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Monday Morning Quarterback

When the alarm went off, I wished the snooze button I was hitting was, instead, a detonating device. Sunday NFL at the bar had devolved into drunken debauchery. The merriment, I blearily recalled as I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt, had ended well past midnight.

The primary tasks I had to complete this morning were to get to school on time, and make sure I didn’t reek of booze. I spritzed myself with cologne and was out the door. I snagged the last spot in the employee parking lot and trudged to my classroom.

As I opened the door, I was hit with a sickening wave of hot, sour stench. “What the fuck?” I muttered as I fumbled the lights on. It was peak heatwave season, and the air conditioners in the old building rarely worked. I wandered around, trying to sniff out the source of the stink. I could feel flop sweat gathering in my pits, alcohol seeping out of my pores. “Ugh.” There it was: an open milk carton, shoved into a Arturo’s desk. It had been fermenting all weekend.



The bell rang. I had just enough time to toss the offending carton into a trash can in the hallway before the kids came streaming in. “Eeeeeeeeeeeeew,” said Charles, the first person bold enough to comment on the foul odor that still hung over the entire room.

“Since the smell came from your desk, I’m going to let you open the windows, Charles,” I called. It wasn’t true, but Charles was the kind of kid who got away with murder, and I’d take what little justice I could manufacture. Charles reluctantly walked around the back of the room opening windows; gusts of fresher air entered.

Arturo walked in. He’d left early on Friday with a stomachache. Such a sweet boy would never have left the milk to spoil on purpose; clearly he’d forgotten about it in his nauseated state.

“Arturo, how are you feeling?” I asked. The sickening spoiled milk stink was closing in on me; my mouth started to water.

“Better,” he replied as I bent over and unleashed a torrent of beery bile all over his pristine Air Jordans.

Slowly I returned to a standing position. The students, including Arturo, were still frozen in shock.

The door opened, and in walked the principal, Mr. Barron. He eyes were fixed on his iphone as he strode into the room. “Good morning, Ms. Langley. Don’t mind me, I’m just here to observe. Carry on with your lesson.” He finished reading whatever was on his phone’s display and looked up at the class.

The students stared at him mutely. I shot Arturo a desperate look, bulging my eyes at him in a fashion I hoped was expressive. “Good morning, Mr. Barron!” I chirped, surreptitiously wiping my chin. “Arturo had a little accident. And there was a little, uh, spoiled milk problem. I’ll have everything under control and back to teaching in no time.”

The principal’s face contorted as the odor hit him. “I understand, Ms. Langley. I’ll get the custodian in here ASAP, and we’ll reschedule your observation for another day.”

“Thank you, Mr. Barron.”

The door closed behind him. Charles opened his mouth.

 “P.E.?” I blurted quickly, before he could speak. “Extra P.E.? What do you guys say?”

Charles opened his mouth again. Arturo pointed to his shoes. “P.E. every day this week?”

Charles shut his mouth. Arturo looked resigned. A Hail Mary pass, completed.

This story was written by Kate Malone, who lives in Los Angeles and teaches elementary school.
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