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| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| August 2, 2016 Views: 342|
Chapter 1 of the book The True Test
Disaster at a school
"The True Test"
One of those days, normal, boring, nothing new in the news, no big tradgedy to cry over, no discussion starter at the lunch table, nothing to shake up the world with or write home to Mom about.
The sky deepened to a blue, green-gray, the air thick, moist.
No weatherman predicted rain
The school calendar stated:
"Early Out day".
One month before the state legislature mandated:
Teachers must receive more STAAR Test training.
Our administration sent the formal email.
"Report to the auditorium no later than one-fifteen. Bring the manuals provided in your school mailboxes."
We escorted the students to the bus loop, some ecstatic about the early release day, some noticed the air felt different, strange.
One student didn't want to get on the bus.
"Mrs. Welch, the sky looks different."
My reply felt shallow.
"Oh heavens, it's just another day. Enjoy the opportunity to go home early."
We often forget our animal heritage. Instinct, within us, senses fear, uncertainty.
In modern times, we ignore the signs, thinking of ourselves higher than the other animals in the universe.
Birds fly low before it rains. Not because the fowls recognize the danger, simply because the insects they eat fly lower.
Salmon swim upstream only sensing it is time to procreate. They ignore the danger and follow their desire to find a mate.
Humans ignore their feelings, their instincts. Otherwise we would have gone home to our loved ones.
None of us who survived, chose that option.
The student's words echoed in my head.
"Mrs. Welch, why is the sky that color?"
"It looks weird out here."
Our students sensed it, felt it, acknowledged it.
I still see their faces in the bus windows. I wonder what became of them.
We don't know who made it home. We only know we put them on a bus.
We ignored our fears at lunch.
Krissie, my best friend, a computer teacher, ate our "Weight Watcher" salads.
How many times had we been through the various versions of this "NEW" type of training? We could mouth it word for word.
Taft, my school home for 14 years now, connected Krissie and me. We formed a strong connection from the first time I met her. We both graduated in 1972. We both love to play golf, so did our husbands. As couples, we played in scrambles and local tournaments together. We enjoyed each other's humor. We had no secrets. Often during our Sunday golf outings, we would laugh about life.
While driving the golf cart, we drank beers and made fun of our husbands. We talked about school and our children. We knew each other's life's stories. We talked about the mistakes in our past. While life was not perfect, we cherished who we had become and what we now were now accomplishing.
Both of us hated standardized testing days. I called them "torture days". The tests would last all day long. We jokingly referred to it as the WTFTT - Ways To Fire a Teacher Test. Since I was the music teacher, I would spend my entire day on bathroom duty. I knew the speech well.
"Please make sure only one student is in the bathroom at a time. You must go in and out and inspect the room for the possibility a student is leaving test answers. If you see a child with their phone, immediately confiscate it and ask for an administrator. You will be given feminine products in case a student needs them."
Krissie and I got to the auditorium at exactly 1:11. As usual, I forgot my manual and had to run back to my room which was just down the hall. Krissie saved the aisle seat for me. Our principal picked up the microphone.
"Thank you for being here. As you all know we will be administering the STAAR test the first week of May."
"If you break any of the rules during testing you may lose your teaching certificate."
The updated vignettes, same message, same bad acting showed new characters with a small attempt at humor.
Our favorite vignette, the one we made the most fun of, showed two teachers in our lounge
"Did you see that question on the Math Test? I think it was unfair."
"Yes, there were many that I disagreed with."
Another teacher in the background, standing with an open refrigerator, eavesdropping shakes her head.
We are not allowed to mention the test, especially we are not allowed to talk about questions on it. We are sworn to silence emphasized with a signed oath to follow all rules.
The next scene opens in the principal's office.
"I feel an obligation to report two teachers who broke protocol." The refrigerator eavesdropper smiles as she seals the other teachers' fate.
"You are doing the right thing." The principal praises her decision.
We never find out the fate of the two teachers, but it is assumed they either lost their teaching certificates or were put in prison, maybe tortured into admitting their discretion.
I do not allow the use of cell phones in my class. I try to be respectful and not use mine in meetings. Boredom took over, I started yawning. I knew if I didn't distract myself I might find myself snoring loudly. Krissie nudged me a few minutes earlier to tell me to wake up. I shouldn't have but I turned my phone on. Just then my daughter sent me a picture of my three-year-old granddaughter. I stared at it mesmerized. What a little beauty. The time said 3:05.
The world changed. The floor shook, small at first then violently. Ceiling tiles began to rain on our heads. Lights above our heads shattered, popping, exploding. Darkness filled the room. I heard a giant thud and felt a large piece of metal fall on Krissie next to me. The metal casing slashed a large cut into my left arm. Krissie let out a large gasp but didn't move. Using my phone, I turned to her. She didn't move. I stood, screaming her name. Some large light from the ceiling sat in her lap. My phone dropped to the floor. I tried to move the lamp, the casing cut into my hands. It wouldn't move. I stood there in shock, unable to move, unable to look away. I dropped my phone.
Someone touched my arm. A young teacher I didn't recognize calmly spoke to me. He put his hand on my shoulder. He picked up my phone. He turned me away from Krissie.
"Let me help you. You must follow me. You can't help her now. We will come back."
I couldn't speak. He gently pushed me up the ramp.
The closest doors stood to our right. Several teachers stood with ashen faces staring at the doorway. We could go no further. A ledge a foot from the door fell into the classroom on the floor below us. The foyer, now filled with broken glass, prevented our exit. No way out on this side.
Panic took over in the darkness.
Crying, screaming, moans filled the room.
We turned around and followed the crowd to the other side of the auditorium. Someone had propped open the other door. A faint light led to the band hall across the exit. We wanted to run, yet we moved slowly across. Most of us were silent. Some were screaming or crying. We kept hearing smaller explosions, dust suffocating us.
One teacher, an evangelist started screaming, "The end is coming. I'm ready Lord."
Amazingly, my phone was still working. It was now 3:11.
We reached the band hall. Chairs and instruments overturned, band lockers jolted open, amazingly the roof was intact. People slumped against the wall, many injured and bleeding. My cuts seemed small compared to the others.
The left side of the room led to an outside door. One of the coaches stood framed in the doorway, a silent picture, staring at the devastation outside.
I joined him at the door. Outside amidst the dusty air, concrete slabs, broken into puzzle pieces. Electric lines pulled from their poles danced to unheard music in the distance. Trees engulfed in flames could be seen for miles. A church steeple without a church stood among the rubble. The boy's gym used to be visible from this door, now just a broken basketball court with a ghost hoop swinging in the wind. We could see for miles, turned over cars, whole buildings reduced to ashes.
We had no way out. No place to run. I slumped down in the doorway unable to stop looking at the view. The band hall generator provided us with dim light. We knew it wouldn't last for long.
Our cell phones proved useless. Our calls to 911 were unanswered. The phone towers must have fallen. Our band director, Amanda, tried the landline in her office, no dial tone. Her assistants, Mike and Greg began helping people find their way in.
Some were whispering, not wanting to be heard. Some were crying, screaming. Some lay deadly quiet.
The young man who led me from my seat seemed to take charge. He knew first aid and basic emergency room skills. He rapidly moved from one patient to the other accessing each patient as if he was a physician.
Small decisions formed. The people who were not injured began moving. Amanda found flashlights. Greg opened a closet full of water used to help the marchers keep hydrated. Those who were not injured helped move the severely hurt into the adjourning band hall. Michael opened the uniform closet and grabbed band uniforms to use as pillows to keep their heads above their bleeding. They covered them with the jackets. Shoelaces from marching shoes became make-do tourniquets.
Someone handed me a water bottle and paper towels and asked me to clean my wounds. Another teacher began cutting up white tux shirts from the uniform closet.
The coach still stood in the doorway. He hadn't moved since I first came in the room. Slowly he turned to us and in a loud voice announced,
"There are no sirens. There is only silence. No one is coming to help us."
At Taft, we refer to our faculty as a family of educators. We never knew we would be a true family from that moment on.
Chapter 2 Douglas Athletic Trainer
It took two years after graduating from college before Doug could move out of his parents' house. HIs degree in Exercise Science and Kinesthetic was a step in his plans. His real dream was to become a doctor. Reality ruined that hope when he took the MCAT. He failed it twice.
Test anxiety haunted him from the time he was in first grade. He would study his spelling words. He won the spelling bee. Yet, couldn't pass the written test. By third grade they had him tested for Special Education Programs. Despite an almost genius IQ, 137, he couldn't put his words on paper. The special ed psychiatrist tried to explain it to his parents.
"He is very intelligent. He just can't put it down on paper. I asked him to make up a story and showed him a picture of two people on the moon. He told me the most elaborate, imaginative story full of dialogue and humor. Yet, when I asked him to write it down he wrote three sentences.
"There were two people on the moon. They saw the stars. They liked being on the moon."
"He is probably dysgraphic, a form of Dyslexia that most people don't understand."
His Dad thought it was just a bunch of malarky.
"He just isn't trying hard enough. Slow down, write slower. Discipline is all you need."
He didn't want to sign the papers to put his oldest son in Special Education.
"You need to live up to your name, Douglas Edward Montgomery the Fourth. No child of mine is retarded."
It took his mother to convince her husband, the son of a Texas Rancher, to realize what his son needed.
They were a unique couple, his Mom, and Dad. Dad grew up on a wealthy cowboy ranch. His Mom, Janie, as they called her, grew up on an Indian Reservation. Her heritage placed her in two worlds, half-white, half Cherokee. She receive a scholarship to college from the indian council.
They met in college. He studied animal science at Texas Tech. At most he was a B, C student. He knew college was a formality. He was going to inherit the ranch. He already had a house on the 3000 acres that he could call his own. He had always dated the cheerleader types in high school. Then fate sat him next to this tall, dark-haired, beautiful woman in a mandatory psychology class. They were put in a study group together. They disagreed on almost everything. For some reason, the attraction was immediate. He fell in love with this feisty woman. She finally let him date her a year later.
Taking her home to Mama was a real challenge. No one had ever married outside of their culture. Yet he knew she was the woman for him. Eventually, she won over the rest of the family. The wedding took place on June 2th, 1965.
Douglas Edward Montgomery the Fourth was born on August 16th, two years after their marriage.
Janie's Mother, a full Cherokee, came to the hospital shortly after the birth. She presented a small bag of Indian medicine and placed it on her new grandson's forehead, then She shook the herbs above her grandson's head. Chanting in her native language, she spoke his Indian name, Silver Fox. She turned to her daughter.
"You must give Silver Fox this bag when he is 8 years old. His gifts will be revealed. He is the Great-Great Grandson of a medicine man. Two of his gifts will be healing and kindness. The rest will be revealed in time."
His grandmother died before his 3rd year of life.
Janie kept her promise. Her son received the medicine bag on his 8th birthday. His gifts began to emerge.
Some little boys bring home stray animals. Doug's parents soon learned their boy was different. He brought home any injured creature he could find. A baby bird with a deformed wing, a rabbit half eaten by a fox but still alive, a cat with three legs, even a group of baby skunks he found after a Texas flood.
Dad protested when he brought the skunks home, but Mom always gave in. She knew her boy's heart and couldn't stand when any creature was hurting. She helped put them in a box and take them to the wild animal shelter 40 miles away. The vet comforted the boy, "They are almost old enough to be weaned. I can give them formula and release them in the woods in a couple of weeks. They will be okay."
Most of his little creatures survived. Doug had a natural gift for healing. He would gently bandage them, figure out a way to feed them, name them and love them.
The three-legged cat became "Hop a Long"
The rabbit, "Bunny Who Has No Fear"
The little bird, "Eagle Who Will Fly over the World".
The bird, a true miracle, survived and thrived under his guidance.
The wing grossly deformed looked hopeless. Most people would have no hope for such an animal. It stayed with him for 6 months. Every night Doug would gently stretch the wing out. He splinted the wing in a new position each week. He fed the little guy day and night. As the bird grew the wing became straighter and stronger.
He loved to tell the bird stories about seeing the world from the sky. When the bird showed signs of wanting to fly. Doug would take him out to flight school every day after school.
Sitting on the ground he would cup the sweet creature in his hands then gently throw him a few inches at a time. Each week the throws were a little bit further.
He never planned the day the bird would take flight. He waited for nature to decide.
He placed him on a low branch and let him watch the sky and other birds. At night, he gently caged him and told him one day the sky would be his own.
One evening he placed him on a higher branch. The next day he flew. For a week he stayed close to the house, Then he flew away to see the world from the sky.
When he was ten, he asked his Mother to call him Silver Fox. His father would have nothing of it. "You were born with a strong Texas Heritage. No son of mine is going to be called Silver Fox. Be proud of the name you were given."
His Mother took him aside. "I know your father can be controlling but he is a good man. He treats me well. He has given me two strong sons. A woman who marries someone with the idea that she can change him is a foolish girl. It was my choice to marry him and love him as he is. He is my provider. Your name does not have to be spoken to make you powerful. Greatness will find you in time."
Now six months after moving out he lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. To Doug, it felt like a castle. He worked at Taft High School as their athletic trainer. He still wanted to be a doctor but he was enjoying working with athletes and being able to use his medical knowledge when any of them got hurt. He also taught a sports medicine class.
He decided to embrace his Indian heritage. He grew his long black hair out and pulled it into a ponytail. When he met new people he would introduce himself as "Silver Fox but you can call me Doug." People enjoyed his personality and humor.
Today, Thursday, he was up early. He didn't admit it to anyone but he had a crush on the new Girl's P.E. teacher. Patty was only 4'11''. Doug stood a bit over 6 feet. He towered over her.
Patty was starting a zero hour gymnastics course. He volunteered to be the trainer just in case one of the students twisted an ankle or needed an ice pack. Patty had joined the faculty in the middle of the year. She had competed on the Junior Olympics Gymnastic's High School team several years back. She graduated from Michigan State where she placed in Nationals at the worlds. An injury kept her from advancing. She still loved gymnastics and now was happy to be teaching it. Our school had none of the equipment she needed for a gymnastics team. That did not deter her. She was going to start simple with stretches, rolls, flips, dance moves. She was completely convinced she could get the funding she needed from grants.
Doug loved her ambitious attitude. He planned on asking her out for dinner and a movie tomorrow night. He was sure he could convince her. 'After all, my name is Silver Fox which of course makes me clever and wise. Surely she won't say no. '
It Was One of Those Days writing prompt entry
"It was one of those days," Start your story with that prompt. It might be a day when you thought you did everything right, but it changed. It might be one of those days when life was amazing and you could do nothing wrong. Which ever day you choose live it in your story. |
I am excited to revise this story. After three years of working on this, this editing process is amazing and so challenging. I hope you will follow this story about teachers surviving during a crisis. A high school has such an eclectic group of people all with different skills to help in a major crisis, Physics, Math, music, Home ec. Wood making, electronics, culinary skills, including nutrition, Atheletic trainers to help the wounded, Coaches to help with heavy lifting and winning attitudes. Cafeteria workers, Psychologists, counselors, So many diverse skills that can create success. This is a fun but realistic story of survival.
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