The substitute teacher only tells us Miss Rawley is having a difficult time, but we already know why. Fifth grade is a room full of rumors, and we are sure this one is true.
We’ve watched the video news clip over and over, the SUV speeding on the narrow street near the school where we are still told never to cross except at the stop sign corners, no excuses. Every time the camera finds the car coming around the bend, the man on the bicycle has no chance. Miss Rawley owns that car.
The substitute teacher says she will be with us for a while, that we should make the best of it. She reviews our long division while we remember how the man on the bicycle is tossed up and nearly over the SUV. How the driver does not slow down. How, every time, it leaves the scene.
The body shop told on Miss Rawley. She insisted that her car was vandalized in her driveway, but nobody there believed her. She should have said the dog wrecked her car. They might have laughed and thought she was so funny her students must love her. They might have kept her secret.
Miss Rawley came to school for a month before she was arrested. She talked and smiled the same as always. She has a lawyer now. He says her showing up for work demonstrates her innocence. He says the license plate on the video isn’t fully visible. He says the man on the bike is homeless. Like that’s important, he says it every time he’s on the news.
In our city, there are cameras everywhere to keep us safe or, at least, to show who has harmed us. They don’t lie, the police declare, speaking about their evidence.
After school, three of us walk on that street. We see where the camera is and stand where it can take our pictures. One by one we run across the street where the bike rider was crushed. When a car passes, the driver is going as slow as our mothers do. We run back and forth three times. The third time, we run together, stop in the middle of the street, and do selfies. We wave at the camera and scream as if Miss Rawley is just around the bend.
Gary Fincke’s latest collection is The Sorrows (Stephen F. Austin, 2020). His story “The Corridors of Longing” appears in Best Small Fictions 2020. An essay “After the Three-Moon Era” appears in Best American Essays 2020. He is co-editor of the anthology series Best Microfiction.