BACK TO SCHOOL • by Patrick Perkins

The early fall sunlight bled into the classroom from the large, recently cleaned windows. Jim sat quietly, very quietly, at the back row of desks. He usually felt sad at the end of summer vacation, but his sadness was always tempered by seeing friends he’d missed over the break. That was good.

However, the new teacher had started the school year by doing really horrible things to students who gave incorrect answers. That was bad. Very bad.

Jim tried not to look at Butch, who was desperately trying to talk despite the fact that he no longer had a mouth. He had giggled when the new teacher had introduced herself. Jim thought that Drusilla was a funny name as well, but he was very glad that he had kept his giggling to himself. The teacher had frowned at Butch, muttered a few strange words, and then Butch’s mouth had disappeared.

A few of the kids had screamed, except for Butch of course, but a glare from Drusilla soon brought silence to the room. Then she started asking questions. Math, geography, physics. Random subjects that seemed to have no particular order. Correct answers received only a curt nod from Drusilla and a check mark next to the student’s name. Incorrect answers were followed by a punishment that suited the subject.

Sally, who tragically did not know the capital of Scotland, was transformed into a human bagpipe. Her stomach extended out to form the bag, and her mouth was permanently fixed to the blowpipe. Sally’s nose, previously quite small, had elongated to form the chanter. Horrified, Sally was crying hysterically which resulted in some very interesting sounds.

Edward, usually quite smart, was unable to recall that Charles Darwin was the author of On The Origin of Species. Drusilla shook her head, muttered a few more strange words, and Edward turned into a small chimpanzee. The chimp looked around frantically, then leaped towards the highest bookshelf in the classroom. It climbed to the top shelf, chattered loudly, then began throwing books at the students.

Mary, thoroughly rattled, could not name the constellation Orion which had suddenly appeared in the air above her head. Once again Drusilla muttered and gestured, resulting in Mary floating off from her seat to join the Orion constellation near the ceiling.

Drusilla worked her way through the class list, then stopped. The students who had managed to provide correct answers were sitting nervously at their desks. The other students were busy dealing with the results of their failure to satisfy their new teacher. Some of the students were more successful than others.

Jim stared nervously at Drusilla, then suddenly felt the hair on the back of his neck tingle. There was a sound like a muted clap of thunder, and a woman appeared just behind Jim at the back of the classroom. The woman wore a shimmering emerald green gown, and her long red hair cascaded down to her waist.

“Drusilla,” the woman said in a soft but powerful voice.

The effect on Drusilla was immediate. She dropped her pencil and her lower lip began to quiver.

“Ethel,” she stammered, just loud enough for Jim to hear. The new arrival strode gracefully to the front of the classroom and Jim realized two things: Firstly, the woman walking past his desk was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Secondly, Drusilla was about to get her ass kicked.

As Ethel made her way to the front of the classroom, Drusilla cowered away from the desk until her back was against the blackboard. “But I was only having a little fun,” she stammered. “I promise I’ll fix everything.”

Ethel stopped in front of the desk and stared at Drusilla.

“I am very, very disappointed with your behavior,” Ethel began. “You will most certainly fix what you have done. Now.” She paused and crossed her arms lightly across her chest. “We will discuss your discipline afterwards.”

“Yes, yes of course,” Drusilla muttered. She began speaking strange words very quickly, but in her haste to please Ethel some of the spells did not have the desired results. Ethel shook her head with displeasure as several students turned into mice, which were soon running for their lives from another student that had transformed into a cat.

“The longer it takes you to repair this damage, the worse your punishment will be,” Ethel commanded. “Calm down, and fix it.”

Drusilla took a deep breath, concentrated, and cast the necessary spells. After a few minutes all of the students, although quite shaken, were back in their original shapes and seated at their desks.

Ethel nodded. “Better. I will see you at council.” Ethel closed her eyes, spoke quietly, and gestured towards Drusilla. There was a loud popping sound as Drusilla vanished.

Ethel turned towards the students. “Children, I apologize for Drusilla’s behavior. This is most certainly not the way to begin the school year.”

“Now, let’s start the school year properly. Without all of Drusilla’s unpleasantness.” She made a wide sweeping gesture with both arms, and all of the students’ heads drooped.

When Jim raised his head he felt great. Looking around the classroom, he smiled at the other students. He was very happy to back at school with all of his friends. I hope my teacher is nice this year, he thought.

During scenic drives through beautiful British Columbia, Patrick Perkins collects random thoughts which sometimes meet later on the page as short stories. He hopes that one day a short story will become ambitious enough to grow into a novel.

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