(To Thom Akeman:) Substitute teaching is hard. Yesterday's classes (English 130 at a local high school) gave me a particularly rough time. (Not yesterday, but once a kid hollered at me from the back of the room, "Why don't you retire?" I didn't laugh out loud but I almost did.) Today, though, staying home to catch up on some stuff, I miss the kids. I really do like even the minimal level of teaching we subs get to do. I've had a couple of Teaching Moments, when I've seen the light go on above a kid's head because of the way I explained something. I'm seriously thinking of taking the classes I need to get a Real Credential.
I'm sitting on one end of an engorged sofa in the church office. I'm there to see a priest about a matter of details. A middle-aged woman waits quietly behind the front desk to greet visitors and answer the phone. Through the open door comes a man with sun-baked skin and matted hair, wearing dark trousers and a coat that he has slept in.
After talking softly to the receptionist, he sits down at the other end of the big sofa.
I can smell the dew and grass toasted into his clothing by the sun.
Through a door to the hallway, a boy of about 10 runs in. He has more energy than both of us old guys on the sofa put together. He zooms around the room and stops at the desk. The volunteer is his mother or grandmother or aunt. He plays with the stapler and pushes the buttons on the phone.
We watch him from the sofa as we wait.
The woman tolerates the boy's behavior, which seems to have reasonable limits -- he's not breaking or chewing on anything.
As he riffles the calendar pages on the receptionist's desk, the boy sings a tune. He doesn't know the words, if there are any, so he fills in the notes with "Duh duh, duh duh, duh-duh-duh." The receptionist says, "I know that song. It's from a TV show or something."
A young woman comes in from the hall with a brown paper shopping bag full of food -- items in cans and boxes, it looks like. She brings it over and puts it on the floor by the man at the other end of the sofa, who thanks her, waits until she's gone, and begins inventorying the contents of the bag. I'm guessing that if he finds a heavy can in there that he doesn't want, he'll ditch it when he gets outside so he won't have to carry it with him all day.
The boy is singing the tune, a simple one that repeats over and over again.
"I know I recognize it," the receptionist says, sorting a stack of message slips.
The homeless man, rearranging the cans and boxes in the bag, half-whispers a word without looking up: "Jeopardy."