Thursday, January 06, 2005

End It Via A Fingerpainting Of A Dragon Day

End It Via A Fingerpainting Of A Dragon Day!

You met on parents' night. He came alone, one of the only dads who was there alone. He lingered behind after you'd finished your presentation because you're one of the only teachers in the school who isn't shaped like a medicine ball.

"Does Mike have talent?" he asked, examining his son's construction paper rendering of a tree in a field on a sunny day.

"He doesn't eat the paste," you said. You had fulfilled your parents' night responsibilities. He walked you to your car.

You've spent a total of eleven hours together, split up over four individual nights, but that was the best night of all. When he sat in the passenger seat of your parked car and the two of you watched the parents walk to their parking spaces.

"That's the Lamberts," you said when Kevin Lambert's parents came walking out of the main entrance. "Their son Kevin got beat up in the rain after school last Thursday."

The Lamberts were laughing as they approached their Hyundai. "Poor Kevin," he said.

"The Morrisseys," you said when the very tall and shaven-headed Mr. Morrissey walked past your car with his tiny wife. "I bet when their girl Jessica hits middle school she'll be the most popular kid in the place."

"I'll tell Mike to start laying the groundwork, get in early," he said.

You said, "Jessica would never go steady with Mike."

He looked shocked, and you laughed very hard, then leaned in and kissed him for four minutes.

Today you've sent Mike home without any stars on his fingerpainting.

"Keep a close eye on Mike's artwork," you had said. "If I give him three gold stars, you're to meet me at the Super 8 the following evening at 7 PM."

"And what if I want to see you?" he asked.

"Too bad," you said. "You're married. You're not supposed to want to see me."

He had his index finger on your bare breast when you said that. He'd lifted up your sweater and tugged down your bra cup.

"We'll see each other only when I wanna see you," you said. "And when I never wanna see you again, poor little Mike won't get any stars that day."

He took his fingertip from your breast. "Why does Mike have to be involved?"

"I'm Mike's art teacher," you said. "Don't try to forget that."

Mike cried on his way home, his fingerpainting of a dragon crumpling at the edges where his fists held it close to his chest. He didn't ask you why you skipped him when you were giving out the stars. But he waited at his desk long after the rest of the class had left. You walked out with your eyes to the floor, unable to look at him.

It was bad enough that you were expected to assign grades to the first creative endeavors of children. You'd always tried to give out the stars so arbitrarily you thought it might even be fun to use that grading system for your lascivious communiqués.

But there'd been so many days when you wanted so badly to see Mike's Dad. But those were days when Mike had turned in work that was decidedly less than three-star quality. You found you just couldn't do it, and so you gave him the stars he deserved and spent the following night at home alone. And if Mike ever turned in a three-star project, it was always in a week when a rendezvous would have been impossible.

You'd managed four nights together, and each night had required you to give Mike an inappropriate star grade. But today was the last straw.

Today, Mike made a fingerpainting of a dragon. It was the best work Mike had ever done. The best fingerpainting of the entire class since school began last Autumn. A decidedly five star piece. But you wanted to see his Daddy tomorrow night.

You couldn't do it. When you looked at that painting, you knew the affair had to end today. Not another work would be awarded with anything but the most honest of praise. And to punish yourself for falling into such a state of compromise, you would break a student's heart on the day he'd done his best. You'd condemn yourself to the lowest point in your teaching career.

Mike cried on his way home. And so did you.

Happy End It Via A Fingerpainting Of A Dragon Day!