from Tyler Stern
May 17, 2014, 3:53 p.m.
The room resounded in unison. “Aye.” George’s eyes widened and then fell to the floor.
“Then it is settled. George Pasión will face the wrath of T.W.A.T.. But first, we must decide a proper punishment. One that is suitable for the type of transgressions that he has committed upon Pennbrooke high.” I straightened my tie and adjusted my belt. There must be no more distractions. “This going to require the utmost professionalism, so let’s try to focus.”
As soon as I finished my sentence, the door to the teacher’s lounge burst open. A man wearing a pair of black slacks and a crimson Pennbrooke polo shirt waltzed — and when I say waltzed, I do literally mean waltzed — into the room. His hips swayed much like his buzz cut didn’t as he swirled around and danced in front of the group of unimpressed teachers. This wasn’t the first time they had seen this act, and to be quite honest, they were actually pretty annoyed with it by now. Even George rolled his eyes, probably wanting us to enforce our punishment rather than sit here watch this fool reenact The Nutcracker. Eventually, the stout man twirled and planted his arm on my podium, swapping his ballerina persona for a much more macho one. He pulled his Oakley sunglasses down to reveal his eyes.
“Hey there, Chris.” I shuddered at the sound of my first name. “What cha’ cool cats up to?”
“Hello, Dr. Devinson,” I said, forcing a smile. It was unbearable to me that the principal of our school conducted himself so informally. But he was my boss, and so I had to treat him like my boss. “We were just going through some official T.W.A.T. business.”
“Oh, Cool! Cool cool cool. Awesome. Excellent stuff, guys. Really terrific.” Students are parents found Dr. Devinson’s bubbly attitude overwhelmingly charming, but it didn’t quite have the same effect on teachers. Maybe we had become too cynical after teaching kids for so long, or maybe we just learned how to spot a bullshit artist. Whatever it was, we were more pestered by his antics than enthused. He looked at George and put his hand on his shoulder. “Son, you should be thankful for the people in this room.” He squatted down so that he was looking eye to eye with George. “They’re putting in a lot of extra, unpaid time to deal with kids like you and that’s not something to take for granted.”
Dr. Devinson stood back up and faced the group of teachers again. “Listen guys, I’m really inspired by what you all are doing here. You’re the people who make this school a fine institution. This place would not be-- “
Thankfully, the loudspeaker binged a second time and interrupted Dr. Devinson before he started another of his long-winded spiels. “Dr. Devinson, could you please come to the front office. A parent would like to speak with you about why her daughter deserves admission into Princeton.”
Dr. Devinson ran his meaty fingers through his thinning hair and laughed. “Oh, parents, you got to love ‘em. Well, I guess I’m off then.” He started making his way to the door, stopping only to shake the hand of each teacher in the front row. “Remember, everyone, next week is the pep-rally and I’m expecting to see all of you participate in the pieing event. Last year Grace won by getting pied over thirty times, isn’t that right Grace?”
Mrs. Smith tried to crack a smile. “I’m still finding whipped cream in my ears every now and again.”
Dr. Devinson laughed a hearty laugh. “How wonderful! Well, I’m expecting you guys to really step your game up this time. I’m talking hundreds of pies, right in the face!” He finally reached the door, turned the handle, and walked out before sticking his head back through the doorway. “Keep up the good work,” he said with a wink. “You’re my T.W.A.T.s.” He pulled his head away and shut the door, leaving us to finish our business. Mr. Terrance promptly stood up and locked the door to the teacher’s lounge.
“Thank you, Mr. Terrance,” I said straightly. He nodded once in response. “Now then, what are we going to do with Mr. Pasión?”
The group of teachers glanced downward as everyone put their thinking caps on and tried to come up with a suitable treatment for George.
“Ooh, Ooh! I got one!” Mr. Lonning waved his hand frantically. “Let’s shower him with rose petals and film his reaction. Then we can post it on YouTube and it’ll blow up all across the Internet. He’ll be so humiliated!”
“Um, yeah, not bad,” I said, trying not to put down Mr. Lonning’s idea too much. “We’ll come back to that one.”
“I say we pull his pants down in the middle of the hallway during class change,” Mr. Terrance exclaimed confidently.
“Okay,” I replied skeptically. “I’d rather not get sued for sexual harassment, so I can’t make any promises.”
Mr. Terrance winked. “Knew I could count on you, Mr. Lawrence.”
“I got one,” Mrs. Dunbar proclaimed. “How about we shave his head and see how he likes it when people call him Professor Xavier!”
I threw my hands up in the air. “Alright, you’re just saying the same stuff that George did to you.” I sighed and stuck my hands in my pockets. “Look, we’re not here to simply exact our vengeance on the kid for all the terrible things he’s done, we’re here to teach him a lesson and exact our vengeance. We need to do something that’s actually going to get through to him.
“So why don’t we kill him.”
Everyone in the room looked to see whom the voice originated from. Behind me, Mr. White stood next to the closed door. We all stared at him silently for a moment, either registering his proposal or inspecting the moist, red streaks across his previously clean, white shirt.
“…You’re not actually serious, are you?”
Mr. White stared at me stone-faced without blinking. “Of course I’m serious. I’ve got my gun in my car, I can just run out and go get it real quick.”
“Now we’re talking!” Mr. Terrance shouted out excitedly.
“Okay, we can’t kill Pasión.”
“Well, why not?”
“Sorry,” Mr. Lonning interjected, “is that blood on Mr. White’s shirt?”
“Why not? We’re teachers! It’s our job to keep Pasión alive!”
“So? So. You. You think. I can’t. Why — just. No!” I stammered on with incredulity. Never did I think I would have to explain why someone shouldn’t murder a student. “There’s just no reason to. I mean, what the hell, Mr. White?”
“I can come up with plenty of reasons why we should kill him.”
“Actually,” Mr. Lonning proclaimed once again, “ better question: can we talk about how Mr. White got through a locked door?”
“We’re not killing him!” I shouted
“No, seriously though, how did he get in here?”
Mr. White took a deep breath, which was coincidentally the first time I had ever seen him breathe at all. “Look, Mr. Lawrence, this school is lost. These kids are beyond redeeming. You’re fighting a lost cause here if you think you’re going to get this school into the 99th percentile for the IIOC test by trying to fix each kid individually, the same way you don’t treat a disease by slapping on a band-aid wherever it hurts.” He eyed George, still maintaining his collected exterior. “The truth is, these kids are a disease — they’re a cancer, and you know how you stop cancer?” He paused. “You cut the damn tumor out.” Mr. White walked closer to me and put his hand on my shoulder in a strangely sensitive gesture. “You said it yourself that you want to make a difference in this school,” he said softly as he looked deep into my eyes, “and I’m telling you the only way to do that is to kill this kid right now.”
I continued to look him dead in the eyes, simultaneously mesmerized and frightened by his words. “I know what I said,” I replied adamantly, “and I’m telling you we’re not going to…“ My mind trailed away from what I was saying as I actually considered what Mr. White was saying. He was right. No, maybe he was right, but what if he was? Maybe this school was beyond any reasonable form of recovery. Maybe it didn’t need myriads of chest compressions to revive it, but rather a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.
“You’re not actually considering what Mr. White is saying, right, Mr. Lawrence?” Mr. Davies’ concern yanked me back into reality.
I shook my head a couple of times, ridding the thoughts of a school-wide genocide from my mind. “No! No.” I cleared my throat and tapped my foot on the ground. “But, he kind of has a point…”
“What?! Jesus, Mr. Lawrence, no!” The rest of the teachers shared Mr. Davies’ disapproval by whispering to each other and shooting me judging looks.
“I mean, what if the only way to get through to these kids is by massacring them?”
Mr. Davies stared at me for a second before sticking his hands up in the air. “Alright, I’m out of here. This is getting way out of hand.” He rose from his seat and began collecting his things. Seeing him getting ready to leave snapped me out of Mr. White’s sadistic spell; Mr. Davies could not be allowed to leave. I needed to win him back over.
“No, wait. Stop! We won’t kill George, okay?”
“It’s not just about killing George, Mr. Lawrence. It’s this whole idea.” He rubbed his forehead with his hand as he let out a big exhale. “I mean, I want this school to be better just as much as you do, but this T.W.A.T. business? I had no idea what I was getting into when I responded to your email, but it’s sure as hell not worth the paycheck that shows up in my mailbox each month. We’re going overboard!” Mr. Davies shrugged as he let his eyes fall towards the floor. “I don’t know, maybe Mr. Scott was right. Maybe we are kind of deranged to be doing this.”
“Us? Deranged?” A pool of blood started to collect underneath Mr. White’s shoes. “Nonsense!”
“I just don’t know,” he said as he rolled his eyes and put up his hands as if he were defending himself. “This is getting way more intense than I thought it was going to be. I think I’m just going to go home.”
“Are you kidding me? This kid didn’t sing Happy Birthday to you, and you’re going to let him get away with it?”
“I mean, sure, I’m mad at him because he didn’t sing to me, but it seems like everyone has their own personal vendetta against George. And after hearing everyone else’s, they all seem pretty trivial. Even mine. This whole ‘judgement’ crap that we’re doing isn’t going to change what he did.”
“Yes, but we can change him so that he doesn’t do anything like that again!”
Mr. Davies shrugged. “Kids are going to be kids, Chris. I don’t think there’s anything we can do about that. ”
A surge of shock coursed through me. I was absolutely appalled that Mr. Davies would dare to use my real name, but I was even more upset that he would turn his back on this cause. George needed us. This school needed us. Well, it mostly needed me, but it also sort of half-way needed him too.
“Actually, I kind of agree with Mr. Davies,” Mrs. Stender said half-heartedly. “This whole thing has been pretty crazy; I just wanted some cookies.”
“Yeah, me too,” Mr. Lonning added.
My heart was pulverized as each succeeding teacher vocally supported Mr. Davies’ dissent until eventually the entire room was unified against me. “Are you guys serious? But — we were having so much fun. We all laughed at Mr. Scott together. We were going to eat Mrs. Bottom’s ginger snaps…”
The faces staring at me looked sorrowful, but I knew it was only out of pity. They didn’t believe in this cause. A tidal wave of dejection crashed over me.
“Look, Chris, it’s not you. It’s us,” Mr. Davies said consolingly. “Sure, it was fun for a while. And sure, we had a good run, but we’ve all matured. There are bigger and better things out there in the world. It’s time to move on now.”
I closed my eyes and dropped my head. Slowly some of the teachers started to get up, collect their things, and head out the door. So this was how T.W.A.T. was going to die — not with a bang, but with the whispering of teachers anxious to watch last night’s installment of Scandal.
My head snapped up to face the traitors. No. I wasn't going to let it happen. Not like this. Not now, not ever.
“STOP.” Everyone who was about to leave stood frozen in his or her tracks. “No one is leaving until we teach George a lesson.”
The teachers looked at each other momentarily and then started lightly chuckling. “Or what?” asked Mr. Davies. “You’ll duct tape us to a chair?”
I whipped the industrial strength staple gun from under the podium and fired two staples into Mr. Davies’ left leg. Everyone stared in shock at Mr. Davies before he finally let out a high-pitched shriek.
“I’m trying to remain professional here,” I added calmly. “I really am.”
Mr. Davies clawed at his thigh where four little blips of blood soaked through his khaki pants. “You shot me! You just shot me in the leg!”
The other teachers weren’t sure how to respond. Some started to panic, others whispered to one another, but most just stayed frozen.
“You made me do it, Mr. Davies.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t make you do anything!”
“Yes you did. You turned your back on this school. You decided this kid wasn’t worth the trouble.”
“Because he’s not worth it! This whole organization isn’t worth it! Why can’t you see that?”
“Don’t say that, Mr. Davies. You’re hurting my feelings.”
Mr. Davies took a single, defiant step towards me. “The trial’s over, Chris. T.W.A.T. is over. We’re going home.”
I sighed and swiftly fired another six staples into Mr. Davies’ other leg, sending him crashing down to the floor. This time, all of the teachers rallied to defend their fallen comrade.
“That’s it Chris, you’ve crossed the line, ” said Mrs. Stender. “This has gone too far.”
“This is madness,” Mrs. Smith yelled out over the other teachers’ hoopla. “No student is worth this much strife, not even Patrick Coleman.”
At the mention of Patrick Coleman’s name, the teachers’ bickering stopped and they immediately swooned and started fawning over the third year student.
“Oh, that boy is such a sweetheart,” Mrs. Bottoms said with a sigh.
Mrs. Lewis twirled the curly hairs on her chin and stared dreamily at the ceiling. “I wish Patrick Coleman asked me to prom.”
“Is no one else concerned as to why Chris owns an industrial strength staple gun,” Mr. Lonning questioned earnestly.
“Enough!” I pointed the staple gun straight up and launched several staples into the ceiling tiles, which did essentially nothing to the ceiling tiles, but shook the teachers out of their euphoric trance. “The line was crossed long ago, back when students decided us teachers were no longer automatically deserving of respect, back when they decided everything we said wasn’t the undeniable and absolute truth it was!” I shook the staple gun in my hand, causing the teachers to flinch and try to find cover. “I wouldn’t be needing this if we our students simply cared about learning, if they cared about bettering themselves, if they cared about us!” I used the end of the staple gun to play with George’s sweaty hair. His eyes were intensely focused on me. “It’s due time that we teach them how.”
“You’re mad! You’re stark, raving mad!” Mr. Davies was clutching his thighs, shaking back and forth on the floor.
“Oh no, my friend, I’m far from mad! Can’t you see?” I laughed maniacally, my eyes bulging out of their sockets. “It’s all for the greater good! For now, T.W.A.T. remains solely in Pennbrooke, but soon, teachers from other schools in the district will see how well mannered and polite our student body is and then they’ll begin their own T.W.A.T. campaign. But T.W.A.T. won’t stop there. It’ll spread to the county, then the state, and eventually, the whole WORLD!” A lighting bolt flashed through the window and a crack of thunder shook the building. “Nothing can stop us now!”
Suddenly, a chorus of beeps and chimes rang out, bringing my tirade to a standstill. Everyone stopped whatever it was they were doing and examined their respective wristwatches before asking each other if they had the same time. I peered up at the clock above me. 5PM. Shit. Just like nothing had even happened, the teachers all regained their composure, gathered their bags and jackets, and started filling out of the door.