Part Two of Bellflower Park takes place in the present day. Tess is in her mid-forties now, divorced, and is still just as snarky and sassy as she was as a teenager. She has settled into her life as a curmudgeon, and she is officially Over Everybody’s Shit. She’s counting down the years/months/days till she can retire from teaching, and it’s been a good long time since anyone has…ahem…rocked her world. While I have a general story arc in mind for Tess, and I pretty much know how this book ends, I still have a lot of gaps to fill in. If I ever actually finish this, I’ll be sure to let y’all know. 🙂
As I pull my battered Volvo into the staff parking lot at Park Springs High School, running late and already over this day, I spy a glint of green about halfway down the first row. That gets my attention for two reasons. First, because it is a loud, retina-exploding shade of lime that is much too bright on such a gloomy day. Second, and even more piss-me-offish, it is parked in the spot that is clearly labeled A-12. Which would be my spot. A spot I earned by putting up with rude, disrespectful teenagers for the past eighteen years, thus pushing me to twelfth on the seniority list. Two weeks ago I was bumped up from A-13 because Edna Mills, the ancient French teacher who I swear was probably on the barricades in the Revolution, finally snapped in the middle of teaching a bunch of tenth graders how to conjugate the subjunctive. Rumor has it she just opened a window of her (thankfully) first-floor classroom, climbed out, and walked away. Nobody seems to know what happened to her, but there is now a fresh-out-of-college substitute teacher in her classroom who I’m pretty sure has never spoken a word of French in his life.
But back to my point. Parking space A-12 is mine. All mine. It is one of the few small pleasures I have left in my life, having something that is just mine. So why is this gaudy green disaster sitting in my spot? The school administration started assigning parking spaces two years ago, after the chemistry teacher and one of the English teachers played some ill-conceived game of chicken while each was speeding towards the last “good” parking spot on a rainy Tuesday morning. I wasn’t there to witness the incident, but I do know that both vehicles suffered significant damage and the band director had to sacrifice the tuba he was carrying in order to leap atop a neighboring car to avoid being flattened. In all fairness to the gladiators in this particular vehicular joust, that “good” part of the lot is much closer to the building entrance, but more importantly has the advantage of not being submerged in three inches of water every time we receive the littlest amount of rain. Building maintenance and the groundskeepers have for years been stymied in every attempt to fix the drainage running from the lot. Eventually the school staff just resigned themselves to the knowledge that, if you’re running late and rain is in the forecast, bring your wellies.
About a week after “the incident” the parking lot was re-striped, and we were each given our assigned spots courtesy of an email from the principal.
To all Park Springs High School staff,
After an emergency Board of Education meeting, it has been resolved that each staff member will be given an assigned parking space. You are required to park ONLY IN YOUR DESIGNATED SPACE. There is to be no sharing, trading, or other exchanging of parking spaces. Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action. Hopefully this will mark the end of the juvenile nonsense that has plagued our staff parking lot. I’m looking at you, Kevin and Bill.
Regards and roar on,
James A. Gardner
Principal, Park Springs High School
Given that last bit, I’m pretty sure Principal Gardner gave Helen, his secretary, the task of sending the email on his behalf. I love Helen.
I slowly approach the green interloper and briefly consider getting out of my car to go scratch the word “asshole” into the driver’s door, but quickly reject the idea. I mean, does anyone really even have keys anymore?? I have a fob for my car, and I can unlock the front door of my house with my phone or, on the frequent occasions when my phone is dead at the end of the day, with my fingerprint. I’m sure if I dug around in the depths of my massive purse, I might possibly be able to come up with the spare key to my brother’s house (he’s such a Luddite) or even possibly a nail file, but I sigh and accept that it’s just not worth the effort. Besides, the staff parking lot is now monitored by security cameras after Iris, my wild best friend who just so happens to teach in the classroom next to mine, got caught doing the nasty with the hot new PE teacher in the back seat of his Honda. Did I mention that the person who caught them was his girlfriend? Apparently, she had stopped by to put a love note tied to a rose under his windshield wiper because it was their whatever-month anniversary (gag). But that boat was a-rockin’ and she started knockin’, and I heard she pulled her man out of that car by his testicles. I don’t know if she dumped his cheating ass or not, but in my head I imagine she handcuffed him to a lamp post, shucked off the remainder of his clothes, bent him over and branded the word “cheater” on his left ass cheek with a flat iron.
OK, my therapist may have a point about my unresolved anger issues towards men.
Anyway, staff meetings are waaaaaayyy awkward now. The administration let both of the backseat booty call participants off with a warning, mostly because no students were around at the time. But to discourage this type of thing from happening again, cameras were installed on all the light posts in the parking lot. I could tell them that if they wanted to catch all of the sexual shenanigans around this place then they should be putting cameras in the back row of the student parking lot. I’m pretty sure the entire senior class is holding a contest to see who can get knocked up first.
I drive past my stolen parking spot and continue down the row, hoping to find an open space belonging to someone who is absent today (yes, I am aware of the rules – I just choose to ignore them). Of course the only luck I have ever had is bad luck, so every spot is filled. Seriously, why can’t someone be down with the flu? Resigned, I make my way back to the muddy abyss that we refer to as The Wasteland. It’s been raining for pretty much three days straight, but I didn’t think to bring my rain boots because I always park far away from the mire and the muck. Back here are the unassigned spots for the poor, unfortunate souls who are low on the staff totem pole: the newbies, the substitutes, and the student teachers.
I completely forgot that I’m supposed to be getting a new student teacher today. Ugh, could this day get any worse? Yes, I know student teachers need mentoring and a practical learning environment, but they are just so much extra work. And this one was sprung on me at the last minute. My department head, Shelley, told me that this girl had originally been placed with a teacher in a neighboring district, but there was a personality clash of some sort that resulted in…I think her name is Ashley?…requesting a new placement. That’s not an easy thing to do when it’s already the beginning of October and she’s missed out on a month of experience. I tried to talk my way out of this assignment when Shelley cornered me in the staff room last week, the look on her face telling me that whatever she had to say was not going to make me happy. And it didn’t. Frankly, I’m too old and set in my ways to have some twenty-one-year-old come in and try to sell me on some new way of teaching. History doesn’t change and therefore I don’t need to, either.
But then Shelley was there buttering me up and blowing all kids of pretty smoke up my ass, reminding me that I am the social studies teacher with the most classroom experience, and how all of my former student teachers have raved about me in their end-of-semester evaluations, and what a great gift of knowledge I could give this young person, and yada, yada, yada, on and on until I finally gave in just to make her shut up.
So that’s how I find myself on this rainy Monday, ten minutes late for my first period class, my feet soaked, mud splattered up to my shins, hair the same frizzy mess it always is when it’s wet, digging in my bag for my school ID badge and coming up empty. Shit. I can’t get into the side entrance of the building without my badge, and if I ring the bell to the main entrance, which is in the middle of the administration wing, I’ll be busted for being late. Instead, I head down the path around the west side of the building, the one that goes right past my classroom windows, and more importantly, Iris’s. I give a discreet wave to her as she sits there on her desk, and urgently motion for her to open the emergency exit door in our hallway. There’s no alarm on it or anything, but it only opens from the inside. Iris sends one of her senior AP kids out to rescue me. “Hey, nice look, Ms. H,” says Marcus, twirling a finger in the general vicinity of my crazy hair. “You testing out an Einstein costume for Halloween or somethin’?” I give him my most arched eyebrow and glare at him as he cracks up over his joke. I would snap something back at him but he’s generally a sweet kid – I had him in my Sociology class last year – and he did just save me from both a further drenching and a “please see me after school regarding your tardiness” email from Principal Gardner, so I decide to let it go. He heads back to class, still snickering under his breath, and I take a quick moment to assess the damage to my clothing and then try in vain to finger-comb my graying mop back into submission. I’d like to pop into the restroom to fix my hair and makeup, but I am now fifteen minutes late to class and I’m frankly surprised I don’t hear the loud, unmistakable sounds of unsupervised teenagers carrying into the hallway. As I turn the corner towards my room, I entertain a brief fantasy that my class of twenty-two freshmen are actually sitting quietly at their desks, studying for the unit exam on Ancient Greece that they have at the end of the week. But as I enter room 115, I conclude that the reason for their silence probably has something to do with the gorgeous man standing next to my desk at the front of my classroom.