October 9

Night Class (Part 5)

 

[…continued from October 8 entry…]

 

The lot was more crowded than he expected, but Rutland easily found a space. He parked away from the other cars, and stepped out to access the damage to his own.

Dark streaks and smears and handprints covered the windows and the olive green body of his Camry. The fake blood, he assumed, would wash off easily, though he worried about dings in the paint job beneath. In a few spots, there might be slight dents in the shape of student fists. He ran his hand along the front bumper, and felt a clear indentation on the left section. The nearby tire was soaked red, with tissue-paper flecks clogging some of the tread.

Rutland shook his head. A casual observer might think he really had run over a pedestrian. Or two or three.

His own appearance would confirm the suspicion. His shirt was ruined. Not only the stick and stink of that red soup: he’d apparently been in more of a scuffle than he recalled, because his left sleeve was torn at the shoulder. There was no way he could teach in this condition.

Rutland decided he should visit his classroom briefly, give the students a double-homework for next week, and simply dismiss the group. After explaining his appearance, of course.

A large banner stretched over the double-door entrance to Kraft Hall: WELCOME ALUMNI.

Finally, he remembered the special occasion for the evening.  Some administrator had decided to celebrate “World Teachers’ Week” by inviting students to visit the classes of their favorite teachers.  That explained why current students had chosen this evening for their “Die-In” — to embarrass the administration in front of potential alumni donors.

That also explained why Rutland’s Department Chair had suggested he should wear a suit and tie this evening.  Instead of torn, blood-stained, business casual.

He entered Kraft Hall and took the stairs to the second floor. From the stairwell, he heard a buzz of distant chatter. As he stepped into the upstairs hall, he saw a dark-clad young man dragging a stack of chairs down the hall.

Rutland pitied whichever teacher would have so many visitors.

The student opened the door to 212, struggling to push the stack of chairs inside. A cacophony of excited chatter swelled from the open door.

212 was Rutland’s classroom.

Why would anybody want to visit Rutland’s Technical Writing class? The alumni should have signed up for a lively debate in a Criminal Justice, gone to watch explosions in Advanced Chemistry.

He was tempted to turn around and leave.

“Mr. Rutland! Long time no see!”

A hand slapped him on the back, and Rutland nearly jumped out of his tattered, bloody shirt. He collected himself, turned to face the former pupil. “Andrew, is it?” One of his weaker students, but good-natured. A few years back the kid had taken several classes with Rutland, always earning a C minus.

Andrew smiled, delighted to be recognized. “We’re all waiting for ya.” Enthusiastic and unobservant, the kid didn’t seem to register the disarray of Rutland’s attire. Andrew ushered him forward, then opened the classroom door for his former teacher.

A collective gasp went up as he stepped inside. The room was overcrowded—twenty-six students currently enrolled in Technical Writing, and equally as many visitors, some seated in extra chairs, but a dozen or so standing at the back or along the side wall. At their instructor’s gruesome entrance, they probably all wished themselves elsewhere.

“I was in a bit of a traffic accident,” Rutland said. “It’s not as bad as it looks.” Then he added, to ease the tension: “You should see the other guy.”

From their expressions, not all of them understood that he was joking.

The guests had displaced some current students from their assigned seats, disorienting him. The sheer number of people was disconcerting as well, all of them attentive and expectant. Rutland recalled the recurring teenage nightmare of standing naked in front of the classroom, and a strange fear surged through him that, in addition to the embarrassment of wet red grime and his torn sleeve, he’d also left his fly unzipped.

 

[…continued tomorrow…]