Her Beautiful Oldness


I DID SAY she had a face like the Wicked Witch of the West, but I didn't mean anything by it. I was only going with what she had out there. She had a nose, pitted and drop-tipped, a pair of glasses. The rest of it was under a black habit maybe fifty layers thick and hanging to her ankles. Sometimes I'd glimpse these pointed black shoes.

Sister Vivian might have been scary if you weren't laughing at her getting all serious trying to teach us something. She never showed a tooth, but every once in a while she'd slip up and start cackling at our antics, with this little-bad-girl way of covering her face with her hands when she knew she shouldn't be laughing. And we'd cackle back to her in the same laugh we had already made famous in the school. This always got her to raging and threatening the class with a ping-pong paddle. It was great.

Our seventh period eighth-grade English must have been her class from hell. I was probably the worst because I'd do most anything to get her mad. I thought she was hysterical when mad. I'd push until I could get her arthritic fingers to twitch and her head to start shaking. I'd wear the woman down to shrieking stuff from out of the nineteenth century: “You boob!” “You bone-headed nincompoop, you!” “Lummox!” I really couldn't be satisfied until she came at me with her ping-pong paddle. It was a trip watching her try to control us with a ping-pong paddle. No one else dared try to paddle us with anything, but Vivian didn't care about lawsuits and student rights. She taught us like it was back in the 1950s.

Her class was a little world of its own. That's when you know your teacher is old, when you go back a few centuries every time you walk through the door. Even the smells were of the olden times, like kindergarten days with white paste that no one uses anymore, and wax, and there's a touch of cinnamon and iodine in the air somehow, all without a reason, all lost soon after entering. I even liked the near-taste of the plastic signs she had hanging everywhere, signs admonishing us to be good and to read. I would never have admitted to enjoying the sound of her voice when she read us stories. It was such an old voice, and just as deep as a man's voice.

I heard it from five people several different times and couldn't believe any of them. I couldn't believe people just fell out like that. The guys said Vivian was at her desk doing fine, fine as in any other Vivian day, and just fell out on the floor. For no reason at all. Martinez was with me at lunch and said he saw her drop dead without a sound. I said people don't just die like that in real life. They make noise. They roll around on the ground and stuff. He just shrugged as he ate.

“Didn't even make a sound,” Martinez said again, shaking his head slowly but the excitement shining in his eyes. “Everybody just stood looking at her. And we weren't bad like your seventh period, so it couldn't be a heart attack.” He was ripping and chewing on a fillet topped with ketchup and spitting the clear wiry bones out on his plate and sometimes on the table. I munched on a fry like nothing of the day had bothered me.

Her Beautiful Oldness continues...
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About Jerald Matters


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There's really no way to make my bio interesting since I've done absolutely nothing of note on the Earth, I almost saw Led Zeppelin in Pittsburgh once -- does that count? I'm a behavior analyst and teacher with degrees up the ass and some days they make me clean poop..But it's not so bad. I turned one...read more horrifying work experience into a story for "The Evergreen Review". Another essay to a journal called "Out of Chaos. Did some work as a reporter. Edited a small weekly in Tidewater Virginia. I don't know. It's the little things in life that make you happy, I suppose.
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