The school year always seemed to end this way. Everything tattered at the edges, broken bits of plans and friendships spiraling outward into the uncertain territory of summer vacation, where all knowledge given would be offered up to the winds, just as the seeds of dandelions are, and students would arrive, newly ignorant, for the following school year, or else be forever let loose of such constraints, never to know anything again.
Of course, these were the thoughts of an old school teacher, a jaded veteran of what appeared to be a pointless war against the love affair with mediocrity that the country had long harbored. Marie sighed in the unfamiliar calm of her classroom, tidying up and squaring corners before the place was shuttered for another term.
Well, it was someone else’s problem now. This was her last day. She was moving to Montana, where she’d put her long-unused degree in accounting to the test, doing the books for a farm equipment wholesale business. She assumed that she’d have to suffer a different breed of fools there, and hoped primarily to be left to her own devices.
“Ms. Coxson?” a shy voice said from the door.
She turned around and forced a smile she hoped was inviting. It was Jocelyn, a quiet and painfully shy student of hers, just now graduating.
“Hello, Jocelyn. I imagined all the students were gone by now. Is everything all right?”
Jocelyn nodded. “I’m okay.”
“Is there anything I can do for you, then?”
“I…I just wanted to say that I really liked your class. Some people said that you were moving, and I thought I’d, like, wish you well and stuff.” Jocelyn had her hands clasped in front of her, her eyes focused closely on her own toes.
“Well, thank you, Jocelyn. I appreciate it.”
“Okay, bye, then.” The shy girl disappeared from the room with a rustle of her tartan dress and the squeak of her waffle tread shoes.
Marie took in a breath and let it out. Her hand rested on the stack of texts at the corner of her side table. The afternoon sun was still strong outside the window. A shaggy kid pulled an intricate trick on a skateboard. His friend tried the same stunt and failed, sprawling to the pavement. They bumped fists, put their boards beneath their arms, and walked up the street and out of her line of vision. Marie’s hands shook just a little, as she ran them through her hair. “Damn,” she said quietly.
She had hoped so hard that she wouldn’t miss this.