I wrote the following short story during the school year this year. It is autobiographical and partially true ;)
"The Empty Chair"
The teacher walked next to the wheeled hoveround that belonged to his special student down the long hallway just like every day. Today, however, the student was not in it. He had been dismissed early for a dentist appointment. Turning the corner, the teacher rotated the navigational joystick so that the chair’s motorized servos caused it to maneuver its wheels, rounding nicely to the right and into to the next, shorter hallway.
The teacher stopped and opened the heavy, metal, gray-painted door to the welding classroom. He nudged the wooden wedge into the gap beneath the door, keeping it open, then returned to the chair. He noted the silence as he did so, missing his student, with whom he normally conversed and enjoyed talking to each afternoon. Crossing the welding classroom, wherein the students had concluded their metal bonding work for the day and returned to their desks, the teacher passed by a group of familiar pupils. Several of these young gentlemen subscribed to the school’s perennial group of “usual suspects,” being written up more frequently for misdeeds than others of their peers.
Being bored and lacking the stimulation of his usual stimulating conversation with his student, the teacher’s own deviant streak pulled strings in his brain, winding up a mechanism that caused his mischievous, boyish gears to kick off their cobwebs and begin to turn. Looking at the seated students, he suddenly changed his expression from its standard, vacant one to one of quiet disconsolation and panic. Turning to one of the boys, whom he had rather recently prescribed after school detention, the teacher asked in a calm yet concerned tone, “have you seen the kid that goes with this chair?”
The students’ expressions changed from boredom and mundane lack of thrill to an alarmed worry in measurable increments, until their eyeballs grew wide, with diameters rivaling those of dinner saucers. They gazed, confused and concerned, at the teacher, their mouths hanging agape. Was he serious? Had he really lost the kid they saw him assisting through their shared learning space each afternoon? Where was the kid? How could he have gotten away? Where would he have gone or be hiding? They didn’t remember him crawling through here…
The teacher’s expression changed suddenly again. His lips curled up into a grin, and his eyes lightened. “Just kidding.” he said. The two students’ expressions changed again, their comprehension equally as measurably deliberate as before, their facial features morphing from unsettled to amused. They began giggling in deep, laughing grunts. The teacher left them there laughing, and resumed his walk, piloting the empty chair out the large, mechanized bay door and down the ramp at the back of the school. There he met the driver of the pale, yellow diesel-fueled vehicle, just like every day. As the bell toned releasing the still grunting students, the weary teacher assisted the driver with lowering the mechanical ramp and loading the hoveround onto it.
There the chair would remain anchored til next day when the student returned, casting off the wheelchair his parents owned like a spent section of a Saturn V rocket, and returning to school to scoot the hallways of the high school in his sitting command module vehicle once more.
The teacher smiled. Job done. He returned to his classroom to complete some work, before finally heading home to rest his weary head for the day. Plot twist: that teacher was me.
Friends of T.D. Smith