Syrup and granite
Second dose of feather pillows
Mr. Grottenmeyer’s ninth period class
That window ledge
(I dare you to turn those into a story. Double dare.)
Mr. Grottenmeyer’s ninth period class was the period that followed final bell. The time when all the good students went on their way home, off to sports, or to hang out at the drive in. It is the period once referred to as Detention Hall; but the bleeders on the school board thought it a term unduly harsh and detrimental, and it became ninth period.
Students attending ninth period pleaded their various excuses to Mr. Grottenmeyer, why they needed to be excused from staying late. Grottenmeyer refused to swallow their arguments which struggled to go down his craw like a mixture of syrup and granite – the girls sickly sweet in their pleas and the guys acting stone tough.
Once the students found they could not talk “Grotty,” as they referred to him behind his back, out of attending they sulked in their seats, drew crude images of their jailor in their notebooks, and behaved like petulant teens.
After the kids settled in, Mr. Grottenmeyer poured a hot mug of chocolate from his thermos, and added a layer of miniature marshmallows. He nibbled the top layer of marshmallows and took a sip striving for the perfect balance of drink and the fluffy candy. This was his favorite time of the school day when things were restful. Mr. Grottenmeyer pinched a few more marshmallows and dropped them onto his milk and watched them float like they did when his mother fixed it for him when he got home from school. He looked across the window ledge, past the parking lot, and into his childhood.
He remembered his day as a student in detention room, back in the days when school paddles were as common as pencils. He shifted in his seat with an emotional discomfort as he recalled sitting at his dinner table facing his tearful mother and angry father. That was the day when he needed a second dose of feather pillows beneath a bottom which burned crimson from the paddling he received from the principal, and the second from his irate father that evening.
A student’s whispering jolted Mr. Grottenmeyer back into the present. He smiled at the girl who hadn’t expected to get caught. He looked at the clock which showed 10 minutes had passed from the detention hour.
Mr. Grottenmeyer stood up and cleared his throat. “Class,” he announced. “What do you say we call it a day here and go have some fun.” After the classroom had emptied he licked the remnants from his cup, gave it a quick wipe with a paper towel, and secured his lunch box. He would deal with the school principal tomorrow. If needed.
Bravo! You make it look so easy.
Well dang! You make this look so easy. Syrup and granite. Second dose of feather pillows. We all bow before you! Of course, Grottie is total fiction. My guess is he would make everyone stay until the final minute. And what’s up with those marshmallows?
🙂 Thanks, Ann.
My intent was to reveal him as a compassionate disciplinarian who lived in conflict from memories of a harsh father and a loving doting but weak-willed mother who babied him with treats of cocoa and marshmallows.
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What a great story Jeff. Too close to home for me. My principal used the wooden paddle on my behind and I have never forgotten the sting. Fortunately my father was not inclined to follow suit. I certainly found myself in detention study hall more than I should have if I had only ‘learned my lesson’.
No one whoever had the misfortune of attending Mr. Grottenmeyer’s ninth period class ever escaped the psychological damage he was sure to inflict. High school was difficult enough with girls vying for boys’ attention, and boys jockeying for stud muffin of the year labels. Frankly, it is quite a miracle anyone graduates with much of a notion of self-respect and half an ounce of common sense to carry into the world at large. Mr. Grottenmeyer contributed no encouragement that life was actually grand and the journey into adulthood was quite beautiful albeit laced with a few snag lines.
Mr. Grottenmeyer had a small man complex, the one where men try to make up for their shortness by excessive behavior in some form. For Mr. Grottenmeyer, his compensation appeared as order, unreasonable, rigid, illogical, ridiculous order. Most of us referred to him as anal-retentive just to find some relief from his abuse. The desks in his room were placed exactly on four red sticky circles, each set of four carefully separated from the next set by precisely eighteen inches. If by some catastrophic error, a desk slid off even one red circle, whoever sat in that desk had room-cleaning duty for the afternoon. Need I explain the horror of that assignment?
Walking into to his classroom, students were required to place their assignments in clearly labeled bins on top of a large granite topped credenza. This procedure assured him that students were studying and using their time wisely. He made sure to deliver assignments to the respective teachers first period each morning. The credenza was centered under the west window, which offered fresh air but shaded light to the stuffy classroom. A massive live oak tree spread across the expanse of the window, preventing direct sunlight from shining on the granite. The window could only be opened a modest two inches, and never on a breezy day. Mr. Grottenmeyer treasured that credenza, a gift from his parents upon graduation from college and securing his first teaching position. If he taught English with the same military style expectations as he ran this last period study hall, I cannot imagine ever discovering the joy of reading a classic novel or writing a modest attempt at a brilliant essay. I wonder how long it took before he was demoted to study hall proctor?
I cannot comprehend what inspired me to teach Mr. Grottenmeyer a lesson in humility and kindness, but for some weird reason, I undertook the challenge. I enlisted the assistance of my best friend, Beulah, and we plotted the exact time when we would create our masterpiece. Mr. Grottenmeyer left campus precisely at 4:15 every day. Since the janitorial staff did not arrive until after 6:30, we had time to quickly set our trap. Beulah brought the syrup and one feather pillow. I brought the other pillow and the plan. Granite and syrup, what a delightful combination! We quickly covered the granite on top of the credenza with a fine layer of syrup. Ripping open our feather pillows, Beulah dusted the syrup with a significant layer of goose feathers. Standing back to admire our masterpiece, I felt it critical to add a second dose of feather pillow fluff, and we both gloated over the ingenious plan to lighten Mr. Grottenmeyer’s anal-retentive load. Just to ensure that the janitorial staff did not find it necessary to remove our work, we stuck a note stating not to touch the experiment.
Arriving at school at my usual time the next morning, students were gathered in the oval circle outside the front door. An ambulance was parked with lights flashing but no siren noise, directly in the path to the front doors. As I approached the group of students, I heard the mumbling of mental breakdown – someone had a mental breakdown inside the school. I suppose I understand now that anal-retentive behavior can sometimes guard the psychic fragility of a person. Who would have ever thought – syrup and granite, a second dose of feather pillows, that window ledge in Mr. Grottenmeyer’s ninth period class could unhinge a mind.
This is the kind of story that sounds like it’s true. Good for you! If I didn’t know that I was the one who stuck in the words of the prompt, I would think this was a memory. Bravo!
Not at all; no memory involved just my brain spewing.
Here’s my version:
Byron buried his head into his pillows. They were new feather and down pillows, super soft, whispering sweet beginnings of dreams into his quieting mind.
WHAM! One of the pillows slammed into the back of his head.
“Get up you lazy dog! Mom said if you’re not up in 2 seconds she’s gonna feed your breakfast to the dog” said his younger brother Mike, with a powerful second dose of feather pillow to the back of his head before he ran out of the room.
Byron dragged himself up to a sitting position. He glanced down at the rumpled clothes he’d slept in. Good enough for another day. He raised a foot to pull on a sock. His feet moved like blocks of granite, but the stretched out socks from yesterday slid on easily, remembering each bend and cranny, filling them like syrup, soft and thick. Socks on, he crammed his feet into his permanently tied shoes, executing the needed contortions to wedge his foot fully inside.
Something was odd about his window ledge. He shuffled across the room to it at a pace a 90-year old man could beat, yawning, stretching and scratching as he went. The sun was rising above the neighbor’s rooftop. The sky was clear and the window pane was cool but not too cold. Looked like it could be a nice day. So what was off here? That pile of hexagon shapes spilling onto the floor.
Oh no. Geometry. The geodesic dome for Mr. Grottenmeyer’s ninth period class was due. Today.
Ann, please forgive the intrusion here. You don’t publish your contact info, but I wanted you to know that my final exam for the Beginning Writers Workshop I just completed with you (via ed2go) was accepted for publication. (I don’t want to post details until I see the byline with my name spelled correctly-haha). I cannot express how grateful I am for the poke in the butt your teaching style provided. –Loretta
That’s great news! When the publication comes out, feel free to let us all know where to find your work. Wonderful!
Thanks Ann–here’s link (all comments welcome):
Ann (and Jeff), please forgive my intrusion here. You don’t post your contact info, Ann, so this is the only way I know to tell you that the story I wrote as my final exam has been accepted for publication. I recently completed the Beginning Writers Workshop you taught (via ed2go). I don’t want to post details until I see the byline with my name spelled correctly, LOL. Thank you–your support and teaching style provided the kick in the butt I needed.
Apologies for the double post, wanted to include Jeff for the intrusion.
That Window Ledge
That window ledge, three stories up and one floor above Mr. Grottenmeyer’s ninth period class, looms large against the night sky as I carefully make my way along it, inch by inch, step by step.
My mind races as I walk along the ledge, and think about my own death and redemption. I will wait until tomorrow afternoon, I decide, just as Mr. Grottenmeyer’s class begins, and then jump to my death. That will show those kids who laughed at me in class today that I’m not a coward. Taking your own life is the ultimate test of courage and this will show them whose the man. But for now, I take a seat along the ledge and I wait.
I drift off to sleep and wonder about Claire, and if she’ll even notice I’m missing when Mr. Grottenmeyer’s class begins tomorrow. Probably not. I think about my mother, too, and wonder if she will be okay after I’m gone. How will she manage the farm without my help? I begin to fidget on top of my perch. The ledge is cold and sticky like syrup and granite and I shiver against the cold. But I am not afraid. I drift back to sleep.
When I awake again, I think about my dog, Beau, and know for certain that old Beau will miss me. Just then the wind begins to howl, startling me, and I temporarily lose my grip along the ledge and I cry out. But there is no one around to hear me. Desperately, I inch my way back to the open window and for the first time tonight I am truly afraid. I slip again and my legs dangle over the ledge and I have to crawl my way back to safety. Once I do, I close my eyes again and think about all there is to live for and realize I’ve been such a fool! I need to get back to the open window, if only I could make my feet, now frozen in terror, move again.
The wind continues to howl and the rain begins to fall, turning the ledge into a sheet of glass. I look down at my watch, it’s 2:13 a.m., and I make myself take another step in the rain and the cold towards the open window but the ledge is so slippery I cannot hold on any longer and I fall, dreaming of a second dose of feather pillows waiting for me on the concrete below.
Suicide regretted is a great theme. Too bad this guy this guy realized he wanted to live just a bit too late. A good read!
Mr. Grottenmeyer loved teaching his World History class. He wanted to make a difference in the way each student viewed his or her place in the world. He had the ability and insight to transform prior events into reality for his students. This year, Mr. Gottenmeyer’s ninth period class was held at Woodland Continuation School. The school had an accelerated credit program which allowed a combined Drama/World History class with credit for both. The district considered the continuation school a safety net, a final chance to allow a failing student to succeed.
In reality, these kids were the throw-aways with one foot on that window ledge. The girls were the hardest to reach. They gave Mr. Grottenmeyer the evil eye, daring him to pass judgement. Mistrustful, usually because of the abuse at home, they had been stripped of all innocence. Their self-worth depleted, the girls used their bodies to get whatever they needed. Sugar and spice gave way to syrup and granite. They drew attention with nose and tongue piercings, tattoos of crosses, cheap clothing, orange, green or red dyed hair, and foul mouths.
The boys slung down low in their seats, chewing their nails down to the quick. Their dyed black hair concealed watchful eyes. Having been tarred and feathered for years, they were so frail and hopeless, each would collapse if hit with a second dose of feather pillows.
The school district considered Grottenmeyer a miracle worker. How could they know he was a phony. Sixteen years ago, he too had attended a continuation school. Now, he was back staring at that window’s ledge ready to leap.
Welcome back, Tink! I’m glad to see you’re still writing. Good work making Grottenmeyer such an interesting character. –Ann
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle