Joe pulled his bike bags down from the high shelf where he had placed them just before seven thirty that morning and sighed. “Wow, what a day,” he said with a whimsical smile, finally finishing the lunch he had started four hours earlier. Done with what was supposed to have been lunch he shoved his soft sided lunch cooler and thermos back in his bike bag, left Becky’s classroom, walked down the hall to the men’s restroom, entered a stall, slipped out of his teacher attire and into bike shorts and a jersey.
He started to put his cycling shoes on but decided to add his chinos and dress shirt over his cycling togs before lacing up his shoes. “I really don’t need to be walking the halls dressed like Greg LeMonde,” he said to his reflection. Leaving the lavatory he turned toward the front office but stopped, turned back the way he had come and stuck his head in the first of the second grade classrooms he came to. Barb Osgood was half sitting on a corner of her desk and Sarah Landis sat in a chair beside her. They both looked up when Joe tapped gently on the room’s doorframe. “I just wanted to say good bye before I took off,” he said. “Thanks for making me feel welcome.”
“Why that’s nice,” Barb said. “Here,” she added as she grabbed a slip of paper and a pen from her desk, “why don’t you jot down your number and then I’ll add you to my sub list. I know you’re on the master but I like to keep my own quick one.”
“Yeah! That’d be great,” Joe replied, writing his name and number on the piece of paper. “Please call me if you need a sub.”
“Will do, Joe. It’s been nice meeting you,” she added.
“I’ll get your info off of Barb’s sheet,” Sarah said with a smile. “I think it would be nice for the kids to have more contact with a man: Some of these boys only see their fathers once a month at most.”
“Well, as I said, call me if I can help. Nice meeting you both.”
He walked to Lisa’s room to say goodbye but finding it empty he made his way back down the hall toward the school office. Rounding the first corner Lisa emerged from the women’s room and smiled at Joe as their eyes met. “Leaving so soon?” she asked.
He answered with a single quick exhalation between pursed lips and said, “Yes, indeed. I’m about done in,” he answered, returning her smile.
“So, how was your first day teaching? Everything you dreamed it would be?”
“Let’s just say there were a few things that came up that I didn’t expect but I think we had a good day overall. At the very least I’m certain that everyone survived.”
“Survival is kind of a bare minimum around here,” she answered with a wink. “Ready to come back if we need you?”
“Heck yeah! In a heartbeat. I gave Barb and Sarah my number,” he said as he fumbled through his orange panniers looking for paper and pen. “Did you want me to write it down for you?”
She smiled again and said, “No, it’s okay. I’ll get it from them. Lord almighty, what do you have in there?”
“Well, I have my helmet of course, and I brought a windbreaker in case it was cold and I had my lunch in here and I’m going to slip out of these school clothes and put them and my bike lock in here before I go.”
“How far is your ride?”
“We clocked it in this morning at about fifteen miles so not too far. I should be home in about forty five.”
“Ambitious. Rachel stopped by. She said you were going to audition for ‘Comedy’?”
Joe tilted his head to the side and pulled it back two inches. “Oh!” he said, as understanding of her shorthand washed over him. “Yes. I am planning to audition. Nick Hayes thought he would too. I might even be able to talk my wife into trying out.”
“You should! I absolutely love the teamwork that goes into a show. Have you done much acting?”
“About as much as I have teaching. One show but lots of classes! Not acting classes; just intro to theatre and a drama and Shakespeare courses at Central. How about you?”
“Oh, a few. I’ve been doing this for a while. Just be prepared for it to get under your skin. What about your wife? Has she acted?”
“Not at all. She likes theatre though. We’ve seen a few shows and that’s actually where we met; in one of the drama classes. Our first real date was to go see a play.”
“Well that sounds promising. Figure you’ll audition Sunday or Monday?”
“I told Nick Sunday. It’s my day off and that way I won’t have to rush.”
“Okay then, Mr. Joe, I think I’ll audition on Sunday, too. I’ll see you there,” she concluded with a smile.
“Cool. See you there.”
Suzanne Layer sat at the same desk she had been at when Joe had arrived eight and a half hours earlier. “Don’t you ever go home?” he asked with a smile.
She looked up, her eyes focused on him for a second and then she returned his smile. “Mr. Kleen. How was your day?”
“If I say fantastic does my chance of coming back go up?”
“Possibly. Was it?”
“In many ways at many times, yes. I think I have a lot to learn still.”
“Recognition of that fact is probably more important than anything else. Anything I can do for you?”
“Nope. Just on my way out and wanted to say goodbye. And thanks!”
“Thanks to you too. Be careful riding home.”
“Will do. Bye.”
The bike rack was as empty as when he had arrived. He looked around and then self-consciously took off his shoes and removed his pants. Sitting on the ground he put his Avocet cycling shoes back on and carefully rolled up his pants before putting them in a pannier. He stood, caught the eye of a woman he did not recognize, gave her a big wave to hide his embarrassment and unbuttoned his shirt. The woman continued to stare at him as she made her way toward her car.
“Guess she’s not used to seeing half naked men hanging out in the schoolyard,” he told himself as he removed his shirt and likewise rolled and stowed it next to his pants. Grabbing his keys he unlocked the bike, took out his Bell V1 Pro helmet, placed it on his head and put the two plus pound Citadel bike lock in the orange bike bag.
Walking the bike off of the curb he waved once more to the gal who had apparently decided that he was not up to no good, straddled his bike and turned right out of the parking lot, heading toward the Chattahoochee and home. The day was warm, he was pleasantly tired and he hoped that his teaching career was finally getting started.