returning to musty F.A. till the weekend was over. I, however, occupied a don's suite in the school's residence wing... which is why I was still on my feet, trudging a full kilometer past the town limits, when my friends were already snoring in their beds.
Let me list the pluses of don-ship: cleaning staff emptied my wastebaskets, washed my linen, and occasionally removed the dust coyotes that had long ago devoured the dust bunnies under my bed. Let me also list the minuses: long late liquorized limps from the pub, back to a place where I was required to serve as shepherd, mentor, and surrogate father to twenty teenaged boys, all either wealthy brats, wealthy wallflowers, or wealthy nice-kids whose eyes glazed over at the word "geometry."
The academy seemed peaceful as I approached. The calm was due to the season—in the official calendar of the Spark Lords, it was the Month of the Quill, but in the classic calendar still observed by my family, it was Zul-Hijjah: the ash-end of winter, leaving muddy clumps of snow mixed with snowy clumps of mud all over the school's campus. That night, the vernal equinox was a single day away... and while the weather was unlikely to change just because the almanac turned to a new page, I fondly looked forward to the moment I could shout, "Spring, spring, spring!"
Everyone I knew was sick of winter. The students had long ago lost interest in icy midnight frolics (diving naked into snow drifts or stealing trays from the refectory to go tobogganing down the greenhouse hill); every last kid in our dormitory was now a sweaty stick of dynamite, just waiting to explode in spring madness. One breath of warm wind and kaboom, the school grounds would be littered with teenaged bodies, wriggling under every bush, sprawled on the banks of our local creek, or snuggling in more imaginative trysting spots (up a tree, down a storm sewer, on top of the school roof)... but for now, it was still too cold, too muddy, and too much the middle of term. As summer approached—as holiday separations loomed, and, "Who knows if we'll both be back in the fall?"—the antics and romantics would sprout behind every bush, and I would...
I would seethe with envy at their feverish innocence.
Envy was an occupational hazard of teaching—envy and cynical disdain. Teachers affected by such feelings usually went one of two ways: either they acted like adolescents themselves, or else they viewed youth as a disease that must be cured by heaping doses of tedium. Our academy had plenty of both types in the faculty common room: middle-aged men and women dressed in frowzy imitations of youth fashion sitting cheek by jowl with other middle-aged men and women who ranted about "irresponsible immaturity" and devoted themselves to expunging every particle of teenage joy.
Was I becoming either of those? I fervently hoped not. I'd set my sights on becoming a font of inspiration, guiding young minds and spurring them on to heights of intellectual...
Damn. I wasn't drunk enough to believe my usual diatribe. Lately it had become my habit to wax eloquent about the glories of my career as I tottered home after a session of poisoning my liver. Some drunks weep about the girls they left behind; others rage at the girls they didn't leave behind; still others sing random verses of "The Maiden and the Hungry Pigboy," or tell (for the fortieth time) about the night they saw a Spark Lord battle a headless white alien atop an OldTech skyscraper. When I was drunk, I made speeches to myself: pedantic internal monologues where I tried to find the perfect words to express why I hadn't been wasting my life teaching the same classes, year after year, to kids who'd forget every lesson the moment they graduated.
My goodness, what an important job teaching was! How crucial for students to know someone like me, levelheaded but possessed of a sense of fun, a man of science, a role model! How especially vital it was to enlighten these children,
Toni Bernhard, Sylvia Boorstein
Robert Rubin, Jacob Weisberg