Mrs. Darine Buliest, a teacher and mother of three, sat at a table with two disheveled stacks of tests in front of her. One stack had red marks merrily decorating it; the other was clean and white. Three empty paper party cups lay about her, plus another, full of coffee. A bag of cookies supported a flier about a dream trip to Orlando Florida, like a bone just out of reach of a hungry dog's nose.
Being a teacher had made her look older than her years, from foreseeable, stupid situations, like this one. She had left over two hundred tests and projects to correct at the last minute; a minute that lasted thirty-six hours. She could already feel another grey hair filtering through her drab, dirt-brown mop. Perhaps it was also because of students like Joe, whose test she corrected right now. He spent more time in the principal's office than in the classroom. Or, it was the angsty preteen daughter that slammed the front door every time she passed through it. Said daughter poked her powered nose into her mother's study and whined, "Mom, I wanna go to the Mall."
"Marissa's parents take her to the Mall whenever she wants to go."
"I'm not her parents."
The preteen stomped out. As the mother flipped the second page of Joe's test, she found a hall-pass written in electric blue marker with a naughty word scribbled across it. She crumpled it up, glad to have an excuse to destroy something.
She had finally reached the nirvana of test-correcting, when it was abruptly shattered by an unwanted, yet sweet and innocent face with a stuffy nose. "Mommy, my markers are dry'n, can you mbuy me more?" The teacher jumped as someone who had been drifting off to sleep.
Struggling to reply in a complete sentence she said, "No, no, just throw out the dry ones." There were two pronounced thumps as a green and a purple marker were promptly thrown out.
"Mommy, I'm mbored."
"Why don't you draw?" she said, scribbling a 65% on the top of Joe's paper.
"I don't have the colors. Ariel's eyes hast to be green, and her dress hast to be purble!"
"Ask your father."
"Daddy can't, the doctor made him mblind."
That's right, he had his pupils dilated today, she reminded herself. "Find something else to do!" she yelled.
Her daughter's eyes welled up, and she scurried away wailing.
Mrs. Buliest sighed as she flipped a page on a test and examined the pile. Only three tests left.
In the next ten minutes, everything in the universe organized in the sole goal of obstructing Mrs. Buliest's progress. Her children fought over the remote control and were sent to their rooms for five minutes of "Quiet Time." Then she received a phone call for "Mizus Dar-eyen Bully-est" from a deep southern voice, promising riches beyond her imagination, if only she would give her credit card and social security numbers. She scribbled frantic checkmarks, fighting tears and a scream that wanted to escape.
"Mom! I'm going to be late for baseball practice!" She ignored her son and finished the last page on a test. There was no stopping her now. "Mooooommmm!" She scribbled the score on the top of the page (82%), and thrust the test away. She stopped and stared at the new test before her. The last test.
The second answer was wrong, but Mrs. Buliest paused, afraid to find out what would happen the moment her red pen touched the paper. She took a deep breath, and quickly checked the answer wrong as though the paper was on fire and she would get burned if her pen waited just another second. She sat absolutely still, waiting for the next distraction to come. Nothing happened. She checked the answer wrong again and waited. Nothing again. She finally let out her breath.
"MMMMMOOOOOMMMM! I HAVE TO GO TO BASEBALL PRACTICE!"
Poor Mrs. Buliest fell out of her chair. Lying there for a second, trying to catch her breath, she caught the scent of Espresso. When she opened her eyes, she saw a dark brown liquid running off the table onto her beige carpet. For the moment, it didn't register in her brain what the coffee would have spilled on.
Her children had run over when they saw her fall. They tugged at her bathrobe and patted her cheeks, crying. Her mind was murky and turned into odd loops. How nice it is, she thought. So very comfortable down here; I could fall asleep.
Her son said in his most helpful tone, "In movies, when people stare like that, they're dead. That's when they put you in the ground to feed worms."
"Mommy wake ub! I don't wanna you to feed worms!" the little girl wailed as she grabbed her mother's shoulders and shook as hard as she could.
"Darine? Children, what's going on?" Mr. Buliest said as he stumbled blindly around the room with funny black glasses on.
Mrs. Buliest sat up slowly. "You can stop shaking me now."
"What happened, Honey?" Mr. Buliest groped for her shoulders, in a hopeful attempt at a backrub.
"Johnny just surprised me, that's all."
"Did you hit your head on something?"
"No, I'm fine; I just need to vent a little."
Mrs. Buliest pulled herself up off the ground using the cold, coffee-sticky table to support her. Fishing around in her purse, she found a red plastic ruler. It made a satisfying "snap" when she broke it across her knee. Then her brain realized the coffee-ruined tests. She stopped and choked a sob out.
"Children, let's go watch cartoons in the living room," Mr. Buliest said as he pushed the kids away from the coming explosion.
It came a few seconds later. "I HATE YOU!" Mrs. Buliest screamed at the sticky mess. She frantically ripped at the tests, tearing them into pieces too small to be recognized. Sobbing, she balled up all the junk on the table and shoveled it into the trashcan, including the flier for the fantasy trip and the bag of cookies that it had been propped up against. She sat down in her chair, staring at the full trashcan. A strange sense of fulfillment washed over her.
Her son peeked his head into the door and asked, "Are you all right, Mommy?"
"Yes. I just had to destroy something."
He tiptoed to her side and whispered, "Can I go to baseball practice now?" Her son held up his old baseball, hoping it would egg her on.
She needed no eggs, and even slammed the door on the way out.