Mrs. Navis bends over her desk, she looks at her laptop for excused absences. Her first thoughts contain a central figure rising out of the depths of her subconscious He’s never sick. He has perfect attendance. He runs down the hallway and into the classroom. He doesn’t sit still for a moment. I need a pay raise. If I told student teachers about him they’d choose another field.
A screaming voice interrupts Mrs. Navis’s rambling thoughts, “Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, I’ve got the best idea for a science fair project, Rupert said you’ll love it. Can I tell everyone as soon as Doctor Cashman does the announcements?”
Mrs. Navis takes a deep breath and thinks, I’m stuck in a loop with him. Every day is the same as the day before. He comes in excited about something, anything. I don’t even know who this Rupert is he continually talks about. He must be an old uncle.
“Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, did you hear me? Want me to ask you again? Or, does it mean okay since you didn’t say no? When my mom or dad doesn’t say no I think it’s okay. So, it’s okay. I can’t wait until the announcements are over. I never listen to them anyways. Joey doesn’t either. Why doesn’t Doctor Cashman stop making announcements since no one pays attention? Are you okay, Mrs. Navis?”
“Vincent, sit down. Pay attention to the announcements. They are important. Science is after lunch, that’s when we’ll talk about the science projects.”
“Can I go first, Mrs. Navis. No, I better go last because if I go first, it will make everyone else feel so bad because their projects will be so lame. But if I go last, everyone will give up because they know mine will be the best. Maybe I better be the only one who talks about their science project. This is a great idea, right, Mrs. Navis?
“Vincent, please sit down. Everyone will have a chance to tell what they plan to do for the science fair. Please take out your math homework and review it. Make sure it is correct.”
“It’s perfect, Mrs. Navis. I’m really good at math,” says Vinnie glancing over at Mrs. Navis’s laptop. “Mrs. Navis does the school let you have Facebook on the school computer? I thought school computers are only supposed to be for school work. Don’t worry I won’t tell Doctor Cashman on you. Watch out, you can’t trust Sara.”
“Vincent, for the last time, sit down. Not another word. Go,” orders Mrs. Navis pointing to Vinnie’s seat in the middle of the third row.
Vinnie, in slow motion, draws his forefinger and thumb across his lips as if he is closing a zipper. He turns around and sees Joey. “Hi Joey, did you catch a rattlesnake last night?”
Joey, who sits in the last seat in the fourth row says, “No, but my dad and me set a trap for one. When we catch it, I’m going to train it for my science project.”
Mrs. Navis jerks her head up from her laptop, “What did you say, Joseph?”
“I was telling Vinnie what I am going to do for my science project.”
“Did you say you were going to catch a rattlesnake and train it?” asks Mrs. Navis.
“Yes, Mrs. Navis. It’s a great idea, right?”
Mrs. Navis may be aging faster because of Vinnie but her brain still travels at the speed of light. Joey’s words, ‘It’s a great idea, right,’ sound exactly like Vincent’s words. Mrs. Navis says, “Where did you get the idea to catch a rattlesnake, Joseph?”
Joey says, “Larry, and Vinnie and me all live on the same street. We were playing basketball after school and we started talking about science projects. I can’t tell you what Vinnie’s going to do because he swore me and Larry to a blood oath if we told. …”
Mrs. Navis interrupts Joey, “What exactly is a blood oath?”
“If we break the blood oath we have to drink a quart of blood without stopping. I only had to do it once. Larry had to do it twice.”
Mrs. Navis’s legs feel wobbly, she sits in the chair behind her desk. “Did you actually drink blood, Joseph?”
Vinnie interrupts, “It is really cherry Kool Aide, Mrs. Navis. We pretend it’s blood.”
Sara, who sits in front of Vinnie, blurts, “Gross.”
“Children quiet,” says Mrs. Navis pressing her hands flat against the top of her desk. “Joseph, who told you to catch a rattlesnake.”
“I was stuck for a good idea and Vinnie helped me.”
“Oh, dear God.”