2007-10-02: Lone Nut And Patsy


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Harry and Lee conspire regarding teaching at a school because clearly nobody in charge wants to let that happen.

Date It Happened:

October 2, 2007

Lone Nut and Patsy

Brubaker Secondary School Library

Lee and Harry were hired at the same time, but their treatment couldn't be different. The staff and teachers are friendly to Harry, or at least as friendly as they can be expected to be with him being the 'new librarian', and somewhat isolated from the normal flow of teaching, and of course, Lee is trod upon and rumors easily reach Harry reassuring him that he won't be cut at the end of the year like the inner city teachers they frankly admit they are dumping the 'class disruptions' on.

The library of Brubaker is well-appointed, the shelves well-stocked, significantly more than one might expect for a school of its size. But there are things Harry has found that don't belong in libraries. An empty baggie stuffed behind a shelf, with ominous white residue on it. Kids that come into a study carrell, stay only a couple of minutes and then leave, putting the books they have obviously not even cracked back on the reshelving cart. Other kids that come into the library even for the few minutes they have between class, looking nervous about going back out into the halls, not wanting to cross through the crowds of students.

Today, Assistant Principal O'Donnelly, known for being the disciplinarian of the administration, suddenly hauls Lee into the library during a time when few others are around. Her orders to him are inaudible, punctuated with his name ("Mr. Jones") and the word "requirements" and "mandatory" and her pointed finger more or less at his midsection. Lee's very tall, as tall as Harry was when he was standing, and O'Donnelly is very short, but there's no question that she has the power and Lee has the resentment. She chews him out until the second bell and then stomps back out of the library, saying, "Get it together." in conclusion. Lee, who clearly has a prep period, rubs the bridge of his hawklike nose with long, graceful fingers, as if pain were shooting through his whole head.

Harry comes wheeling through the stacks with that white baggy creasing his face into sour, angry lines. He comes to a stop by Lee and holds it up with him in two fingers. "Get her to lick this," he says. "She'll probably get a lot more pleasant, and she'll be doing a public service. Its like double bonus day."

Lee says, "I don't even want to think about the verb 'lick' in the same sentence with O'Donnelly." He eyes the bag with recognition, and the tired look of someone who has had the experience of finding one of them in a classroom before. "Cocaine, I bet. It's pretty rare to get meth this far east." He's studied up on that? "You're, uh, Harry, right? Lee Jones." He offers his hand.

Harry shakes the hand. "Harry Parrish. And oh, here I thought it was just powdered sugar, left by the sugarplum hoodlum." He balls it up and tosses it in the trash. "So. What's the story? Who did you piss off?" He leans back to take up a library book that has been horribly misused, and motions Lee back behind the counter. He's got a table back there where he repairs them. He spends a lot of time repairing books. "Word is you're the administration's whipping boy."

Lee says, "The word's come down, apparently straight from the Board of Directors, that my third and fifth period civics classes are not to be taught actual /civics/ at any cost, but instead I am to spend one fourth of my face time with them teaching the state civics /test/." He follows along with Harry, leans on the counter. "I don't mind being the whipping boy if the alternative is screwing over the /students/. O'Donnelly's the axe-woman, so she's the one swinging the axe."

Harry squints up one eye and looks up at Lee. "I'm new to all this crap, so humor me." He carefully pulls open the book, removing the paper that's separated from the spine, and starts brushing on a thick glue. "If you teach them actual civics, won't they get the test down pat by default?"

Lee says, "See, that's what I always thought the prevailing notion was among both teachers and test-writers, but apparently the pass slash fail statistics are more important than the comprehension that a passing grade is supposed to indicate. I've got thirty kids out of forty reading over two grade levels behind, and I'm supposed to catch them up /and/ get them to memorize the right answer formats?" He shakes his head, glances back at the door. "She's been in my room three times last week, and not once have I been doing what I was supposed to. Seriously, tell me you see something wrong with this picture. Tell me I'm not crazy."

"No, you're not crazy. Besides, its nothing new." Harry leans forward and starts carefully brushing glue over the cracked and faded glue of the spine of the pages, now. He looks up with a smirk. If he had glasses, he'd be staring right over the tops, but he doesn't. "Didn't you ever see Dangerous Minds? I know I did. Of course, the heartwarming story was rather lost on me as I spent the entire time staring at Michelle's…well. Sadly, you lack some of her more glorious assets, so you may or may not have what it takes—" here he painstakingly aligns pages with spine, then presses down gently and hold, "to tackle the challenge."

Lee makes a 'snork' sound of nasty amusement, then immediately regrets it. "Ugh, that stuff stinks." he says. "…yeah. I remember that movie. All those teacher movies. Maybe we could put on a show out in the old barn and learn a valuable life lesson at the same time."

"Or, you need to make sure they both learn physics and pass the test, while engaging in a time honored method of dealing with petty dictators." Harry ignores the comment about the stuff stinking, he's got a book to fix here. "You create a conspiracy. If she's too busy to check up on you, she's too busy to fire you. If all your kids pass while she's dealing with it, she has no leg to stand on."

Lee says, "I like the way you think, Parrish. You interest me strangely. Tell all. What conspiracy do you advise?" He's intrigued.

Now Harry puts some clamps on the books, slowly but surely. His features crease into another smirk. "First, you enlist your allies. Soldiers in your cause. Then you consider your weapons. Distraction. Misdirection. Timing. Let me ask you a question. If the computers are down tomorrow, will O'Donnelly a) be at her desk slamming at her mouse and frantically calling IT to come fix the problem, then hover over them to ensure that she micromanages every tiny little detail or b) be back at your door while you're trying to teach a class, content that the IT guys will be able to handle it without her interference?"

Lee seems to follow. "The test's in January. So I basically have 12 working weeks to cover. Misdirection is good. What if the media were looking in? Everyone loves a good education story. I would just have to be sure it couldn't be traced back to me."

Those clamps slowly tighten. "So you don't have the media start by looking into poor educational standards. That's not even a fun story for them anymore. Old news. You give them something else to worry about. Like…poor plumbing standards. Now that's something to get everyone up in arms. Of course, you'll have to find a little friend or two to help crash computers, screw up plumbing, and whatnot. You're not worried about ruining other teacher's chances to educate because…they aren't."

Lee says, "Like anyone else in this dump has my back anyway. They were eager to dump their underperforming kids. It helps /their/ stats. If the union weren't such a joke at Brubaker, nobody would let the administration turn us against each other like this." somewhat morosely, but it's clear Harry has sparked some ideas in the young teacher, since his eyes retain a spark of mischief.

"But alas, the union is a joke, so it remains off your list of concerns," Harry says. "Old librarians are of course not part of any solution. We're part of the problem. The fact that we also happen to loudly yell into the phones to the media with hoodlum problems that keep crazy principals out of your classroom because said hoodlum problems are threatening their books is immaterial. We also might be convinced to teach interested young idiots how to read, /if/ they showed up at the library with more than cocaine."

Lee hms. He shifts gears: "I actually do have some good students, mostly transfer students that hadn't taken last years exams that nobody wanted to take a gamble on. I'm trying to set them up as leaders in the classroom, working on projects together with some of the kids that respect them. I'm working on getting election candidates to come in and be interviewed by the kids - and for the kids to learn how to prepare an interview and what the issues are. Civics via journalism. I could use some help, there's no question."

"Election candidates would be a good idea," Harry muses. "The admin can't afford to act like assholes in front of election candidates, with the cameras rolling." He sets his elbows on the arms of his wheelchair and steeples his fingers. "Of course. In true civics you can't go setting up leaders. Your little crazy citizens there have to elect them themselves, or it will never truly work."

Lee says, "I'm trying to do it a bit behind the scenes." He admits: "I'm not an idiot, I know they know I'm doing it, but saying 'Hey Jane, Mary looks up to you, can you help her with her work' tries to reinforce what's already there. Do you have any units on preparing for interviews, current events analysis, that kind of thing?" Ah, the new teacher - always looking for pre-prepared organization and outlines.

"Units." Harry says the word as if he's not sure what the heck it means. Then he wheels out from behind the desk to a stack of boxes he had brought in. He starts rifling through it and puts a few books on the desk. The biographies of several famous journalists, and books by journalists getting really in-depth on their subject. Several of them on current events. "The problem is in 'units'. You want to teach, teach."

Lee says, "Very zen, Master Miyagi." but he seems agreeable enough to the notion. "Will you back me up if I send them to you with research topics?"

"Yeah. Ignorance is annoying," Harry says. "Just tell them to wash and dry their damn hands before they come in here." His gaze alights on the dirty, grimy windows. "And in the grand tradition of Mr. Miyagi—they can bring some Windex and paper towels when they come."

Lee says, "If you can help me get these guys up over a one-third pass rate on the state exam, and I can rub it in O'Donnelly's face, I will /personally/ wash any window you want washed. Hand to god. I would never lie in a library."

Hopefully, Harry asks, "Will you take the insipid yellow rick rack around that bulletin board over there too? Burn it maybe, along with all the believe and achieve posters? This is supposed to be a library, but that's looking like a motivational speaker went and threw up in here."

Lee says, "I'm guessing you don't feel very motivated by that completely incorrect definition of 'Dreams' there behind you." with a smirk that indicates he isn't either.

"Shhhhh. I'm trying to pretend it doesn't exist," Harry says. "We'll get you your passes, Jones. If nothing else, I'll do it because if one more of these morons treats me like I'm one of the Stepford Educators I'm going to end up dying out of sheer disgust, and I haven't finished figuring out the real story behind the JFK murders."

Lee says, "Thus, you're trying to set me up as a patsy everyone will think is a lone nut. Very clever, Parrish. I'm onto you." Clearly he feels he has found a kindred spirit just by virtue of their shared sarcasm. "Well, I'll take what I can get at this point."

Lonely Bitter Men Take On School For Great Justice! "When's your class schedule? I need a good time of day to go into the office and yell very loudly about handicapped ramps." That's the easiest and quickest thing to set up until Lee has done a little more 'recruiting of troops.'

Lee says, "Third and fifth period are my main target groups. My homeroom is pretty normal and second period /may/ be able to hold its own with the nothing I've been given to support them. Why hit them where it won't hurt?"

Harry gives an ironic salute. Then he pulls out his little stamp and starts twisting the date around. He starts pasting those little library cards to the books he just pulled out—and adds a book on JFK just to be an ass. He stamps the due date on each of those books and pushes them over at Lee. "Happy reading."

Lee says, "Don't throw me in that briar patch." With that, he takes his books, and heads out. He has work to do, and mean-ness seems to revitalize him.

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