even the thinnest edge’s reach. You’ll need a laser. And I suspect that, eventually, there won’t be a thin enough laser. Which is a headache I don’t need in my life. I should just throw it out. Except, when you lift the pie glass, bring the remaining slice up your eye, it’s almost thin enough to see through. To the other side. There’s something on the other side. And it’s not more pie.
William Hawkins has been published in Granta, ZYZZYVA and TriQuarterly. Originally from Louisiana, he currently lives in Los Angeles where he is at work on a novel.
Happy Pi Day from Every Day Fiction!