By James DiGiovanna
Children flood the halls and hide under desks, crawl along the floor
touch themselves in the closet. It's test day. Bells start to ring--and
ring and ring, some sounding like telephones, some like electric
others like chain saws, and some play canticles and canons. School is
starting and all the leaves fall off the trees as the windows are laced
with patterns of frost and snow covers the walkways and school buses.
Charley is the first to notice the snow, and he sends himself to the
principal's office for staring out the window during class.
A tremendous, wet stomping noise is heard down the hall. The children
shudder and Jenny wets her pants. It is teacher. She is coming in a
polyester pants suit striped with deadly green and red. Earrings in the
shape of babies' skulls hang at her neck, and her breath reaches the
before her, turning the air a noxious odor. She weighs at least a
and forty-four pounds, and she oozes through the door slowly and with
great difficulty. The walls and floor are wet where she passes. An odor
white-out and hair spray and pencils and bleach surrounds her. The
shakes as she takes her seat.
"Chiiiildren!" she says, in her best sing-song voice, "Do you know what
"It is test day, teacher, test day," they respond in fearful unison.
is test day today."
"Yeeesssssss!" sings teacher, "and what must we do on test day?"
"We must move our desks apart, we must avert our eyes, we must
we must cheat in secrecy, we must fear, we must hate, we must write
Number 2 pencil."
"Yeeesssss! Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Teacher pulls a stack of small blue exam books out of her purse. She
pulls out a stack of scan-tron sheets. She pulls out a stack of Number
pencils, a stack of questionnaires, a stack of adhesive gold stars, and
pack of cigarettes. She pulls out thirty small lizards and sends them
scurrying along the floor. She pulls out a photo of her mother and
for a moment. From out of her sleeve she pulls a used Kleenex that is
least forty feet long, shredded and wadded and crusted with snot.
She flings the questionnaires, the blue books, the scan-tron sheets,
the Number 2 pencils into the air and they settle one apiece on each
like perfect place-settings at a family dinner.
"Write!" she screams with a venom unimagined in her normally chirping
voice. "Write you little maggots! An 'F' will get you a sleeping place
hot air vent in mid-town! A 'D' will get you a television, an apartment
full of roaches, a spouse you despise, children who take drugs, a
you didn't vote for, a brain slowly dying from beer and bitterness! A
will get you a broken heart, a life of envy and slow death in a small
cubicle in a small office building in a small town in northern New
from where you will watch your friends and family rise higher than you
pass you in the street without nodding, only a small look of
betraying their recognition! A 'B' will move you to the suburbs, paint
fence around your house, install a stereo system in your living room,
your daughters more beautiful and your sons more athletic, fetch your
slippers and rub your back and leave you only the faintest sense that
everything you do is somehow devoid of meaning, that your existence is
determined by a mistake you made so far in the past that you could
pinpoint its time nor understand its place! An 'A' will bring you
satisfaction the likes of which your young minds cannot imagine! It
raise you to the height of fame, place you at the pinnacle of success,
surround you with mindless groupies, drooling sycophants and low-rent
swindlers, who will lie to you and eventually ruin your art and your
and turn you into a laughing stock, but prevent you from ever knowing
how little people think of you! Write! Write! Write!"
Timmy begins making moire' patterns by filling out squares on the
scan-tron sheet. Mary twists her hair and chews her pencil and tries to
read the blank blue book. Leon produces a short novel about the loss of
innocence in war-time Great Britain. Melissa discovers an inner
strength and learns to cope with childhood sexual abuse. Ferdinand
out a small handgun and shoots himself in the head, but a flag that
"Bang!" is all that comes out of the barrel. Nonetheless he succeeds in
poking out his eye, which rolls on the floor like a marble until it is
snapped up by one of the hungry lizards. Ferdinand shrugs and goes back
the test. Two of the children leave their desks, squat in the corner,
make love to ward off the terror of the exam. Another tries to cheat,
doesn't know how. One bites her fingernails and swallows them until a
grows in her stomach. Others laugh or moan or cry.
"Time's up!" yells teacher after only five minutes. "Pencils down!
Papers over! Eyes forward! Backs straight! Abortion illegal! Drugs
mandatory! Capital gains tax cut imminent! Stop! Stop! Stop!"
Pencils drop to the floor in a thunderous rain that blocks out all the
sounds of despair and sorrow blasting from the mouths of the children.
puddle of tears forms on the floor, drowning the lizards, and ruining
linoleum, running through the cracks and down to the boiler room where
shorts out the lights and plunges the room into mid-day darkness that
accurately reflects the mood of the assembly. Anxiety invades the
the children, which beat faster and more irregularly, causing them to
clutch their breasts and make gasping noises in the sharp and soulless
rhythm of a Prussian march.
Teacher pries herself out from behind her desk and forces her girth
the aisles, her stomach squeegeeing the floor dry as she walks. She
collects the papers, the crib sheets, the notes and pencils and
and blue books. She collects the hopes of the children into a messy
paper fraying and flying loose from the edges, stains from her sweat
coloring the pages, bits of correct answers mingling with errors in a
of pulpy post-consumer waste.
As soon as she reaches the back of the room teacher re-appears at the
front, as though the last desk hid a portal to the black board. She
the exams on her table and smiles at them. Opening her mouth wide and
wider, her face contorting as she unlatches her jaw, her cheeks
like a snake eating a mouse, she devours the tests as her false teeth
rattle to the floor and break into at thousand glittering jewels. The
students stare blank-eyed as she consumes their work, as she savors
sentence and equation, each guess and calculation, each interpretation
memorization. They stare unmoving until a squeak, and then a squeal of
comes from them all at once. They stand on their desks and whoop and
in the air. Forming cheerleading teams they spin each other about and
and toss the lighter and then the heavier students, even whirling poor
Aaron high above their heads, giving him for the first time in his life
feeling of weightlessness.
But suddenly a hiss comes from teacher's middle, and her girdle bursts,
spilling her girth out onto the floor. The children jump up on their
and all the girls start to menstruate, and the boy's voices crack as
ejaculate spontaneously, filling the room with a river of blood and
Teacher's flopping belly splashes the children with their own bodily
fluids, which cling to them and instantly dry in a crust. Flowers burst
through the children's coating, and spring blooms outside and inside
classroom. Teacher decomposes into fertilizer, and all the children
out of their semen-and-blood coats and run across her on their way
to play, as the heat of summer wilts the blossoms that fall off their
But they are too late--they've forgotten all the games, and can't even
remember the classroom correctly. Dead leaves drop from the trees and
reclining chairs which catch the children as they fall backwards in
exhaustion. They watch as the school itself melts into the ground and
contaminates the soil for a thousand years to come.
James DiGiovanna is the Pop Culture Expert Editor
Amazon.com, for which he writes five reviews monthly and a newsletter.
His writing, which appears regularly in the Tucson Weekly, includes an
article in High Noon On The Electronic Frontier (MIT Press) and a story
20 X 18 (Cooper Union Press).