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LAce Posted Monday, August 11th, 2003
Amy Wilkinson

Ms. Fanelli has taught fifth grade for thirty-two years. Her students are ten-year-olds. Ten years ago she could have been married. She could have. Things, Ms. Fanelli thinks, don’t go as expected.

Along three walls of the classroom are computers. Ms. Fanelli is old—fifty-four—to know so much technology. She knows more than fresh-faced young teachers fresh from undergraduate programs. She caught wind of computers twenty years ago, learned them then.

Screen savers blink at Ms. Fanelli and students who are sitting in the center of the room.

The desks, small rectangles, are arranged in a rectangle—side touching side until the corner, when one side touches a front. Ms. Fanelli has a wider and taller desk in the center of a shorter end in this circuit. Ms. Fanelli feels like a storyteller at her desk, with a band of eager listeners around her crossed feet.

Hello class, Ms. Fanelli says. I assume you’re well, Ms. Fanelli says. You’re no doubt wondering about the tray.

In the middle of the room there’s a tray. It is Ms. Fanelli’s TV tray, which is covered with a purple blanket, lumpy from covering something else.

This might, Ms. Fanelli says, be our most important day. I hope, Ms. Fanelli says, you are paying attention. I expect, she says, notes.

A squirming black boy raises his hand. It can wait, Curtis, Ms. Fanelli says and sits on her desk. Duck, Rosy, Ms. Fanelli says, and I’ll swing my legs over.

Ms. Fanelli walks the interior of the rectangular space formed by rectangular desks touching like an animal, caged. It is this I want you to do, she says. It is simple. I will lift the blanket and there are items there—fifteen of them. You will have thirty seconds to look before they are covered, again. You’ll write them down, Ms. Fanelli says, in your notebooks, once they’ve been covered. All fifteen items, Ms. Fanelli says, rapping on Tim and Jessica’s desks. In ballpoint pen. This is very important.

She lifts the blanket, then, with a swoosh, like a waiter she had once uncovered an expensive bottle of wine. Students push their chairs back and stand to see clearer. They point and talk to their neighbors.

Questions? Ms. Fanelli asks, raising her small wrinkled hands.

One boys says, What’s that in the center?

This, Ms. Fanelli says, picking up a slab of marble the size and shape of soap, is the only trophy I ever won. They gave them to all the little assholes on the T-ball team.

And the yellow mushroom top? A girl says and points.

That’s my diaphragm, Ms. Fanelli says. God knows how many penises have pushed up against it.

Curtis says, Teacher, teacher! I have to go to the bathroom.

Do you know, Curtis, Ms. Fanelli asks, what’s in the candy jar? Can you tell me who attached this hose to his tail pipe then ran it in the back right window?

Ms. Fanelli begins lifting items. This, class, is the earring I tore from of my sister’s ear. This, she says, is the bowl I eat out of nights. The love of my life wrote an article in this newspaper. Mom died and left a button collection with this stack of bills. Radishes, she says and swings a dusty cluster around, are all I can grow. Captain Morgan’s and Coke is still my drink of choice. Earl, she says and picks a goldfish off the top of a bowl, letting him dangle there like a tea bag just lifted from a cup, was my pet until just last week. He, too, disappointed.

Gillian, the quiet girl, raises her hand.

Yes, Gillian, what is it?

Is that, she says and hesitates, a stuffed teddy bear?

Of course, Gillian, Ms. Fanelli says. It’s just what it looks like. Class, she says, you’re eating up your thirty seconds, here, with questions.

Behind students leaning over desks trying to see, trying to get closer, are Ms. Fanelli’s computers and their incessant screen savers. In the black screen of one we’re zipping through space, stars careening past us. On another there’s a red scrolling marquee: Mrs. Fanelli is the best!!!

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Lela Schneidman on Tuesday, August 12th, 2003 at 8:27 PM
this is a great story...wonderful to imagine as true, which i guess it could be? thanks for letting us read this.

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