Summoned to the Principal's Office: A Short Story (part I of II)

William Henshaw had just lost the respect of his class. 

teacher yelling at student on phone with earbuds in with megaphone
OMG, like this teacher is totally rude and stuff. 
He let himself get offended when a student didn’t like his favorite piece of all time, Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and lost his composure in only the fourth week of class; he still had fourteen more with this specific group of uninterested illiterates.  They weren’t illiterate, of course, nor were they uninterested in learning, just that they were easily distracted by the myriad of entertainment sources that life in 2012 offered.  Whether that was the cleavage of Mikayla in the back row, the bizarre tics of Cameron, the autistic kid who probably shouldn’t be in a normal classroom, or the newest viral video secretly watched on a smart phone in a purse or under the desk, away from the glazed eyes of Mr. Henshaw who was currently extolling away about the exquisite prose of Mr. Fitzgerald.  

Nathan Mitchell, instead of reading along with the class, was watching the video clip that would exceed 20 million views by the end of the week, when Mr. Henshaw lost it.  Nathan read the first few paragraphs of the story along with the classroom, and was immediately bored.  Settings in Paris in the 1930’s, and French words like “chasseur” meant nothing to Nathan, who had no greater dream than having 30 thousand twitter followers, and maybe being an ESPN anchor. 

Nathan tried to conceal his laughter.  But the video had everything a man wanted: violence, an attractive woman, and a hilarious payoff.  The violence was a low budget MMA fight, set in some small city venue with maybe 300 drunk fans loudly cheering.  The arena was basically an old boxing ring, and the fighters were guys in decent shape for their late 20s, but by no means professional fighters.  The one lucky roundhouse kick that knocked out the guy in the red trunks, and the ensuing chaos afterward, was the only highlight of the entire evening for those who paid the eight-dollar admission fee that evening.  But online, the clip had been edited down to twenty seconds of sparring, before the consciously fatal kick landed on the jaw of the guy in red trunks.  That alone, could’ve made it a decent online video, as the guy’s head is blasted to the right, and then instantly he belly flops onto the canvas.   The fact that his top left lateral incisor tooth and root, along with saliva and blood, were all dislodged and ejected in a wonderfully parabolic arc clearly captured by the HD video being shot by a fan’s iPhone 5, made it immensely better.  Then the tooth took an almost vaudevillian or Family Guy-ish move by landing square on the chest of the girlfriend of the now unconscious and recently de-toothed man in red trunks. 

 top Front incisor tooth with root
The Tooth Fairy
is also a meth
dealer.  Good way
to get adult enamel.
The girlfriend, wearing a new prom dress from JCPenney meant for someone ten years younger, but equally as alluring, had already won the most important prize in her itinerary:  Most beautiful woman in the room.  The wife of the lucky roundhouse kicker looked tired and aged and was disinterested in her husband’s violent hobby, she wasn’t even in the top third of “lookers” in the room.  The girlfriend, on the other hand, used every punch, every grapple, and every lull in action to scream encouragement to “her man.”  Of course, she wanted each scream to bring the attention to herself, as she danced and shimmied, and gesticulated wildly in every conceivable way to show off her figure and her $180 dollar dress.  The dress was even lower hung than the skimpy outfits she wore to her job as a receptionist that had gotten her fired after repeated talks of her attire’s inappropriateness.  She exceled at inappropriateness since her days in middle school.  Attention, like she was currently getting, was exactly what she craved on an everyday basis.  Perhaps it was this, which attracted the tooth to her.  Like some sort of carnal enamel magnetism, it found the spot directly above her cleavage and lecherously slid down the mammary canal where it lodged itself at the base of her leopard print push up bra.

Her initial dumbfounded look was gold, but it was her hysterics afterwards that made the video an internet sensation.  Like a child thinking a spider had landed on them, or like a hiker unexpectedly finding himself swarmed by bees, the girlfriend frantically swatted at her body while shrieking, and every muscle which normally made her face an attractive site was turned inside out, distorting in inhumane ways only Jim Carrey could fabricate.  The “get if off me” dance was like the Ickey Shuffle and the Gangnam Style horse ride combined in double time. 

In a way only live video can prove, it showed that the girlfriend was uncaring towards her boyfriend, probably unbalanced, and falsely beautiful.  Eventually the tooth falls to the floor below, and she makes no effort to collect it and save it for the dental surgery “her man” would no doubt need soon afterwards; no, instead she wipes the saliva/blood off her boobage, and with mascara tears forming at the edges of her painted face, she quickly rushes out of the arena in an attempt to save what little face she has left. She never checks on her boyfriend, who is still out cold.   

Nathan, caught when his laughter betrayed him, and now trying to save face himself but also impress the class, said, “Sorry, Mr. Henshaw, it’s a funny clip, maybe we could show it on your projector at the end of the class.” 

“I’m not showing any stupid ass YouTube video now or ever, Mr. Mitchell.  Bring me your phone and you can get it back at the end of the day.”  Henshaw immediately regretted the harsh tone and the A-word escaping his mouth. 

Maybe it was the mild expletive, maybe it was the fact that Nathan’s parents had recently separated, maybe it was not having breakfast, or that he was benched in the second half of the latest varsity football game, but Nathan decided today, as a junior in high school, that he had enough of this high school’s stupid rules. 

“No can do, Henshaw, I got important calls coming in today.”  Nothing was further from the truth.  Nathan received or sent maybe fifteen texts in a day, but none were of any more importance than, “txt me when u get online for COD 2nite!”    

“Mitchell, you can bring me your phone and wait outside the class, NOW, that’s not a request, that’s a command, mister. ”

“Man, I said I’m sorry, okay.  I’ll read your stupid French Babylonian story and we’ll be cool, okay.” 

Henshaw knew better than to escalate the situation.  Directly challenging a student or getting into a verbal altercation never ended good, even though Henshaw was vastly more intelligent (or so he hoped) then his student base.  He should’ve just given the class a homework assignment, and while they were preoccupied with this task, walked over to Nathan and quietly let him maintain his pride while still facing the consequences of direct insubordination.  Nathan wasn’t a bad kid, he was just a now cornered kid who had already crossed the line and was seeing how far he could stretch it. 

But Henshaw took it personally, this attack on his favorite author, his favorite piece of all time.  The passages in Babylon could convert any kid to a reader, he thought.  The prose could inspire a generation of new writers, who could pen the emotional complexity and interpersonal dynamics that convolute and substantiate the life we all live in.  Kids would see that, if they gave the story a chance.  Having Nathan challenge not only his authority, but diminish the genius that Fitzgerald’s story is by watching an inane viral video?  Not today! Thought Henshaw.  Maybe during Steinbeck, or Hemingway, or Salinger, or poetry, or grammar lessons, but not during my hero’s forgotten masterpiece!  This deserved a sociological diatribe!

Eddie Murphy Adventures of Pluto Nash horrible movie poster
No comment needed.  
“You want to know what’s stupid, Mitchell, are students like you, who think you know something about life, ‘cause you saw it on the internet.   You think these dumb videos are art, or some lame band’s lyrics are poetry, but they’re all crap, Mitchell. They’re worse than a bad Eddie Murphy movie, and contain less intelligence than all the guests on the Jerry Springer show combined.  Whatever video you hoped to show me, will fade into oblivion in a month, and yet, this masterpiece by Fitzgerald will still be here, proving how far we as a society have fallen in creativity, intelligence and literary beauty.  Because of your generations reliance on reality television instead of literary masterpieces, your generation will never be able to write anything better than a decent episode of Two and a Half Men, and that, Mitchell, makes me sad, and pisses me off at the same time.  This (holding the photocopied Fitzgerald story) is art, what you were watching is graffiti.  A disgusting addition to a civilized society.  So give me your phone, Mitchell, and decide if you want to be an appreciator of great art, or if you’d rather be a hoodlum supporting graffiti!”

Mitchell, thoroughly red in the ears, adrenaline pumping and emotionally charged, only heard the words “stupid, and hoodlum.”  Mr. Henshaw, this wholly average, almost 40 teacher had just called him a dumb punk.  Mitchell wasn’t used to this.  He was usually a good kid, rarely involved in the misdemeanors taking place in and out of school, and yet he had just lumped together with the drug dealers, skanks, and gangsters who profligate around certain corners of the school campus.  And it ticked him off.

“Well, here you go William,” Mitchell sardonically said as he tossed his $400 dollar phone across the room (which thankfully Mr. Henshaw awkwardly caught).  “I’m going to check and make sure you didn’t look up porn with it when I get it back!”  And then, because he had never before had a melt down in class, had never been this emotionally charged, he just stood there.  He knew it would’ve been cooler to nonchalantly storm out of the room, but the fear of further worsening his punishment stopped him from making any kind of move.  Even though he had just committed a

“What did you say?”  Did this punk kid just call me a porno addict; was he implying that I’m some kind of pedophile?  “What did you say, you stupid son of a bitc…”  Henshaw stopped himself.  Or he thought he did, he hoped he did.  The class was silent; this wholly embarrassing exchange had only taken one minute.  A minute that normally Henshaw would use to wrap up the lesson, remind kids of upcoming homework, or chit-chat about the upcoming game or dance; for in those last seconds before the bell rings, in depth instruction is not possible.  So he too, having said too much, stood awkwardly silent. 

Neither had ever been in a standoff.  They would’ve made horrible gunslingers; the fear both were portraying was visible even to the most socially inept student in the room.  Then a hooded boy in the corner, headphones on, oblivious to any of the excitement of the last few minutes of the class period, started throwing his backpack on, knowing that within seconds, he would be free of another torturous teacher.

Brrrriiiinnnnngggg      Brrrriiiinnnnngggg. 

Saved by the bell: those two loud annoying monotonous tones, which predictably propelled the herds of students into the halls. Yet, for the first time in his 12-year career, Henshaw’s class stayed glued to their seats.  There was still unfinished business in the classroom.  But then another kid threw on his backpack.  Freedom was more important to some than a potential gunfight.  He along with the head-phoned kid made their way out into the already packed hallway. 
And then, for what seemed like eternity, nothing.  Finally, Mitchell, not willing to fight, despite the insult he was dealt, forced his body to move.  He grabbed his belongings, threw them carelessly into his backpack and left the room.   The rest of the class followed after, whispering in awe the scene they had all just witnessed.

                    **End of part I, continue to part II 


  1. This gave me the fantods. You are too smart, too observant, too funny.

    Nice job. aaargh.

    Janet Wells

    line 2: fourth, not forth

  2. Ugh. My wife Jill caught that same error and I didn't correct it. I sent it to a major literary magazine! Oh well...the deadline was today. 1 day to write, revise, edit, and submit... I knew it was a tight deadline. At least I can change errors on this blog.

  3. Glued to my desk-seat, can't wait to hear part two.

  4. Cracked up at mammary canal. Going to read part 2 right now.