Friday, May 14, 2010

Even My Own--The Needle Flash Fiction Contest Submission

He got my kids. He got my fucking kids.

All I can do is run my hands through my hair, blow the bangs out of my eyes and spin in another circle. My eyes won’t stay still, either. They jitter and dance around the room, across the wood desk, through the dust-caked mini-blinds, over the fake, potted fern.

“Look, no one can blame you for what you did,” the detective standing behind me says, his voice cold and detached, the tone of somebody who never had kids. “Still doesn’t look good for a high school teacher to react that way, though.”

“He got my kids, man,” is all I can say.

The detective grunts. His dismissal makes me want to squeeze his throat and press my thumbs into his Adam’s apple until it pops like I wish the knot of tension burrowing in my back would.

“The man—and I mean man—that this high school teacher assaulted was nineteen years old,” another man says. This one is my principal. Still turning in place, I watch him step through the door. Tall and lanky in an old brown suit, the fluorescent lights shining off his smooth head, he closes the door behind him.

“Kid wasn’t a student anymore?” the detective asks.

“No. We expelled him last semester.” The principal pauses, takes a deep breath. “He shouldn’t have been in the building.”

No he shouldn’t have. But he was. He made it to the third floor. Someone should have seen him. Someone should have heard his boots thudding across the floor, should have seen the lights glinting off the ring that pierced his lip. Someone other than just me.

Now I’ll never stop seeing him.

“Regardless,” the detective says. “There’s this thing called ‘excessive force’. It’s a thing that makes the impact of bone against a porcelain drinking fountain a helluva lot messier.” He laughs. “Fucking janitors are gonna want overtime.”

The first two fingers of my right hand, holding an imaginary cigarette, I find near my lips. A fleck of blood still stains my fingernail. I force my arms back to my sides, pace again.

I wish I could sit down, stop moving even for a second. It’s bothering me, driving me a bit over the edge, I think. I’m just like the rest of the parents that were pacing and jittering and darting up and down the street just outside, pacing and jittering and darting while they waited and waited and waited to see if their children were okay.

“And the needle?” The principal asks.

I never did see the needle. I heard it though, even over the screams. I heard it spiking through denim and cotton, piercing shirts and blouses, puncturing skin and muscle.

The kid holding the needle made no sound. He just grinned as he bounced down the student-packed hallway sticking those kids.

Even my fucking kids.

And all he did was grin as blood dribbled to the floor.

“It was dirty. Kid’s mother claims her junkie boyfriend, not her of course, kept a syringe in the bathroom. In the medicine cabinet right next to the ibuprofen. Said he was good for sharing it with other hypes.”

My wind flies away. A sour nausea takes its place as my thoughts again go to the parents who waited outside on the street. They’ll be pacing again now, won’t they? Pacing until the results of the HIV tests, the hepatitis tests, however many other tests, come through.

And I’ll be with them.

“Back to what I was saying before,” the detective says. “The mother of the needle kid is already talking about filing a suit on the Teach here, maybe even the school.”

“For God’s sake…” the disgust is thick on the principal’s face as he throws his head back.

“Hey, listen," the detective continues. "I’m on your side here. I’m not saying what the Teach did was wrong. God knows what I would have done had it been me. But I told you guys about excessive force. Some dickhead lawyer will try saying the Teach didn’t need to do what he did to protect the kids. That he went too far. The lawyers are gonna go through all his statements, his history, and they’re gonna try to find something to use against him, like any other hints of violent outbursts.”

“I lost it, alright? I admit it, but he jabbed my kids, too.” I say.

“First of all, you didn’t just admit jackshit to me,” the detective says. “And you keep saying that about your kids. That’s the problem. That’s the kind of stuff the lawyers will use. You wrote that on your statement which, by the way, we can still change. Wink-fucking-wink.”

I don’t answer, don’t understand what he means. All I can think of is my kids lying awake in bed at night, waiting for the results of the tests they’ll have to take, waiting to see how their futures will turn out.

“What are you getting at, Detective?” the principal asks as he walks behind his desk. He drops into his chair.

“If those lawyers find anything that makes Teach look a little..." he circles his finger around his temple, “he’s done.”

I can feel the detective near me now, on my right. “I went through your personnel files…you hearing me?”

I nod.

“According to those files, you don’t have any kids.”

My principal explodes forward in his chair, slams his hands on the desk. “He’s a teacher you dumb son-of-a-bitch. He’s got kids—about a hundred and ten of them.”


  1. Something like that, yes, the teacher is going to take it personally, and should. How scary this situation is. Written way too well here--you get so involved--it's like reading a police report or something. It seems so real. You did a really excellent job with this.

  2. Hits me where I live, the way things should be. Wrote a poem once about Liviu Librescu. He's the Holocaust survivor and teacher at Virginia Tech who held the door against the idiot with the gun and let 30 kids scramble out the window to life. He died holding that door. This story reminds me of that guy and now I can't see the damn keyboard too many tears, dammit. Good stuff.

  3. A really atmospheric vignette, Ray. I was sucked right in, desperate to see how it all turned out.

    Very thought provoking - I had to ask myself what I would have done if I'd been the teacher....!