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Excerpts
Obie
Trixie
Hitchhikers
A Mob is Ugly
First Day
LTs at the Movies

In 1991, several girls decided to join the fun and explore my world with Trixie more fully. "What did you do last night, Leonard?"

"I went to the movies."
"Did you go with Trixie?"
"No, she's saving for my birthday present."
"You don't pay for her?"
"Sometimes. Last night, I had only enough for my ticket, popcorn, and soda."


During Halloween, the girls wore outrageous outfits with signs identifying themselves as Trixie. Before class, they wanted to know if Trixie was my cat and, if so, did she audition for the musical. And after class, they wanted to know if she had ever scratched me in an argument. They sent me love letters from Trixie and left presents of cat food on my desk for my "purrfect love." I always shared my good fortune and the latest joke with my students to celebrate the joy of our love—and my magnanimous sense of humor.

But one morning, several girls startled me with their vision of Trixie. The day began normally. I was in the habit of going to school well before most teachers to prepare myself for the day. It was my ritual. I opened the door, flipped up the light switch, and as I walked to my desk, watched the fluorescent lights flicker to determine which one was buzzing on this cold morning. After swinging my attaché case onto my desk, I removed my coat and hung it at the end of the blackboard—not in the closet for fear of roaches. I pulled my chair away from my desk, dropped onto it, and enjoyed the view of the empty parking lot and gray-blue light of dawn.

Like Nick Adams in Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," I was happy. I was in my predictable world. I need order to be happy. There were many variables in teaching, so like Nick, I appreciated the beauty of preparation. For now, the rows were straight, and the board was clean. I took my attendance book from my upper right hand drawer and opened it to my homeroom, which would begin in thirty minutes.

I used the Delaney Book (invented, I believe, by NYC teacher, Mr. Delaney), which neatly represents a classroom with rows of slots for desks and small cards, which slide into the slots. When a student is absent, the teacher flips the card over and draws a line through the corresponding date. If the student is tardy, he bisects the line. At a glance, I saw the previous day's attendance for all my classes. Like the baseball player who adjusts the peak of his cap and spits tobacco juice, I was ready to face the day’s fastballs and curves.

In five minutes, I would join Faye, Paul, Sue, and Kathy for our daily breakfast coffee in the small back room of the cafeteria reserved for faculty. I relaxed in my green-cushioned chair, inherited from a retired colleague. Retiring teachers bequeath to friends their desks, chairs with wheels, and filing cabinets with locks, all of which they had inherited from their older colleagues years earlier. Depending on the kindness of senior teachers, young teachers may have access to a bottom drawer while conducting classes in rooms not their own. This explains the empire building by veterans. Like Depression-era survivors, they remembered the lean years.

Looking through the windows, I noticed that the gray-blue light was now pink and teachers were parking their cars; some were walking together to the school's entrance. I looked up at the clock and let my eyes happily travel across my inspirational posters, Show—Don't Tell, Writing is Re-Writing, etc., which had become landmarks of my world, to a gorilla sitting atop a book closet to the left behind my desk. Wearing a blond wig and a red teddy, a life-size rubber gorilla had been watching my morning ritual without my knowledge, and her name was Trixie. The sign around her neck said so.


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