The Alma Mater chronicles, Ch. 1

The Four Horsemen: War, Death, Famine, Pestilence. The original members were also known as the Brothers, a diverse group of football players. War was the unofficial leader: tall, handsome, smart, strong. Pestilence was the playboy of the crew: edgy, rugged, promiscuous, arrogant. Famine was the little one: short, scrawny, feisty. Death was the oddball: pale, nervous, solitary. Together, they took on a small-time thug after a stupid adult ratted him out. After he threatened to shoot Death, the Horsemen pushed past a hapless administrator and stomped the boy. Literally. It was the punches from War that caused the most damage. And so the Apocalyse came to our alma mater.

***

The Good Doctor looks mad. Angry. Crazy. Insane. Her hair has gone from a mass of wild red curls to a close-cropped bullet shape, first two-toned, then gray, now ash blonde. Her skin is a raw red map of scars, reminders of chicken pox or acne. Her eyes are two dark pieces of flint. She snaps her head like a whip. Glares with fiery fury. We run and hide in warm dens.

***

Whatchu lookin at, you ugly ass broad? Hella big with a flat face. Your man? He ugly too with those damn scary devil eyes. I’m not one for light eyes, so he does nothing for me. You think you so hard, kicking doors and throwing attitude at the principals and shit. Hella stupid. I heard what you did. Trying to start mess with that boy just cuz he punked your man. Your man so weak he need you to get his back. You just makin him look even more scary. You not so tough without your ugly cousins to back you. Keep walkin.

***

It is springtime. In the early hours of the morning, she walks. Sometimes she sings. Laughs. Bounces a ball. She is a little girl who wants to play. She does not know she does not live. Her heart continues to beat, if only in this lonely hallway. The children during the day don’t acknowledge her. Maybe the strange ones. The ones whose hairs rise at odd times. The ones whose ears pick up noises and whispers. The ones who want to run when they walk through that hallway, even on a spring afternoon. But most of the time, she is alone.

***

Miz Simpson bursts into the office with her clan of sloppy children: her niece with the dirty headwrap, her nephew with bad teeth, her oddly pretty daughter with the greasy face, the toddler with the runny nose. Miz Simpson demands to see the administrator, the little one with the Asian eyes. The secretary tries her best to calm her but she raises her voice. She wants answers. The little girl comes out of her office, her heels clicking like castanets on the linoleum. Miz Simpson looks her up and down. Her children show grinning fangs, hope for bloodshed. The little girl stares back at her, back straight, good hair shiny. Miz Simpson falters, steps back. She isn’t scared, not this one. The door closes. Miz Simpson turns her attention back to the secretary, demands to see evidence. The children, bored that no drama has ensued, step out into the hallway to answer cel phones. The administrator comes back out, still calm. She invites Miz Simpson into the office, offers her a chair. The girl has a little voice. She goes through the statements and copies one by one, shows her just what a mess Miz Simpson’s no good son is, thanks her, shakes her hand, ushers her back to the office with a sweet smile. Miz Simpson doesn’t know what to think or feel. Who is this woman?

***

If you know him as well as you think you do, you’ll see what’s in his heart.

***

The promotion of Mr. Hess teaches us valuable lessons: Look the part, suck up, and use as many people as possible.

***

The police car sits across the street, like an alligator sunning itself on the river bank. Inside, the deputy looks at the campus from behind his sunglasses. On the porch, the girl with the curly hair whose mother complained to the assistant principal about him. At the burger joint, the crackhead who stalks middle school girls. At the crosswalk, the young single administrator always hiding herself in the black peacoat, even in 60-degree temps. The deputy shifts in his seat, sighs, curses in his mind.

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