Wordy Day in ISS
by Reine D. Bethany
“Shall I relieve you? I’m an unoccupied sub.”
Mrs.Carter stared gratefully at the bony face. “Would you please?”
“No!”shouted the girls. “Not her, we already had her before Mrs. Davis. We hate her.Please, Mrs. Carter, stay.”
“I’mout of here,” chimed Mrs. Carter, and left.
The substitute set her knapsack under the desk while Tina, Millicent, and Sophie wailed to Mrs. Carter’s back. The fourth girl in the In-School Suspension room, Cara, sat quietly at her assigned desk by the door as she had all day, filling out the homework packets her teachers sent down. The other three had plagued every teacher doing In-School Suspension duty with silly questions, four-letterwords, sex questions—anything to avoid their work.
Most teachers were easy to control. Tina was master of the In-School Suspension arts: the Chain of Personal Questions Irrelevant to Schoolwork (“Are you married? How long? How many children?“); Noncomprehension (“I don’t get this stupid vocabulary. How am I supposed to learn from this?”); Begging for Childish Things Like Candy; and the Look of Hatred, useful for goading teachers into lectures rife with points that could be argued for an entire period.
To all such artifices this sub had pursed her thin lips, shrugged her coat-hanger shoulders, shaken her frizzy head, and concentrated on writing in the comment section of the girls’ folders. For four periods that morning she had said little except, “I don’t answer personal questions. Please go back to your desk.If you have questions about your work, let me help. No candy. Please go back toyour desk. Have you done your English packet? Please go back to your desk. Please take your hands out of that file drawer and go back to your desk.” She had not even heated up when she stepped out of the door for a moment to ask Mrs. Timmons in the time-out room a question, and got locked out. Millicent had closed the door at Tina’s and Sophie’s impulsive urging—it wasn’t really bad—they had opened the door within three minutes—but the sub upon coming in should have said something more interesting than, “Veryfunny, ladies” while writing again on their folders.
“Wait a minute,” Tina had shouted, “what are you writing?” She and Millicent and Sophie had crowded the desk to see. The ugly sub had recorded the door-locking in brief lines on each folder. Now she sternly told them, “Please go back to your desks.” Millicent and Sophie went, but Tina had put on her Shocked by Injustic eexpression.
“You can’t write that. We didn’t do it! She did it!” Tina had cried, pointing to the startled Cara. The sub had glanced at Cara, shaken her head dismissively, and finally changed her mantra.
“I find that implausible,” she had said with a frank gaze at the three protesting girls.
“No, it isn’t impossible,” Sophie had cried from behind her desk. “Cara did it!”
“Not impossible, implausible,” the sub had replied, raising her voice slightly.“Plausible means maybe it could have happened. Implausible means it’s so unlikely that it isn’t believable.”
“You don’t believe us?” Tina had gasped, widening her eyes, but at that moment the bell had rung, signifying the end of sixth period. Mrs. Davis had walked in and the sub had gone to lunch.
Mrs.Carter then replaced Mrs. Davis. Now Mrs. Carter was escaping and the sub was leaning her hands on the desk, asking,“Why do you ladies hate me so much?”
“Because,”the three babbled, “you wrote on our folders that we locked you out. You got us into trouble.”
“And nobody will believe Cara did it because you said it’s im-plau-si-ble,”snarled Tina, investing vile scorn into the word implausible.
The sub jerked upright, swiveled bright eyes to Tina, and exclaimed, “You got it!”
Tina stepped back. She gave the sub her Glare of Absolute Hatred. The sub looked back calmly. At that point Mr. Ianotti from guidance entered and told the sub she could go, he’d be on duty. Mr. Ianotti could impose much worse punishment than a day of in-school suspension. Tina plunked down at her desk and stayed there.
She forgot about the sub when she ran out of the building at the end of that boring,horrible day. Maria and Lisa started telling her how Candace and Elio hid behind the gym door, kissing. In the middle of their narrative, Tina’s shoulder nearly left its socket. She screamed and turned. Her purse was in the air,yanked off her arm. It struck the ground amid a group of boys from Tina‘sgrade. Tina was tall and strong. She bounded into the midst of the boys and bent to her purse. The boys closed around her and she felt suddenly afraid. She stood up and shouted, “Who took my purse?”
She knew exactly who: Josue. Josue pointed at Nicky, laughing, “He did it.”
Tina glared and said, “I’m sorry, that’s implausible.”
“It’s not impossible,” cackled Josue.
“Not impossible, stupid. Im-plau-si-ble. It means I don’t believe you!”
“Oooo-oo,”teased the other boys.
“What did you say?” asked Josue, crossing his eyes and bobbling his head teasingly.
“Implausible,dummy! You’re in eighth grade. You should know that word!”
Josue lounged back on one foot, repeating the word to himself. Then he shrugged and ran off toward the basketball hoops at the far end of the schoolyard. The others loped in his wake.
Tina stood tall. She knew what was believable and what was implausible. She had the word to say it with, too. Her head stayed high, chin jutting, as her gaze followed the receding boys.
Mariaand Lisa moved to either side of her. “Did they break anything?”
Tinapawed through her purse. Nothing broken. Stupid boys.
“Whatwas that word you said?” asked Maria. Tina explained as the three girls headedtoward their bus. Maria and Lisa laughed when she got to the part about lockingthe sub out and said they wished they’d been there.