The first day in a classroom was always the worst, he thought. Since they all knew each other already, there was none of that nervousness of meeting a new teacher for the first time to keep the kids in line. So they got out of line.
“This is not rocket science, this is Sex Ed. I’m not trying to teach you rocket science or Einstein’s theory of relativity, I’m trying to teach you people how to use a goddamn condom,” he yelled.
There was snickering. As always. Every year, every goddamn year.
“Yes, you monkeys, a condom. A rubber, a raincoat … or whatever it is you kids call them these days,” he added.
He paused and wondered if calling the pupils monkeys would get him into trouble. On the other hand, he called everybody monkey, and had done so for the past 36 years. Monkey, monkey, monkey.
He was a former national gymnastics champion, and he’d represented his country – and the country of those goddamn kids for that matter – at World Championships, for crying out loud. He could still do a handstand, just like that, and every year he challenged the new class to a pushup competition.
In his thirty-six years as the Phys Ed teacher at the Ronald W Reagan High School – formerly Red Pine High – had nobody ever beaten him. Not ever. Not any of the kids, and not one of them other teachers, not even Principal Skinner.
That’s what he’d always wanted to do: Handstands and pushups, play ball, and run as fast as he could. He never wanted to be in a classroom. As a kid, he wanted to be a ballplayer, and then, when his gymnastics coach had suggested he could get into the Olympics, an Olympic champion.
He’d been right on schedule, too, winning the national title and all, but his career had been “cut short” – he always used the same pun – by a freak accident at a golf course. His club had broken and he cut a tendon in his finger. The doctors botched the operation, and he couldn’t bend his right middle finger. More importantly, holding onto a bar – high or parallel – or rings or the pommels on a horse was out of the question.
He pushed his glasses down onto his nose, and looked at a boy in the back row. The boy’s hair was a mess, and the clothes ripped here and there, all of which annoyed him, too.
“Jimmy, gimme twenty,” he said.
The boy looked at him, defiantly, but then, slowly, stood up, only to get down on his knees to be able to do pushups.
“Anyone else want to improve their torso strength? Remember, your body is your cathedral!”
“Temple,” somebody yelled.
He ignored it, turned around and wrote “Sexually transmitted diseases” on the chalkboard. At “sexually” nobody said anything, by “transmitted” he could hear a few kids snickering again, and by the time he got to the last “s”, he knew the entire classroom was about to burst into laughter. As always.
See, when he wrote, his middle finger was sticking straight up, as if he was flipping the bird to everybody behind him.
He underlined the s, just for good measure, and threw the chalk away.