It was obvious that Katherine was displeased with Joe Kleen but little did she know that he was equally, if less obviously, displeased with himself. Joe prided himself on his ability to remain patient and calm in stormy situations but when she disrupted the quiet start to his morning he had lost if not his cool, then at least his smooth in front of the thirty children of Becky Feldt’s second grade class. “Now I have to figure out how to bring Katherine back into the fold,” he subvocalized.
Becky had left Joe detailed lesson plans that were rudimentarily blocked for time. “Okay,” he said to the class, “let’s see what we have in store for our day today, shall we?”
He had written his name in large, block letters on the chalk board and beneath this he wrote out the day’s schedule. He printed the numerals 7:45, added a dash and then wrote 8:00 and next to that he wrote Handwriting. “Well, that’s water under the bridge and so is this,” he said, printing 8:00 – 8:10 Attendance and Lunch Count.
He read the schedule aloud as he wrote it on the chalk board, naming the content areas and drawing quick pictographs to indicate the subjects. “Looks like we have art from nine till nine fifty,” he said, sketching a little easel on the board. “That should be fun.” He continued in this way, enumerating the day’s schedule all the way through 2:35 where he wrote Dismissal.
Trey returned with the lunch room envelope that held red, green and white plastic buttons an inch in diameter. The buttons were like Vegas gambling markers, a proxy for money, with red indicating hot lunch, green alternate and white milk. “Where should I leave these, Mrs. Kleen? Oops! Sorry! Mister Kleen,” he corrected, red faced.
“No worries, I get confused sometimes too. On the desk please. Thanks, Trey. Any problems?”
“No. The lunch lady asked where my buddy was.”
“Okay. Speaking of which, I need to change the helpers from Bryce and Katie to Trey and Katherine. Katherine, could you do that for me please?
Katherine’s head shot up and she held Joe’s eyes for a three second count before answering, “I guess so.”
“Great,” he responded. “Oh! And would you collect the handwriting papers please?”
Prior to his question about the handwriting papers the girl’s facial features and body language had indicated she was at least partially mollified from their earlier un-pleasantries but the request for her to gather up the dittos brought on renewed bombast. “I’m not done! And Mrs. Feldt just has us pass them forward!”
“Okay. It’s okay that you’re not done, and if you’d rather we just pass them forward we can do that too. I tell you what, why don’t you grab your hand writing, leave it on your desk, come up and change the board to you and Trey for us and then we can get moving?”
She again hesitated, then scowled, pursed her lips, looked down, then back up to his eyes, nodded and replied, “Okay, Mr. Kleen.”
“Cool. Thanks, Katherine.”
“Looks like eight ten till eight thirty is weather and sharing. Does anybody have something to share? Craig?”
As Katherine removed Katie and Bryce’s names from the helpers slot and replaced them with hers and Trey’s Joe said to her, “Thanks, Katherine. Good job.
“Sorry. Craig? What did you want to share?”
“I wanted to share that I went to where my Pop-pop lives this weekend and that he has old timer’s disease and that makes me sad. I love my Pop-pop and I wish he could play with me like before back in his old house.”
Joe was at first mystified by this announcement but after a few seconds of processing he asked, “Does your Pop-pop live in a retirement home? A nursing home?”
“Yes. And sometimes it is smelly and sometimes people do weird things there.”
“I see. I bet that is difficult. I’m sorry. Did you say your Pop-pop has Alzheimer’s disease?”
“Old timer’s. That’s what my dad said.”
“Hmm. Maybe. You might want to ask your dad about that name. How long has he been in his new place?”
“Not very long I think. We used to go to his farm every weekend but then I didn’t see him for about a month but now we go to his new place every Sunday but he doesn’t play like he used to and we don’t spend the night anymore.”
“Yes,” Joe said quietly. “I think I understand. I remember my grandmother living in a room like you Pop-pop’s; it was hard. Good luck to him.”
A lot of the students felt compelled to talk about their Halloween costumes and after a few of these Joe had said, “My costume was the Tin-Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz and my wife’s was Dorothy.”
Cully raised his hand and said, “You went trick or treating!?”
“Oh, no. We went to a costume party. It was fun.”
“I’m not allowed to go trick or treating or wear Halloween costumes because that’s the devil’s holiday.”
“Really? Well, I promise I didn’t do any devil stuff and I don’t think the other kids did either but it looks like we’re about out of sharing time so let’s move on to the weather. Okay? So, what’s the weather like today?”