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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 29, January 31, 2017
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GREYHOUNDS

 

by Caroline R. Curran

 

 

 

The bell rang 10 minutes ago and our English teacher hasn’t shown up yet. Ricky says there’s a rule that we can leave if she doesn’t get here in another five minutes. I seriously doubt it, but that would be a great idea.

 

Shari is sitting a row in front of me, emptying out her Coach bag and looking nervous. She piles everything onto her desk: lip gloss, a small mirror, Trident chewing gum, a memo book, tissues, and her iPhone (in its pink case). Turns her bag upside down and shakes. Nothing. Then she puts everything back in and looks worried. She must have lost something important. Money? Keys?

 

“Does anyone have a pen I can borrow?” Shari asks. A pen? Silence. This is the girl who reminds teachers that they haven’t assigned us homework yet. She also told the principal that Ricky and Dave were gonna fight after school.

 

“Come on, I’ll give it back to you at the end of class.” Shari turns around and looks for help. I stare at the floor. I have few friends as it is. Most of the popular girls completely ignore me: Nerdy Nicole, who’s not even allowed to use Twitter and has a lame cell phone. I’m not planning to make things worse.

 

Someone coughs. Then Mrs. Partridge hurries into the room. She dumps her briefcase on the desk and doesn’t say a word about being late. But if any of us shows up even a minute after the bell, she’ll mark us down as tardy.

 

“Okay, let’s get started.” Mrs. Partridge pulls her laptop out and sets it on the desk. “Today we’re going to do something a little different.”

 

Shari taps her fingers against the chair, still penless. I probably do have an extra. Maybe I can slip it to her when no one is looking.

 

Anyway, “different” sounds promising. “Normal” is: books reports, vocabulary exercises, and mind-numbing test practice (included the dreaded “critical lens” analysis).

 

“Today we are all going to write a poem,” Mrs. Partridge says. She smiles, too widely. Immediate groans, especially from the boys. She says “we”, but I bet she won’t be writing any damn poem.

 

“Can it be a rap?” Ricky asks. He is smart, but about to fail this class. I sneak a look at his curly brown hair and wide shoulders. Too bad he’d never be interested in a loser like me.

 

Mrs. Partridge shakes her head. “Of course not. Take out a pen and a sheet of paper. Your poem will be five lines in this format.” She goes to the board and starts writing. “First line: a noun. The subject of your poem. Second line: two adjectives. Third line: two more adjectives. Fourth line: four more descriptive words. Fifth line: repeat the noun in your first line.”

 

Trust Mrs. Partridge to work all that grammar into it.

 

“Will this count towards our grade?” someone asks.

 

“Yes, it will. And the marking period is ending next week. You have 15 minutes.” Our teacher opens her laptop and starts typing. Probably buying something on eBay. Shari turns around and looks at us, pleadingly.

 

I start to reach into my knapsack. Then I see Meghan, the bad-ass star of our school basketball team, shake her head at me. I shove my knapsack under my chair. Sorry, Shari. I look at my blank sheet of paper. Other kids seem stressed. A lot of them are writing and then crossing things out. I’ll just write something fast. Mrs. Partridge never likes my work anyway.

 

Shari finally raises her hand and asks Mrs. Partridge for a pen. She gets one, along with a little lecture about arriving to class “ready to work”.

 

I remember a documentary I saw about greyhounds. It’s amazing how fast they can run. How they put all their energy into chasing whatever is in front of them. I wish I could be more like that. I’m always glancing to the side, seeing what everybody else is up to.

 

After a few minutes, including a couple glances at Ricky’s gorgeous face, I’m done. This is my poem:

 

Greyhounds.

Single aim.

Pure speed.

Skin stretched over ribs.

Greyhounds.

 

I’m not totally satisfied with it. I should have talked about what happens to greyhounds after they get too old to race. They’re jumpy and hard to control. Always wanting to chase things. A lot of them get killed – just for doing what they were taught. 

 

“Okay, time’s up. Who wants to read their poem first?” Mrs. Partridge looks up from her laptop.  I shrink down and try to avoid eye contact. Shari raises her hand. The teacher nods at her. Shari reads in a confident voice:

 

“Tree.

Tall. Solid.

Shade giving.

Brown bark, green leaves.

Tree.”

 

Mrs. Partridge sighs. “That is a very general topic, Shari. Quite banal language, as well. I mean, the Regents is in a few months. I expected something better from you.” 

 

Shari’s face gets red and she bites her lip. Her 98 average may go down.

 

“Anyone else?” Mrs. Partridge scans the room. No takers. “All right. Ricky, please read us your poem.”

 

Ricky actually stands up and clears his throat dramatically. A few girls giggle.

 

“Lil Wayne.

Cough syrup.

Smoking blunts.

Hot raps, hot women.

Lil Wayne.”

 

People are laughing. A couple boys shout out “Yeah!” and “My man!” Mrs. Partridge glares at Ricky, as he sits back down.

 

“First of all, Lil Wayne is two words.” Her voice is sharp and edgy. “And you didn’t use the correct parts of speech for some of those lines. Not to mention that I heard language which was completely inappropriate for the class room. I am afraid I’m going to have to write you up.”

 

“Oooh,” a boy says.

 

“That’s all right. I like detention. All my boys are there.” Ricky leans back in his chair and grins. His teeth are so white.

 

I love the fact that she can’t get to him. I kind of wish I could get detention, just to be in the room with Ricky and “his boys”.

 

“I’m glad to hear that.” Mrs. Partridge crosses her arms and shakes her head at Ricky. “Now who’s next? How about …. Nicole?”

 

Everyone looks at me. Shit. Well, hopefully she’ll hate my poem, too. I clear my throat and read it, wishing I had written about something cooler.

 

“Greyhounds.

Single aim.

Pure speed.

Skin stretched over ribs.

Greyhounds.”

 

As I read, I realize some of my descriptions aren’t really adjectives. Oh well, let her tear it down. I look up. Mrs. Partridge smiles. “Not a perfect format, but quite interesting. I like the image of the skin stretched over the bones. Now that’s what I want, class.”

 

My face gets hot. People’s eyes are on me. Accusing looks. Ricky sniffs, like he smelled something bad. They’re gonna hate me even more than they hate Shari.

 

I crumple up my paper. “Fuck this. I was just playing. Greyhounds are mad ugly.”

 

 A couple boys laugh. Shari looks back at me, surprised. I never get in trouble.

 

Mrs. Partridge’s back straightens and she pounds her desk. “No cursing! That’s an automatic detention, Nicole.” She types into her laptop. “I’m writing you up right now.”

 

I look over at Ricky. He smiles. Sorry, greyhounds.