Those People

Written with my Thursday night writing group with the prompts: aimless love, if you live long enough, fireworks, dead skunk, dream, Mom would give him money, okay, revealing, taking a detour, pitter patter of rain, I wonder what happened, if I had it to do all over again, the school principal, free will, feel left out, those people

After the fireworks died down, I found the school principal wandering across the near empty stadium parking lot smelling of marijuana, his tie stained with jelly donuts.  It was a relief actually, because I thought I was smelling a dead skunk out there, and I wasn’t relishing the thought of cleaning up after that.  But you know, they say if you live long enough you’ll see just about everything, and my boss reeking of reefer was certainly a new one.

Before I had a chance to say a word, he grabbed me in a half embrace.  “Jim,” he said, “if I had it to do over again, I would definitely have skipped tonight’s school board meeting.”  He started to giggle hysterically and I patted his shoulder, trying to be comforting.

“Mr. Ramsay,” I said softly, “I’ve mopped down the multi-purpose room, everybody’s gone home.  Where’s your car?  Maybe you should call an Uber.  Or maybe I could drive you home.  You don’t live too far, right?

“Those people,” he said, “those people were very unreasonable tonight.”

“Yes, they were, sir,” I agreed.  “But tomorrow you’ll have more perspective, I think.”

“If I had it to do over again—“  It was becoming a theme.  He repeated it again.  “If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed in the classroom.  That was always my dream.  I love words, Jim.  I love books.  I wanted to give this aimless love to young people.  I wanted to give them Mocking Bird and Grapes of Wrath and Yellow Wallpaper, Twain and Baldwin and Virginia Woolf.  Have you ever read To the Lighthouse, Jim?  It’s magnificent.”  He was crying now, not sobbing, not out of control, just a steady flow of seemingly happy tears.  It scared me little.  I wondered what was happening.  I began to walk, steering him toward my car.  He continued talking.  

“Somewhere I took a detour.  I never wanted to be an administrator.  Is it too late for me?” he asked.  “Do you think I could go back?  Sure, the pay is less, but my parents are wealthy.”  He started to laugh again, real loud.  “Don’t tell anybody that!  I don’t usually tell anybody that, but they are.  My mother always sneaks me and my wife extra money.  Dad doesn’t know.  She’d give us even more if I ask her.”

I pulled him through the gate and paused to chain it shut.  This conversation was getting a little too revealing but I admit it.  I was enthralled.  It was beginning to rain, just a slow pitter patter, and under the impossible brightness of flood lights it all seemed misty and dream-like, this sensitive man in his rumpled suit, broken by the surreal violence I had witnessed at the meeting earlier in the evening, the vomit, blood, and urine I’d had to mop up off the floor.  But it’s all right; they owe me overtime now.

“Those people,” he said again, “they target the lonely ones, the ones who feel left out.  Like my son—I mean, my uh, my child—my non-binary child.”  We were at my car now, and he gripped my shoulder as I bent to unlock the car door.  This was more than professional for him.  I felt a tenderness toward him and his family.

I opened the passenger door for him, invited him in.  “They want to deny us all free will!” he exclaimed as he seated himself.

“It doesn’t matter,” I told him, but he grabbed my arm.  “Of course it matters, Jim.”

I shook my head.  “No, it doesn’t.”

I closed the door and came around to take my seat behind the wheel.  He was finally quiet and I knew he would listen.  “They’re only moving the furniture around.  What they’re doing has no consequence.  The real power is elsewhere.”

I started the car and started to pull away.  “I don’t think you understand—” he began, but I stopped the car and turned to him.  “It may not look the way we want it to,” I told him.  “But know this:  divine energy endures.  Words endure.  Nothing will be lost.  The lighthouse will stand.”

Photo by William Bout on Unsplash

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