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As they hurried through the East Side Elementary hallways in hot pursuit of the class ahead of them Katherine Miller whined, “It’s not fair!”

Joe Kleen watched as the second grade class they were trailing rounded the corner of the corridor on their way to lunch. “Darn it,” he whispered, “we’re late.

“What’s not fair?” He asked with a sigh to Katherine.

“The other classes are going first,” she replied. “It’s our week to go first!”

“So what would you have had them do? Wait for us while we figured out the lunch mess? I know you’re only seven years old but you’re not in kindergarten,” Joe hissed. “The whole school’s lunch schedule can’t be thrown off just because we had a glitch.”

“I am not seven! I turned eight last month!”

“That just makes it that much worse, my little chickadee. And aren’t we supposed to be quiet in the halls?”

As they entered the cafeteria a third grade class stood against the wall waiting for Joe’s tardy wards to precede them in line. The teacher in attendance flashed him the most crocodile of smiles as he said, “Sorry,” and brought his children to their position behind the other three second grade classes.

“Oh, no problem,” the woman answered. “I just have to eat quickly and then head out to recess duty.”

“Oh! Me, too! I’m Joe Kleen,” he said.

“Nice to meet you,” she replied as she walked away.

“Okay, Mrs. Feldt’s class. I will meet you outside for recess in twenty, er, seventeen minutes.”

Joe hurried back to his classroom, grabbed his lunch from his bike bag and then walked one door down to Barb Osgood’s room where the East Side Elementary second grade teachers were eating and chatting. “Oh, good,” Barb said in greeting between bites of lunch, “you made it.”

“Yeah, barely,” he replied, unpacking his Tupperware encased midday meal. “Sorry if I threw off your schedule. We had an errant red chip that was supposed to have been green.”

“Oh,” Lisa said, “Who was it?”

“It was J.R.”

“Then it’s probably true. Some of the kids change their minds after they’ve made their selections and will change the board on you,” Sarah said, popping a bite of Salisbury steak in her mouth. “My guess is that someone did that to J.R., not the other way around.”

“Yeah. Probably. He was pretty adamant about hating the Salisbury steak. What do I do to prevent that from happening?”

“Really?” Sarah asked. “I think it’s quite good.”

“He said he doesn’t like meatloaf either,” Joe added.

“Well,” Bard replied, “If you don’t want this sort of shenanigans going on you either write down everybody’s selection or watch the board like a hawk. Or both! If you write it down and then see someone has changed things it’s easy to confront the little miscreant, but if you don’t know who’s being bad you’re just kind of stuck.”

“Hmm. Yeah,” Joe answered, “I can see that. Now.” Joe opened his thermos and poured his milk in the container’s little cup. “I’ll remember that for next time.”

“I bet you will,” Sarah said with a chuckle. “So how are you liking East Side?”

“Depends on the moment,” he answered between bites of sandwich. “Definitely not the same as student teaching,” he added.

“No, that’s true,” Barb replied. “Nobody there to back you up if you make an error. You can call us for help of course but by then it’s probably already hit the fan.”


“How long have you been subbing, Joe?” Lisa asked.

“Oh, since November,” he answered sheepishly.

“Since November?” Sarah asked. “Why then that means… Oh! Got it. Wow. Well welcome to the club. You holding up?”

“As I said, mostly yes. Just some of those curve balls have me swinging and missing.”

“Same for everybody,” Barb reassured him. “We’ve all made our share of mistakes.”

“Yeah,” Joe said, “and I think one of mine was ticking off the third grade teacher who has recess duty with me. She pretty much snubbed my apology.”

“Nicotine’ll do that,” Barb answered. “When you have to eat, get in a smoke and grab the bathroom in less than twenty minutes sometimes folks get feisty.”

“Hmm. Tell me her name please? I told her mine but as I said she snubbed me.”

“Rachel Potthof. She’s actually rather nice and great with the kids, you just got in the way of her and her fix. Ask her about community theatre when you see her, she loves the stuff,” Barb said.

“Does she act?”

“Some,” Lisa responded, “but mostly I think she likes to work behind the scenes. Stage manager I think she calls it? But whatever you do, don’t be late twice. You have three minutes to be out on that playground ready to help ride herd on over two hundred and forty second and third graders,” she said. “Have fun!” she added, wiggling her fingers at him.