Thursday, September 15, 2011

Prompt #34: The first time I walked into that classroom was also the last.

            Mayburry High. South entrance. The small offshoot hallway to the right. The last door. Room 320. Third row of desks. Fifth from the front. Samuel Higgins. Me. My eyes are on the clock, watching the red second hand revolve, wanting class to be over, wanting to leave. But I can never leave.
            There’s a wet, sloppy, squelchy sound. A dissected frog stares up at me, the zombified creature squatting on my desk. Its throat expands as it ribbets. Mrs. Ralls glances up from the computer, sees me, and stands, her long pink talons almost puncturing the soft wood of her desk top.
No one else moves. They don’t turn around to look at me, or twist to face Mrs. Ralls. All eyes are on the dusty chalkboard. Where they’re supposed to be. Where mine should have been.
I try not to look at her. I try to focus on the wall as if I’ve been staring at it the whole time.
“Mr. Higgins, please approach the front.”
I meet her gaze. I fail.
She crooks a finger at me.
I push myself out of my seat. My legs wobble slightly around the knees and my toes tingle with a slight pain, but it feels good.
Six steps find me at her desk. I crane my head back to watch her face as she talks. The movement of her lips is funny, something you have to get used to.
“You’re going to do a problem for me.” She turns and picks up a piece of chalk, pinching it between two fingers.
All the skin on my face crinkles as she starts to write on the board. The wrinkles smooth out and my jaw goes slack when I see the length of the problem. It stretches from one end to the other in print that couldn’t be read from the back of the room.
“Solve.” She taps the chalk against the blackboard.
An endless amount of numbers and letters and symbols swirl through my brain. “How?” I choke out.
She doesn’t reply.
I clear my throat. “What exactly am I supposed to solve?”
“The problem.” Mrs. Ralls places the piece of chalk in my hand and settles herself back behind her desk, clicking away at solitaire.
I glance behind me. The girl in the front row has her eyes trained on my back. It takes twenty full seconds before she blinks. I turn back around.
The figures start to blur, running into one another. I squeeze my eyes shut and take a deep breathe through my nose. When I peel my eyelids back, the yellow writing is clearer, crisper.
The letters stick out, screaming hints at me. I squint at them, trying to recall eighth grade math. And then what I’m supposed to do clicks. A small smile plays along my lips. I touch my chalk to the board.
I start with the x’s.
I subtract and add and move a million different things. The scratching is strangely soothing. And finally, finally, I get my solution. A simple number and a solitary letter, a variable as I now remember it.
I write it to the side, circle it. Then I erase all the work that is no longer necessary, rewrite the problem, and start again for y.
My brain spits answers and instructions at me and suddenly the challenge is no longer challenging. I can’t seem to write fast enough.
My hand stops. The silence hangs, failing at pressing down my excitement and triumph. I set the chalk down, the clink clanging inside my head. I fold my hands in front of me and step back.
Ms. Ralls continues to look at her computer screen, but she’s not moving around the cards.
“I’m finished.” My words are slurred and feel funny leaving my mouth.
She turns slowly in her desk chair, letting it squeaking all the way. She glances at the word, sees my answer proudly displayed in the middle.
“So you are. But is it correct?” She rises and picks up the chalk, making small marks as she checks it.
The smile is no longer on my face, instead sweat drips along my body, soaking my clothes, making them heavy.
She makes one last mark. “Well, Samuel.”
A million sets of eyes drill into me.
The corner of her mouth attempts to lift into a grin. “You have solved the problem. Congratulations. You have proven yourself one smart cookie.”
I have to fight my face muscles to keep from beaming.
“Of course, those are the only kind I eat.” My muscles surrender.
She shakes her hands out in front of her as webs stretch between the fingers. Her back hunches over, her arms and legs growing longer. She blinks, blinks, blinks, and the whites of her eyes are gone, just giant, bulbous pupils remaining. Her mouth stretches with more than a smile, her teeth poking through.
I back up, trying to get away, but the army of dead dissected frogs surrounds my feet, forms a wall. My vocal cords are no longer functioning and my feet seem too small to hold me anymore.
Just before her lips come down over my head, I look to the right.  The girl in the front row is suddenly blinking quite a lot.


  1. Your imagination never fails to astound, (and occasionally frighten),me.

  2. Yes, I feed it wonderful things every day so that it will continue to tell me wonderful ideas. ;)

  3. You never fail to deliver, Brooke.

  4. Why thank you, Izzy. ^^ Really, I didn't feel like this was so was top-notch.