The Thrilling Moments That Define Teachers As Teachers
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Tame"
Originally featured on 09-09-2008
As part of our series "The Ancient Trappings of Humanity’s Endless Summer (Age-Old Traps)"

Mrs. Northaytonbye, the teacher, had her arms crossed and looked bored. But she was trying not to be rude. The kids at their desks looked on with scrunched noses and furrowed brows. She was three days away from retirement.

“So you see, there are scary things in every dark hole, under every bed and at the end of every rainbow,” said Gary the Goblin.

Nobody was captivated thus far by Gary’s presentation, Where to Scare…Anywhere!(as scrawled sloppily on the chalk board). Mrs. N, as most everybody called her, was trying to stealthily read over the Afterschool Engagement, LLC. contract to see whether there was a refund clause. If there was, she would stop him and dive back into her prepared lesson on History of Mystical Folklore.

Gary came from a highly recommended Extra-Curricular Presentation agency. Originally, they were scheduled to have a Magician expert. But Gary showed up instead and explained that he would substitute for Wallace the Wizard Expert.

“For you see, the last thing that anyone expects,” said Gary as Mrs. N yawned and looked at her watch, “is the unexpected.”

They were in a classroom on the third floor. Hot May weather blew in through the open windows. She could hear the last buses pulling away and horns honking as parents pulled up in cars.

Mrs. N thought that Gary’s voice was too much like a bad Gollum impression. It was scratchy and throaty and he hissed some of his words. But then again, she thought, the kids all already know Gollum and she couldn’t think of a better way to do a goblin voice.

A couple of pigeons had been landing and then fluttering on the window ledges. It seemed to bother Gary. He paced closer and closer to the window as he continued to explain his theories on scaring. Mrs. N just thought that he didn’t want the kids distracted by the birds when they should’ve been watching him.

“The last thing I ate was a bird just like one of those. I boiled it in stream water in my little cave.”

Gary was tall, thought Mrs. N. She hadn’t noticed it until that moment, when she saw that he was almost as tall as the tops of the windows, perhaps seven feet. She looked at the children. They were all eight years old or nine years old. Second and third graders that couldn’t be picked up at three because their parents worked and they didn’t have friends’ houses to go to. Mrs. N knew most of these kids from detention and disciplinary hearings. They were some of the worst kids in school. It wasn’t easy keeping them in line for three hours a day. Luckily, she thought, it was only once a week. Even luckier, she smiled, was that this was the last week.

“You can tell when a pigeon doesn’t like you,” Gary said a couple of steps from the window. “They always look at you just like that!

Gary lunged. The pigeon was shrieking and trying to get free of Gary’s claws. The children in the front row stood up from their desks. Gary approached them, still holding the pigeon.

“Do you want to see how pigeons say they’re sorry?!” he hissed at Benny, John and Greg. The three boys, still shocked, but thinking it might be part of the presentation nodded meekly.

Mrs. N started saying “Gary” in a raised voice. She didn’t think that Gary would really harm the pigeon but this was certainly inappropriate. Even capturing a pigeon was a bad example.

“Gary!” she said.

Gary continued to advance into the rows of desks holding the bird that was now in shock. “They can’t apologize like people,” Gary said loud enough to fill the room.

“Gary! This is inappropriate Gary!”

Benny, John and Greg were backing up without looking where they were going. They backed up into other children who pushed them off, everyone in fight or flight mode.


“No! No! They’re not smart like people. So you have to make them know that they’ve done something wrong,” Gary said.

When Gary opened his mouth, Mrs. N gasped. His long yellow teeth were jagged and sharp.

“You have to make sure that they can remember you,” said Gary. Gary bit down on the shocked pigeon’s foot and gnawed on it. The bird squealed but it was hardly audible over the screams of the children.

Mrs. N fell back against the wall in shock, then quickly tried to regain her footing. With the traumas these poor children dealt with at home, Mrs N shuddered to think about how Gary’s psychotic behavior would damage them. All she knew was that she had to get control of the situation.

“Cool!” and “Awesome!” they screamed.

Mrs. N stopped in her tracks. She looked at them in horror. Benny, John and Greg were no longer backing away from Gary but moving in closer to watch Gary bite the bird up close.

“I hate those fucking birds!” hissed Benny.

“Benny! That language is unacceptable. Gary! This isn’t appropriate! You’re done! Stop the presentation! I said you’re done.”

Gary turned to her. With a hiss and snap of his neck he bared his teeth at her and bit through the leg of the pigeon, spraying blood on some desks. Her eyes widened. Suddenly Mrs. N felt cold. Gary turned back to the children who had begun to hunch over and whose fingers had begun to curl. They seemed to be imitating Gary’s physicality. They were all trying to act like him.

She didn’t feel safe. She turned and looked at the door. She heard a shriek and turned to see blood covering Benny’s lips.

“Benny!” she cried.

The mob hissed and celebrated and the pigeon bled and squealed. The children began ripping off their clothes with their fingers. Mrs N. ran towards the crowd but they all turned, hissed and bared their teeth at her. Feathers floated down around buzzing fluorescent lights. “Oh my god,” she yelled.

“We are a tribe.” Gary began saying as she opened the door.

As she ran down the hall she could hear them all chanting it.

“We are a tribe! We are a tribe! We kill teachers! We are a tribe!”

Mrs. N reached her car. Her keys! They were in the room. She ducked under the car to find the magnetic Hide-a-Key shell. She pulled it off the frame of her Civic, slid it open and snagged the key. The aluminum Hide-a-Key case rattled as it hit the parking lot cement. She opened the door and got in and locked the doors.

She could see the sole classroom light still lit on the third floor. The remaining pigeon fluttering around the window. Mrs N looked at the vacation pamphlet sitting on her passenger seat for Cabo San Lucas. She thought of Benny’s hissing and turned over the engine. Then, she thought of her career. Her reputation. A Teacher’s Reputation Follows Her Wherever She Goes—Even To The Afterlife, her mother used to say. She thought of headlines about lost children and a missing teacher. She thought about thirty years of service. She turned off the engine. She looked back up to the third floor window. She saw Gary staring back, smiling with his yellow fangs. Gary pointed at the car and screamed. Then he was gone.

Mrs N opened the glove box and pulled out her pepper spray and taser. It was all up to her. Thirty years of preparation culminating in one moment. She would teach them.

Read More By Doug Dean

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