By Jeremy Arias
We lined up outside the classroom door ready for our last class of the day. Five minutes went by after the bell until the door shot swinging open by a frustrated, old lady.
“Oh my god!” She whined. “This is the fourth time today! Come on in, why are all you standing around like a bunch of kids? Get in and have a seat.”
And with that said, she let in the class of fifth graders.
“Now your teacher tells me you have a seating arrangement,” she looked up from a note and scanned the class. “Is everyone in their seat?”
“Yes,” we collaboratively lied. I was sitting with Tim, Oscar, and Danny, who kept throwing around the pen Mike infected with Herpes in third period. Danny threw it at Oscar, who instinctively deflected it onto my desk. When the Herpes Pen crashed onto my desk, my self preservation instincts kicked in and I slapped it off the table just as the sub was passing by.
“Did you not notice you dropped your pen!” She growled as she lurched down to my eye level. “Pick that up, I’m gonna break my back picking that up.”
All my friends were holding back laughter as I leaned over to pick up what the sub publicly announced was my Herpes Pen. She continued taking attendance as I quickly threw the pen back to Tim, tagged the Herpes over to Oscar, and raised two fingers being immune from the herpes. Just as our game of sophisticated cooties was getting competitive, The Sub finished taking attendance and demanded the class’s attention for five minutes.
“Your teacher left you all an easy assignment,” she adjusted her glasses. “Please have the students open their textbook to page 85 and follow the prompt. Have the students present their play at the end of class.”
The assignment was to read the two pages before the prompt and write a play about effective and healthy communication during disagreements. The Sub then projected on the board two vague examples of what we can use.
“I’ll give you guys until two o’clock to present, until then you rehearse. If you’re done presenting early, you can have free time.”
The class shot up and got to work with the words “free time.” It could be total anarchy in the classroom. A game of poker on table one, tech-decks in group two, someone busted out the whiteboards over on four, people gossiping at three, table five has those weird quiet kids that never took off their sweaters, and table six has been abandoned because it’s the closest to the teacher’s desk.
But in the meantime, I was the writer and director of conflict. I skimmed through the text and jumped to the paper where I began to write a dialogue about two friends undecided on what movie to watch. Because we had a third person in the group, I added the movie clerk to help break a tie or suggest an alternative as part of reaching their conclusion. I was three pages in when I showed my group what I made with the Herpes Pen.
They were impressed with the script and eager to start rehearsing under the condition they didn’t touch the paper. They quickly memorized their lines, practiced their delivery, and asked if I could feed them their lines in case nerves got the better of them. We practiced twice before The Sub called the class to attention and asked who wanted to go first.
“We do!” Tim shot his hand up stunning The Sub and the class. It wasn’t often that the group with slackers volunteered to be the first to go in front of the class.
“Okay, go on up,” she kept an unimpressed look plastered on her face as she leaned her head back and pulled her eyes forward.
“Can we turn off one of the lights?” Danny asked and pointed to the light switch.
“What do you think this is? Theater?” She shook her head and pointed at me kneeling down with the script. “What’s he doing down there?”
“I have the script, in case they forget their lines,” I held the script up to show her.
“No, no, no!” She growled. “Bring me that! What is that?”
She snatched it out of my hands.
“You did it all wrong!” She looked at me with her head tilted so she can see my face above the rims of her glasses.
“You were supposed to follow the examples I put up on the board, didn’t you listen.”
“We were supposed to use that?” Tim asked as we all gazed at the two vague options on the board.
“You guys were too busy giggling to listen to what I said,” she sat up right and looked at the class. “Since they can’t follow directions, who wants to go next?”
“Okay then, this group, go up,” she volunteered table six, and up they went as we shamefully took our seats.
What the fuck? Oscar mouthed as he subtly swung a fist in the air when she wasn’t looking. The next group was in front.
“Okay so who is person one?” The Sub asked.
“I am,” answered person one.
“And person two?” The Sub asked.
“Me,” answered the only other person onstage.
“Okay, begin when you’re ready,” she sat back.
“Hey, do you want to watch a funny movie tonight?” Asked person one.
“No, how about a scary movie?” Asked person two.
“I don’t really like scary movies,” replied person one reading his line off the board.
“What about a crime movie?” Asked person two.
“I like crime movies! Sure,” replied person one.
“Good! Hold on stay up there,” The sub clapped and prompted the class to do the same. “See that wasn’t so hard, but some of you don’t like following directions. So what did we get from this play? What was the disagreement?”
“They didn’t know what-“
“Raise your hand! Yes, go ahead now,”
“They didn’t know what to watch,”
“And how did they solve this?” She scanned the class with her slimy eyes. “Did nobody else see the play? He offered a solution!”
Our group was stone faced mad. For once the group of slackers came together to put a work of art and volunteered to present only to be shut down for being creative and doing better than we were supposed to. The next group hid their script and went up to read the exact same set of monotone lines. They were then met with a forced applause, their faces bystander to the censor of creativity, but too afraid to disrupt the status quo, even if it was temporarily enforced by a slimy-eyed old woman we’d never see again. The Sub clapped and let us have free time.
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