Joe wasn’t sure if Liz was stating a fact or an opinion. “I’m sorry,” he stammered, “did you say your mother is a witch?”
“Yes,” answered the round faced, blue eyed little blonde girl. “A Wiccan; but she’s a good witch.”
“Okay. Good to know.”
“She always says that,” Trystan piped in.
Liz looked at Trystan and declared, “Well it’s true! She’s going to a big festival for the solstice and I might get to wake up at dawn and stay up till midnight with her!” speaking to Joe she added, “That’s the first day of winter. Or summer, but this one is winter.”
“Thanks, Lizzie,” Joe answered. “I know what the solstices are, and the equinoxes. Will you be inside or outside?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been yet.”
“Well stay warm.”
After roll call was complete he announced, “If you haven’t selected your lunch now is your last chance. Looks like we have Salisbury steak or pizza for the alternate. Oh! And if you just need milk then please select that, too,” he added as he studied the wall mounted folder which held a laminated strip of paper that had each of the thirty children’s names printed in bold letters and the five possible selections of, “Hot Lunch,” “Alternate,” “Cold,” “Milk” or “None,” that allowed each child to independently select his lunch choice. Below the chart was the storage area for the slips and the names on the four slips that remained unassigned corresponded to the four children, three boys and one girl, who walked up to the chart and moved their slip to the slot that indicated their preferences.
“Mr. Kleen,” one of the late lunch selecting boys said, “you didn’t move your choice. Are you getting hot or alternate?”
Joe glanced at the tag the boy had just moved to “Hot Lunch” and answered, “Well, Victor I am getting none, because I brought my lunch. Thanks for thinking about me.”
“Nope. I brought it in a thermos. Let’s finish your handwriting, shall we?”
“Okay,” he said with a smile as he returned to his seat.
The children worked on their handwriting in relative quiet and mostly without too much side chatter as Joe found lunch and attendance slips in the substitute folder, tallied up the lunch count, wrote none on the line designated, “Teacher’s Lunch” and then filled in the attendance sheet to indicate all present. He glanced at the wall chart that indicated which two students should walk the slips to the lunch room and office and announced, “Katie, Bryce please walk these slips to the attendance office and the lunchroom for me please.”
“No!” came the unqualified, indignant wail from Katherine. Standing behind her desk she shrieked, “No, no, no! It’s my week! Mine and Treys!”
“Whoa!” Joe responded. “Calm down, young lady. The wall chart says Katie and Bryce, not Katherine and Trey. You need to sit down and stop screaming.”
Bryce raised his hand and said, “Mr. Kleen? She’s right. It was mine and Katie’s turn last week. This week it’s supposed to be Katherine and Trey.”
“See!” Katherine hollered.
Joe walked from his desk to where Katherine stood and said, “What I see is that you are very upset about a very little thing. If you think that I’m going to allow a student to shriek at me rudely, tell me how to run my class and then represent Mrs. Feldt’s room to all of East Side like this then you have another think coming. Please sit.”
“But it’s my turn! Mrs. Feldt said that it would be-”
“Please sit and compose yourself. Trey, can you walk these to the office by yourself?”
“Great. Please do so. Katherine, if you will help me change the names from Katie and Bryce to Katherine and Trey then we won’t have this problem again. If you think you’re ready-”
“But it’s my turn!”
“You are not ready. Fine. Trey, please take these to the office,” Joe told the boy, “and Katherine if you need I can send you to the office so you can calm down but we are not going to scream at one another in order to get our way, understood?”
“Mrs. Feldt said-”
“Katherine, I asked you if that was understood and yet you are still screaming. Please come with me. Everybody else, please get back to your handwriting and we’ll move on once Trey is back. Please do your best second grade work. Katherine I would like you to sit at the table at the back of the room- Whoops! No screaming. Oh! And take your handwriting and a pencil please.
“When you are calmed down please let me know. I’ll change the names so I’ll know that you are supposed to run errands for me today, but that can only happen if you act like a responsible East Side elementary student. If that doesn’t happen then I will have to select someone else.”
Katherine gave Joe a look that was best described as venomous, roughly grabbed her paper and began to stomp back to the table Joe had indicated. “Wait, please. Please try walking without stomping. Trey, why are you still here my friend? Go.”
Katherine walked to the indicated table and sat in a chair that faced the wall so Joe could not read her expression nor watch her mouth vitriolic words toward him. He didn’t have to see her face to know that she was barely under control; her body language told him all that he needed to know. Joe looked at the wall clock. Eight ten and he’d already upset the apple cart in a loud if not important way. So much for his desire of running Becky’s classroom calmly.