Flash Fiction – Battlefields 2

The humidity was rising but it wouldn’t be lasting much longer. In a few weeks the crisper air would creep in from the north, brushing fire tinted leaves with a frosty brush before knocking them from the trees’ limbs. But there was much to be accomplished before that happened and she was wasting time standing at the window, gazing past the jungle gym and slide, already hazy as the metal absorbed the sun’s heat and sent some of it back into the surrounding air.

The air conditioning was pumping through the vents in the ceiling and the sporadic gusts sent the planets in the dangling, styrofoam solar systems orbiting unpredictably. She moved one of the desks underneath one display that was hanging precariously. With care, she stepped from the low chair onto the desk and reached for the fraying string that tenuously held the mobile to its mount. But even on the desk, she was a few inches away from securing it safely. She’d have to let the janitor know about it and warn the kids to keep an eye on it for her.

She realigned the desk with the others and wiped her shoe prints from its surface. Tilting her wrist, she checked the time, then checked it against the clock mounted on the wall. Unsure which was correct, she checked the cell phone on her desk, putting it away in the top drawer where the students wouldn’t spot it and be tempted. Picking up the attendance list, she reviewed the names and speculated as to which might be younger siblings of former students. She tried a few aloud several different ways, searching for pronunciation that sounded right and hoping it was right.

Twenty-four names on the list. Twenty-four labeled mailboxes. Twenty-four copies of each text on shelves in the closet. Twelve cubby spaces, each with room for two backpacks, two coats, two lunchboxes. Five markers and two erasers resting in the metal tray at the base of the white board. Six rows of four desks, the sunlight filtering through the decorated windows creating strangely colored geometric patterns across several in the first two rows. Two stacks of papers. One of notices reminding faculty about the need for improving testing scores, techniques for helping students achieve that, goals for the year. One of notes and cards from pupils mentioning their favorite projects and games, letters interspersed from parents thanking her for helping their kids discover new things and making learning fun for everyone, challenging students that needed it, taking the extra time with those who had trouble.

The scent of generic antiseptic cleanser clung to most of the surfaces in the room. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes to listen. The squeal of tires braking on hot pavement and the hum of a motor left running as the bus lingered to deposit students at the front of the school, the babble of voices as they clamored through the halls, sneakers squeaking on the waxed tiles.

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