Monday, January 28, 2013

Sandwich


“Thank you for coming, Mrs. Waller.” Ms. Hicks didn't smile and her icy eyes seemed to be peeling Lisa apart layer by layer. There was an uneasiness to the way she moved, with her shoulders jittering and jutting too far forward, and her legs letting her droop a little too low before hoisting her up at an uncomfortable-looking semi-seated angle. She dragged across the gray carpet, accidentally kicking over a pile of red, blue, and yellow blocks that vaguely resembled the Eiffel Tower. “Sorry, Jimmy.”

Jimmy looked up disdainfully, but shrank into feared awe as Lisa followed past. She grinned. Children were so easily brought to wonder. Who's that strange lady? She 'mused herself. Why is she following Ms. Hicks? Are we going to do something different? Are we going outside? Is she going to be our new teacher?

“Mommy!” The joyful shout came from across the room, tossed over a low bookcase filled with the teetering tomes of Dr. Seuss.

Lisa waved and opened her eyes in mock surprise. “Trish, I see you! I'll be back in a minute.”

Hicks gave her an impatient grimace as she pushed open the door to her office in the back corner of the classroom. Lisa hesitated a moment before understanding that she should go first. Hicks wedged an orange triangle beneath the door before waddling around to her desk. The more adventurous of her young students gazed into the room, excited by the unusual sight.

“Mrs. Waller, Trish is usually a good student. She's so bright for her age, and gets along well with the other kids. She even makes a point of playing with Jenny everyday when nobody else wants to. However, earlier I asked everyone to draw a picture of their favorite food. Do you want to see what Trish drew?” The tone of Hicks' voice was slow, deliberate, and, in the opinion of Lisa Waller, unappreciatively belittling. This, accompanied by the constant twitching of her right eye, as though she were wincing in pain, made Lisa's stomach surge.

“Yeah, sure.” Lisa's sickness was doubled by Hicks' evasiveness. What did Trish draw? How much did she give away?

The kindergarten teacher reached into her main desk drawer and pulled out a sheet of thin printer paper. Smudges of color showed through from one side of the paper to the other, but they didn't take solid shape until Lisa held it in her hands and flipped the page over. A crude drawing of Trish and her beloved dog Pelly (so named because the Basset Hound's dangling neck reminded them of a pelican) standing around a waxy pool of red. A sharp knife was clutched in doodle-Trish's hand, smearing the red splotch across the floor.

“So you see,” Hicks began, “I can't permit a dange--”

“I see a peanut butter sandwich,” Lisa interrupted.

“What?” Hicks rolled forward, her fat molding over the desk. Her eyes bulged, seemingly more from disbelief at being interrupted (as though Lisa weren't a person lesser to her!) and the shock of being told wrong than from the defense.

“We eat strawberry jelly, Trish doesn't like grape. And what did you think the orange part was? Unraveled flesh? Look at the floor where the smears are, there's no tiles drawn there, and they're shaped like bread. She's making a giant sandwich” Lisa handed the drawing back to Hicks, who looked over it with an appalled expression that quickly fell into a sheepish gaze.

“I-I see. So it is.” Hicks flushed as she tucked the drawing into her desk. “Mrs. Waller, I'm so sorry...”

Lisa rose from her seat and stalked toward the door. Hicks rose too, twiddling her fingers nervously. “Mrs. Waller, I really am sorry. If there's anything I can do...”

Lisa kicked out the wedged block, letting the heavy door slam shut. She flicked the tiny lock on the silver knob, making sure it clicked tightly.

“Mrs. Waller?” Hicks' voice wavered. She backed away from the desk, her eyes flitting around the room wildly.

“Trish is making a sandwich,” Lisa said calmly, “but did you notice who the dog was eating?”

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