Patch was notably jealous of Ryn when she wrote her review of Ryn’s latest novel. Patch told Susan’s whole class of writing students that Ryn was the kind of writer who trusted her readers. Polliwog raised his hand politely. Susan called on Polliwog, “Yes?”
“She trusts us with what?” Polliwog asked, “Or, she trusts us how?” He pushed the thick black frames of his glasses by the nosepiece until his lenses sat closer to his heavy lidded black eyes and magnified them as he stared patiently for her response. Susan decided the whole look of him disturbing to the point of disgust, and found herself needlessly shuffling a stack of un-graded, yet thoroughly evaluated papers, as she gave him a one word answer.
“Intelligence.” Susan replied, “And now I’d like us all to listen to Patch read aloud some of Ryn’s new novel. Patch? Have you a selected piece ready for us, or shall I turn their attention to the part about the girls?”
Patch held Ryn’s novel in front of her face, blocking it from most of the students, excepting those seated at her elbows, but in particular it blocked Susan. She cleared her throat delicately but her suppressed cough still wheezed a little as she took short breaths between sentences. “Hear how this goes, first paragraph~ implores and what’s more, these sensations, not just sensational but alive; more alive, so alive, in fact, you sleepwalkers staggering in your violent dreams have stopped to put on better shoes…” Patch paused for a now uncontrollable cough and stopped the phlegm just in time behind her teeth. Not like last time, when it had landed on her chest. Her listeners took silent bets on whether or not she’d swallow. Susan asked her if she would like a glass of water and before Patch could or would answer, even as much as a nod, she ordered Polliwog to get Patch one from the tiny bathroom sink in her office.
“You’ll see there’s a Dixie-Cup dispenser, Polliwog, and make sure you count one-one thousand six before you fill it.” Susan smiled at Patch, “We get a little red run in the pipes.” She reported at which point Patch stood up and left the room, never to be seen publicly by a classroom full of writing students again. “Class dismissed.” Was all Susan had said, abruptly, before she departed, for all they knew at the time, to find out what was going on with Patch.
“What the fuck just happened?” Polliwog nudged Dawg. Dawg shrugged. Polliwog and Dawg both looked at Panda.
“Bong hits.” Panda confirmed without proof. “Patch went to school here long before we ever did. She’s got a badass case of eighties-stoners-hack, way I reckon.”
“Well, this fucking sucks. I finally did the fucking reading, which fucking sucked and now class is fucking dismissed? What the fuck are my parents even paying for?” Sharky was pissed.
“Why do you think Susan wanted to start with the part about the girls, Sharky?” Tweetie asked both sweetly and genuinely curious. This made everyone like Tweety. She was always so interested in each of them. Sharky relaxed a little when he looked at Tweety.
“Jaws” Sharky replied. And he playfully took bites out of the thin air to make his teeth chatter and click. Then he made his eyebrows go up and down. “Susan wanted Patch to read about Ryn eating the girls. Everyone always gets excited about that, no matter how they feel about it. But Patch? She choked on it. She totally choked.”
Polliwog flipped through the pages, locating the passage about the girls. They seemed to sit in a clearing in the woods, where they gave new names to the flowers they didn’t know. You’d think the flowers would appreciate being recognized at all, but they didn’t. They had never been known and now improperly introduced, the flowers were all but forgotten. “What makes you pick them?” The tallest girl asked the smallest girl to which the smallest girl replied to the tallest girl, “To gather them for our sister.” And she handed the bundle of them as a bouquet to the medium girl who accepted with delight and hugged them to her heart. “If you could only choose one flower among all those in your grasp, which one would it be?” To the medium girl, the tallest girl asked.
“Well, I guess I wouldn’t choose Aprons or Irons as my favorite flowers.” The medium girl removed the wilt of morning glory and the heavy knobs of black-eyed dogwood. The small girl watched as they were strewn and scattered, plucked and tattered. “And I wouldn’t choose Mops or Buckets as my favorite flowers. The medium girl pulled purple camus and bluebells to throw after the others. The small girl watched as they were trampled and crumpled by the tallest girl who had taken upon herself the task of making sure. “I would keep this Broom.” Announced the medium girl at last and she held up a stalk of rosemary. “As it hedges everywhere and the deers will not forage for it. My soup will be tastier even when it dries. Yes, I would choose the Broom.”
With that the tallest girl clapped. “And what would the Broom flavor in your soup? Just the stupid water?” She asked the medium girl.
“Chickens, that have come to roost. And a Broom. You’ll not have to wash it down, To sweep it all away. A hatchet to the crowing dawn, To sweep it all away. The headless bodies that run from every last nerve, To sweep it all away. The feathers plucked, the pillows stuffed, To sweep it all away. And a hedge row of Broom, where the deers will not go, when I sweep it all away. There’ll be no hunters here, for they’ll be no prey that stays. Just the Broom to sweep it all away.”
Polliwog looked up from reading. Sharky took bites out of thin air and said, “Told you so.” Tweety asked, “Are you not going to read the part about being heartless?” and Dawg said he’d do it.
“Eat your heart out.” Sharky encouraged him.
Dawg stretched his arms over his head. “I believe we should go for a walk instead, but I’ll do it. I’ll read to you. About the heart. About the heart of it. Of the matter. At the center there was this soul. But she calls it the heart. Ryn, I mean, she didn’t eat the girls, literally. When she turned them into chickens…”
“That’s called explaining the book not reading it. Is it that you question my intelligence?” Panda interrupted Dawg. “Ryn trusts me. And she wrote the novel. So, why can’t you?”
Tweety laughed so that they all felt like it too. So they sat there laughing. Until Susan came in and they all stopped.
“You’re all still here?” Susan was surprised. Sharky formed his familiar scowl. “I apologize, class.” Susan said avoiding Polliwog’s magnified stare. “It seems that Patch is feeling a little under the weather.” Susan stated the obvious as she gazed out the classroom window now, a sun break lighting the room into stripes by way of the slatted blinds. She was a zebra until it passed and returned her to a level of gray. “Have you been discussing Ryn’s novel? What do you think, then? How about you, Pigeon? What’s your take away?” Pigeon stopped jotting notes in her spiral steno pad and met Susan’s eyes with her own. She blinked several times and tilted her head to the side.
“My take away?” Pigeon repeated. “It’s quite personal, Susan. So if you don’t mind, I’ll see you for our one on one conference scheduled this afternoon at three-fifteen and we’ll discuss it in private, rather than for the benefit of the entire roll call. I’m just so tired of being your stool.”