Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
360 Degrees Of Failure
by Kathleen Lynch
I was assigned detention duty. The detainees shuffled into the room accompanied by the wafting scent of defiance. "What were their offences?" I silently asked myself. We took our places, and began serving our term, one hour. I sat down behind an unfamiliar desk, in a stark room devoid of any sign of personality or creativity. "The perfect setting," I mentally noted. I began to correct some papers, and gazed up at them through my bangs. I was not supposed to speak to them so I began to work, and then gave the appearance of working. I began tapping my Adirondack #2, chewing it, letting my teeth sink into the softness, there is nothing quite like chewing a pencil. The taste is exactly like the smell. I found myself staring at them, and was greeted by those "disgusted by you" looks. I realized all of a sudden where I was sitting and catching a brief mirror of myself in the window, I gave myself one of those looks. The "I am disgusted by you, too," look. I was ashamed for succumbing to this vapor of mediocrity that permeated this room and building. This façade that pledged fostering lifelong learning to all its students embarrassed me and I believe that they sensed it. Not just in me but at the everyday charade. For they were not the achievers, the norm, the accepted… they were the hollow. But not the empty.
I wanted ice cream. I looked up at them and realized that I longed to sweep them out of this room, into my car and take them to the local ice cream place. Once there I would fill their too-thin bodies with The Bucket, the four-flavored delight dripping with "your choice of three toppings, whipped cream, wet nuts, and the maraschino goddess." Hoping perhaps to fill the empty place that brought them here to begin with. I wondered if they would eat ice cream defiantly, or if the cold exterior shell would begin to soften and we would just find ourselves smiling, then giggling at those around us, and at life in general. We would perhaps begin to tell stories, revealing little bits of ourselves, taking bites of one another's sundaes. I can imagine one of them saying that, "No, I have never had a sundae before at the ice cream place… Sometimes I get them in school though," they would add thoughtfully.
There was no Breyers in the freezer of these homes. The concept of home was sketchy. There was no warm mommy, for if there had been, their eyes would never had turned so blank, so shark-like, so void. I would wrap them in ice cream if I could, with clouds of whipped cream, wet nuts and extra cherries. I would bathe them in it, let them sleep in it, for it is one of life's pleasures that resonates the soul.
I blinked and focused, for the hour was up. Three hundred and sixty degrees of failure. I never spoke to them. I am just another wall they face everyday. My eyes are misting over, I open my mouth to speak, but only exhale a quiet sigh. Dismissed.
I left the building and drove to pick up my son. We pulled into the driveway and I looked into the rearview mirror and watched him looking out his window. When I began to back out of the driveway he came to and asked, "Where are we going, Mommy?"
I turned and my eyes smiled at him, "To get ice cream."
Kathleen Lynch writes from Farmington, Maine.
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