Saturday, July 4, 2015

Short Story - The Divide Between Shallow and Deep

The Divide Between Shallow and Deep
1897 words

Model Desks Arranged for Photoshoot
“Come on teach, why do you always make me wait?” Paul asked.
“We both know I have less time to waste.” Mr. Shear reached inside his satchel bag as he entered the stairwell. “Do you have the cash?”
“Course I do.” Folded bills appeared in Paul’s hand. “That’s two bags, right?”
Shear nodded. As soon as the goods traded hands Mr. Shear grabbed the handrail and bounded up the stairs. “Go the other way.”
“Same time next week?” Paul asked. Mr. Shear didn’t respond. He confirmed the three bills in his hand and tucked them into his bag.

Mr. Henry Shear’s brakes squealed as he came to a stop. He hesitated before switching off the car, letting Welcome to the Jungle finish on the radio. After locking his car, he grabbed a cart from the return and headed to his aisle of choice in the grocery store. He filled the cart in less than a minute and was soon standing in a checkout line. He scanned the tabloid headlines, wondering just how many secret love children Oprah had and what the secret to his dream body might be. Glancing at the contents on the conveyor of the person ahead of him, he wondered why someone would need so much canned meat. When the conveyor cleared, he removed his items from the cart, noting an oily residue on the conveyor. His nose wrinkled as his imagination offered solutions. It would be best not to overthink that.
The blonde cashier greeted him and he nodded, readying his wallet.  “You sure like gummi bears, huh?” She brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. “Lots of nieces and nephews.” He replied with a smile. He couldn’t deny it was an exorbitant amount of gummi products. He wondered how old the cashier was, but banished the thought. After she had rung up the loot, he paid in cash.

After checking his watch, he decided to treat himself and stopped at the golden arches. He decided to go in, he didn’t want to answer any questions about the stop, or have a paper trail. Chewing the tasty morsel, he scanned the room. There were only a handful of people inside. One of the faces looked familiar, but after teaching just a few years, all faces began to blur together. He noticed the same person glancing at him throughout the meal. It could be a former student, but he didn’t want to greet the student and not know a name. Crumpling the paper from the burger, Henry gathered his trash, wiped the table of crumbs and returned the tray. Just as he reached the door a voice call his name. “Mr. Shear.” He turned, it was the same person that had been eyeing him. The person that had called him dropped a cup into the trash. “I thought that was you, but  I wasn’t sure.” This guy certainly was the right age to be a former student. “It’s me, Travis, English class, a few years back now.”
“Oh, right Travis. Sorry.” Henry extended a hand. “I’m sure you see a lot of kids over the years. It’s not like I was a very good student.” Travis smiled again. “I just wanted to say hi. I always enjoyed your class, whether my grades showed it or not. Are you still at Doughlin?”
Henry returned the smile. “I am. Still teaching English too.” Travis motioned to the door as he took a step. “It’s a shame about the budget cuts. I didn’t know anything as a student, but man, teachers are definitely underpaid.” Travis began to veer away, ostensibly towards his car. “I appreciate that Travis, I just wish bureaucracy was as smart as you.” Henry waved, though he felt awkward about it immediately after. Travis smiled and waved back, before hopping into a shining bright red truck.

Henry looked at the faded blue paint of his Toyota Corolla. He felt bad about his car, despite all the reasons not to. Even he didn’t buy the great gas mileage line anymore. The radio wouldn’t even play mp3 files. The upholstery was worn. The headlights were dim. He frowned as he pulled into his driveway. Why couldn’t anyone cut on an outside light for him? Henry checked the mail and flipped through envelopes as he walked up the stone sidewalk. Henry unlocked the door, mumbling to himself that someone should have unlocked it for him.

“You’re late.” His wife called over the blaring television as soon as he crossed the threshold. “I was caught by the vice principal on my way out.” Henry set his bag down on the island. “Not there, can’t you see I just cleaned up? What did he want?” Henry dropped the bag on the floor. “He wanted to complain like everyone else.” Henry opened the refrigerator. “I’ve got to go soon. I didn’t get a chance to make you dinner, you’re on your own.” Henry had seen that coming. “Do you have any cash?” Henry pulled the tab on the can. “You know I don’t carry cash. Why can’t you use your card?” Henry asked as he walking towards the television remote. “Dad don’t. I’m watching this.” Henry’s daughter Sharon called. “That’s great, but it doesn’t have to be this loud.”
“So you don’t have any cash?” Henry looked at his wife. “I already told you no.” Henry trudged to the bathroom. At least there he could have a break from everything.


“Yes, this is the Vice Principal.” Ellis Carver sighed. “Another one? What’s going on around here?” Carver gently placed the phone down and hooked his hands around the back of his bald head. That was the fourth kid this morning that had stayed home due to an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea, and the day had barely started. A knock on his window refocused his attention. He motioned for his secretary to enter “We’ve got two kids in the nurse’s office with similar symptoms.” Carver nodded. “Thanks Arleen.” She paused before returning to her desk, “Do you think they all have the same thing?” Carver rested his chin on his hand. “I don’t know.”

Mr. Shear looked up from the textbook. “Anna are you okay?” The girl’s face was a sickly shade of gray and her arms were wrapped around her midsection. She feebly shook her head from side to side. “Head to the nurse.” Mr. Shear opened the door, beckoning her to leave. Footfalls echoed from the hallway as he opened the door. Mr. Shear looked out to see a student quickly walking down the hallway. He almost admonished the student but redirected his attention to Anna. As soon as he had turned his head, a squeak had echoed down the hallway. It had to have been shoe soles on the slick floor. As Mr. Shear peered back into the hallway, he saw the same student now on the floor. A gutteral sound emanated and Mr. Shear witnessed the student vomit onto the floor. His class heard the same noise, groaning or laughing in response. Anna now at the door, doubled over at the sound and vomited where she stood. Mr. Shear jumped out of the way, cursing under his breath.


Henry Shear sat outside of Vice Principal Carver’s office. He felt like a student awaiting a berating. He wasn’t sure why he had been summoned, but it couldn’t be good. It’s not like the food poisoning had anything to do with him. He wondered if a student had alerted the administration to his side business of selling candy to students. At the worst he would get a scolding.
The office door opened. “Henry, come on in.”  Henry shook Ellis Carver’s hand and had a seat.
Carver looked out his single window. “Heck of a month, huh? Who would have guessed an E Coli epidemic would have hit the school.” Carver finally sat down after a moment of silence. Henry couldn’t help but feel it was part of a game. “Henry, do you ever shop at the Stop Drop & Save over on Crigler Street?”
Henry’s brow furrowed. “Sure, it’s on the way home.”
“You ever buy anything for students?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. Do you ever buy food for students. Do you ever buy candy for students?”
Henry cursed Paul. He must have ratted him out. Henry took a deep breath.
“Yeah, sometimes I buy candy for my students.”
“Do you give them candy or sell them candy?”
Henry glanced at Ellis, but couldn’t hold the gaze. “I sell it to them. Consider it a life lesson on finances.”
“You see Henry, this is the problem. the state traced the E Coli outbreak to the Stop and Drop. A batch of bad potted meat apparently. You’re the one most likely to have shopped there, which you admitted you had.”
Henry fidgeted with a button on his sleeve, just to have something to do. Carver continued. “The thing is it’s very likely you introduced the E Coli into the school.”
“Hold on a minute, what are you trying to say? It’s not like it was intentional.”
“The school is being held accountable. We have to take action.” Carver placed his hands flat on the desk.
“Wait a minute, hold on now.” Henry stood up. “Are you going to fire me?”
“Henry, calm down.”
“No, this isn’t right. You don’t pay me crap and you’re going to fire me because I sold candy? Grace sells Avon, Ryan sells Amtrak. Go after them.”
Henry remained standing despite Carver motioning for him to sit. “Their actions didn’t lead to E Coli. There was a state investigation. I’m trying to make this easier on you. This could have gone a lot worse if I let them handle it.”
“It would be a lot better if you paid the staff enough so that we didn’t need side jobs!”

Carver watched Henry storm out of the office. Arleen entered soon after with a few print outs. “I’ve called our usual substitutes. We should have the class covered for the next few weeks.” Carver took the sheets of paper from her. “Thanks, I hate it had to come to this.” Carver laid the sheets aside. He didn’t want to think about it, instead he typed into his keyboard to check the ebay auctions he was hosting.

Henry sat in his car, still parked in the teacher’s lot. He felt like smoking a cigarette even though he had never done so.


Ellis Carver extended his hand. “You’ve got a great resume. We’d love for you to join our staff.”
“Great, with graduating in December, I was afraid I’d have to wait until the next school year.” Jeffrey responded.
“We had a vacancy, which works out great for you. You’ll be teaching English.”
“I did have a question about salary. The posting…”
“Right. The posting was for an experienced teacher. Being fresh out of school it will be a little less.” Carver thumbed through papers on his desk.
“Oh… okay. Is there a stipend for supplies?”
“We have a storeroom for the basics. If you want decorations or things like that it has to come out of your own pocket.” Carver extended his hand again to signal the interview had expired.
Jeffrey left the office excited his job search was over, but wondering where he would find a second job.
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