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Now go on reading. What do you think will happen if Dave tells the boys he is a schoolteacher ? Will the conversation remain as easy ?
They were kids having fun. Perhaps, he thought, it should be annoying him. But a bus ride and a classroom are two different situations. Sitting there, he suddenly realized that. At the beginning of September he never would have accepted such an idea. He might even have considered it to be outmoded thinking.
Kenny poked his friend. УAs Rabbit would say, СYou have no manners.Ф
УNo she donТt. ItТs СBrian, you have absolutely no manners!ТФ he mimicked, his voice highly pitched. Then lowered, УI could teach her a few things.Ф
There followed lewd mumblings interspersed with whistles. УAbsolutely no manners.Ф
УBoys, you are a hard bunch,Ф he said to them, shaking his head with a hint of a smile. He couldnТt sit and listen any longer without making some comment.
УYour aunt doesnТt know what she is in for. She expecting you?Ф
УProbably,Ф Kenny said. УI go over every holiday we get. She wonТt be surprised. ItТs better than being in Corner Brook IТll tell ya. Hey, Brian, whereТs those sandwiches your mother gave you before you left?Ф
УPerhaps lost by now.Ф
УGet Сem. IТm starved. You hungry, Dave?Ф Brian stretched out and moved his hand across the luggage rack until it struck upon a brown paper bag. Opening it, he withdrew a can of Pepsi and a small stack of sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. They consisted of thin slices of bologna between pieces of buttered bread.
УDo you want one?Ф he offered their guest. УThereТs nothing wrong with Сem, honest.Ф
The food stared up uninvitingly. УOkay.Ф As he held it in his hand, it slid apart. УYour mother makes a slippery sandwich.Ф They laughed.
УShe was glad to see me go,Ф Brian said, as if it were part of the humour.
How could he react to that? The kid regretted having said it and dug his buddy with an elbow. An empty can fell on the floor with a clamor. The too loud noise put a quick lid on their antics. They returned to the sandwiches.
Had he been sitting in another seat, he would probably been asleep by now. But instead, he was consuming the last bit of a stale sandwich next to a pair of disquieting boys. They gave him a great deal to think about. He couldnТt help but picture the boysТ homes left behind in Corner Brook. Their exteriors were real enough; he had passed enough of them to know how they looked. What took place inside he had gathered from a mixture of his sociology readings, of movies and novels, and the rough kids at school.
The picture stirred him. They would be forced to grow serious in time, he thought. Then the fun would be gone.
The stop at Grand Falls gave him a chance to stretch his legs. He left the bus without a coat and the cold night air abruptly cleared his head of any sleepiness. He went inside the restaurant and waited in front of the lunch counter.
Within a few minutes he reentered the bus, shivering, holding three small cardboard plates of French fries, each topped with a plastic fork and a packet of ketchup.
УPerhaps youТre still a bit hungry.Ф
They looked awkward accepting it. He thought that perhaps it was because they were not very often in such a position. They repeated their thanks a number of times. It seemed out of proportion to what he had given them.
УThatТs okay, I wonТt go broke because of it.Ф They ate quietly now, but with obvious pleasure. It reminded him of the time, about a year before, he had been hitchhiking home from the university. He hadnТt bothered to stop anywhere all day to eat, but stayed on the road to make it home before dark. Then, late in the evening, with thirty miles still remaining,
УYou fellows finished? Here, put the plates in this bag. DonТt want the floor littered up.Ф
Almost as if it were an automatic reaction, both boys got out their cigarettes. It was like a relaxing after-dinner smoke.
УWhat do you do? I mean... do you work?Ф one of them asked.
УYeah.Ф He hesitated. УIТm a schoolteacher.Ф
They looked at each other quickly and smiled, then looked back in anticipation of him laughing.
УYou are not a teacher.Ф
He was sorry now that he had said it. He wished he had sidestepped the question. УOkay, IТm not.Ф
УThen what do you do?Ф
He removed his wallet from a coat pocket and produced a white card for them to read.
УHere, read this. What does it say?Ф
УNewfoundland Teachers ЕФ
УAssociation. And it has my name on it.Ф
УYou could have made it up yourself... All right, what grade do you teach?Ф
УEight, most of the time.Ф
УKenny, you think heТs tellinТ the truth?Ф They figured he might be trying to pull a fast one on them.
УThere are thousands of teachers, you know. Why is that so hard to believe?Ф
УYou donТt look like one. Besides, IТve never seen a teacher like you, eh, Kenny? Every one of the teachers at our school are crabs, except maybe for Mrs. Lewis. But she donТt even teach us.Ф
Perhaps he should have felt flattered, but suddenly lurking back to deaden any contentment was the thought of the experiences of the past weeks.
УTell me now, what would you boys do if you had me for a teacher?Ф
УGuess we could have a bit of fun.Ф
It wasnТt what he had hoped for. Neither was it a surprise.
УMaybe you would learn something.Ф
УNah, not me.Ф
УCouldnТt beat anything into my head.Ф
He should have known better than to ask. What was he expecting?
УYou wouldnТt want to be a teacher very long in our school anyway. There was a guy there last year only lasted two weeks. We almost drove him crazy. He was an okay guy, I mean he would have been all right, but he never could keep order. He couldnТt even get real mad with us!Ф
УBut he wasnТt tough on you, you could have given him a chance! Sure, perhaps he was trying to help you guys. You think I wouldnТt last two weeks? You think IТd crack up too?Ф
What kind of fool was he anyway? Trying to be reasonable with kids. He turned from them. He must be some kind of damned idiot.
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