Well, you’ve made it. Five, grueling years of lower education, clawing your way to the top of your class. You’ve got respect. You’re pre-pre-pre law, and everyone knows it.
Most of all, you’re playground monitor; it says so right on your florescent vest. It’s a bit like being the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you tell that cute little ink slinger from the school newspaper as you light one of your dad’s cigars, a brilliant black Camacho. The space between you fills with a thick, gray cloud.
“Care for a smoke?” you ask her.
“I don’t smoke,” she says, shocked. “You’re only 11! Does Mr. Calloway know you’re smoking in the lunchroom?”
“I don’t know,” you say, reaching under your chair and pulling Mr. Calloway’s head from a cardboard box. “Why don’t you ask him?”
“Wanna do it?” you ask her.
Well, that didn’t really happen, but it will. When you’re a big-time lawyer it will.
You continue. Basically, you tell her, you’re the eyes and the ears on the ground for the principal. And that’s who you report to: Ms. Standish. You report to her often, for a number of reasons:
- Kids throwing rocks at you
- Kids calling you names
- Kids undermining your authority
- Kids taking your bullhorn
You have a bullhorn, indeed. You put in a requisition order for a sidearm, small caliber, but it was denied. So you put in an order for a Taser and that was denied, too. Your current request for a battery powered humvee with full riot gear is still being reviewed by the school board.
Your job is to stand on the steps, scanning the playground for any sign of:
- Cultural insensitivity
- Sexual harassment
- Undue joy
You see a lot of crazy things on the playground. Today, you watch as fourth-grader Marty Tosh kisses Jenny Chapman, a recent transfer student from England.
“God help us,” you mutter to yourself, stomping over to Marty. “Do you know what you’ve just done? Do you? Tell me you didn’t know Jenny Chapman has cooties! Tell me you didn’t know it’s a highly virulent European strain!”
“No she does not have cooties!” Marty says. “You have cooties! You have cooties times infinity!”
“You’ll probably bleed to death from your rectum,” you say. “You’ll have to be quarantined.”
“No fair!” Marty says, going to a time-out on the school steps. “You’re a stupid-face!”
Protocol, you tell yourself. Stick to protocol. You climb onto the big tire and start barking orders into your bullhorn. A triage center needs to be set up under the monkey bars. You’ll need to get someone on the phone to mobilize local and national law enforcement: the whole, goddamn state needs to be shut down. You’ll need an airlift of medical supplies. You need to call your contact at the CDC to see if there’s any cootie antivenin.
“No kids leave this playground,” you say to your assistant, Samuel “Sam” Ingersol, a fifth grader.
“Sir, what if they have to pee?”
You turn on him, enraged. You put your forearm under his chin and shove him against the slide.
“Have you seen what cooties can do to a man?” you growl. Sam shakes his head. “Well, I have. Roosevelt Elementary, second grade. We had an outbreak in the gym, right in the middle of dodgeball.”
You look down, trying to hold back the tears: “Have you ever seen a kid come apart like light chunk tuna from a can? If there’s a God he sure the hell wasn’t there that day.”
You release Sam just as a group of large fifth graders steal your bullhorn. They run off, laughing. Let them have their fun, you think. They’ll be throwing up their insides within the hour.
You go to the teacher’s lounge and push the door open. Ms. Standish and Mr. Rexford, the new PE teacher, are sitting at a table reading a dog-eared copy of Penthouse.
“We have a situation.”
“What is it, Tommy?” Ms. Standish asks. She’s pretty, like your mom. You’d like to do her someday when you’re a lawyer.
“Cooties outbreak,” you say, through clenched teeth. “Real bad. European strain. I wouldn’t rule out the nuclear option.”
“Oh,” she says. “I thought someone fell off the swings.”
“I can radio it in,” you say. “Get some fast movers in here, pronto. They’ll hit the whole area. Hoka Hey. Cut ’em down, Mama Sumae.”
She looks at you, at Mr. Rexford, and back to you.
“Do what you have to do,” she says.
You nod solemnly, salute, and dip out of the room.
On your way back to the playground, however, the bell sounds. Recess is over. The cooties pandemic will have to wait.
You’ve got an art class to attend! Today, you’ll be filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of your fellow students for more finger paints.