The radar is a difficult place to be on. When a boss sets the authoritative sights on a pleb, there is not much that can be done to escape the inevitable destruction. Jack walked towards The Commanders office with a sinking feeling that he had done something wrong. In all of his years, Jack had never been summoned to the principal’s office for anything good. In fact, in all of his years of being in school he remembered nothing but negativity associated with any principal’s office. He trudged through the maze of the open concept school thinking what he might like for his last supper.
“Maybe I’ll have a cocktail or smoothie made from arugula,” he thought. “I hope they use a flat paddle and not a round piece of bamboo for my flogging.” Negative thoughts were swirling as he stepped into the office suite.
Sitting at her desk was the matronly secretary to the principal, Mrs. Bell. She had been at her post through the tenure’s of four principals and there was a ritual to gaining access to the boss. She saw the door to her superior’s office as a gate to be protected at all costs and each visitor was corralled in a row of vintage office chairs that deigned to mimic mid-century modern furniture. She ran her homestead with absolute authority and any violation of the routine was cause for a time out and restriction of prompt access to the real boss.
“Hello, Mrs. Bell,” said Jack.
She continued checking boxes on some form and never looked up. Jack noticed sprouts of gray sneaking into her mysteriously black hair. Just as he was about to forgo appropriate convention and ask this very old women if her hair was “starting” to gray, Mrs. Bell pointed to the empty chairs and said, “He’ll be with you in a moment.”
After about ten minutes the door clicked and opened. The Commander had installed an electronic door opener so he could let people in without greeting them at the door. The Commander was a master at schmoozing his bosses and parents, but he was even better at keeping a distance between those he should have been serving, the teachers and students. Jack expected The Commander to be sitting behind his average desk with the props of man who had risen to the mean of his profession hanging on the wall behind him. Instead, he was greeted by The Commandress.
“Jack, welcome. We were just talking about you,” she said with all of the transparency of a woman running for President of the United States.
“Well, I hope some of it was good. Should I have representation with me?”
The Commander and Commandress looked at each other and laughed like they were actors in a sit-com.
“Of course not, we would have advised you as to the need for such had we thought it necessary,” said The Commander.
“No, Jack,” started The Commandress, “We were impressed by your message to the students. You understand exactly what we are hoping to achieve with PIOUS and we have a proposition for you.”
The years of battle for Jack had taught him to be wary of good things coming from above. He was more surprised to be offered something that sounded positive by these two than he would have been if either of them had come out as a transvestite. As a student of The Godfather, Jack knew that favors and proposals come with traps and he knew that if he did not listen to their offer he would be on the wrong radar. Jack was ready to be off that screen.
“Let’s hear it.”
“First, Jack, we were talking and both noticed that you never use names with us. Perhaps the time has come to remove the formalities from our relationship. I would be happy if you called me by my first name, Betty.”
“Boop,” thought Jack. “Alright, Betty it is.”
The Commander followed her lead with the drool coming from his mouth like a dog waiting for a treat. He added to the conversation, “We have had an unfortunate history, but I have always respected your abilities as a teacher…”
“Bull,” thought Jack.
“…I’d like it if we could start over, so please feel free to call me by my first name as well.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I know it,” said Jack as he ran through the Rolodex of nicknames the faculty had for The Commander.
“It’s Allen.” The Commander looked over to Betty and said, “What a great sense of humor he has.” She gave him a courtesy laugh.
Betty said, “Jack, we would like you to come to my house out on the Chickahominy River this weekend. The administration and board are having a retreat to discuss major changes to the district’s five-year plan. We think that you would have a great deal to offer the discussion. Will you come?”
Bam! Betty sprung a trap that left Jack no place in the district to hide. He could go rogue and say, “No,” but that would leave him in a pool of muck no matter where the rest of his career would take him.
“I’d be honored,” he said.
Betty gave him the address and the each exchanged pleasant good-byes. As Jack left the office thoughts of doom were churning in his head. He felt like a beetle just before the “Tims” come down a smashing. He went up the ramp and back to the PE office where the other teachers were eating lunch.
“What’s wrong with you? You look like you got punched in the solar plexus,” said Oliver.
“I just got a butt flossing with alpaca fibers,” said Jack.
“What do you mean?” asked Oliver.
“It’s too much for me to explain right now. I’m not sure what is happening, but I’ve been invited into the sanctum. I’ll be a river rat this weekend.”
“Oh, no. That’s not good for you my friend.”