All Quiet on the River

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is about a young and inexperienced teacher facing many difficulties.

Submitted: January 10, 2015

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Submitted: January 10, 2015



Perhaps she had a fanciful mind. She lived on the second floor and a half. The garbage and the elevator were half a floor above or below her apartment. Anyway it was not a room filled with secrets where you can get taking the train on platform nine and three quarters, like in a famous story with small and big wizards. The old cinema hall on the ground floor had been put to an end a long time ago. The space had been refurbished and turned into a club for party, music and dance.

She moved there as a lodger in the year when the club has gone bankrupt. Everything was quiet. Her rent was payed by a benevolent gentleman with whom she had no connection. Money was her main lack, the tree of her life hardly ever had such leaves. She was that kind of fat and quiet spinster, keeping her roots visible and close to the ground level. Miss Martha did not forget a thing, she always took into account every detail and believed that things can only go for the better, but in the absence of her dreaming, in the absence of her mind’s effort to imagine something. Therefore she was a fanciful woman. She could not enter the world of witchcraft ( scientific brains and their applied knowledge) and she was not accepted either in that peaceful and idyllic world for teachers and educators. In fact so she thought, that that world was like a little prairie house where every useful object is in place and where you can find a reading corner with an armchair and tea cups with brown sugar on the table. She believed that the world was exactly what she had seen in her childhood, and she remembered that some people said about her father that he was like a big child. Alone, entrenched in the peace of her thoughts, she was like an asylum with too much love for children and helpless elder people; she felt she was like a mother and certainly did not understand that it was her now that big child.

At her new job located near her apartment, children called her ma'am. Sometimes Mrs. Martha. She suppressed the pain caused by the fact that at her age most teachers can only be ladies. In fact she never thought about this. But she found something to work on from morning until night at home; she crammed her mind with theses, quizzes, examinations or interesting lesson projects. Se hoped to succeed like this, once again without fantasy at all. She consumed a part of her small salary on paper and printer ink for teaching material that seemed necessary for school hours, or for tasks requested by her chiefs or inspectors. She often went to mandatory meetings and listened to a long memorial of names and possible future school activities, resembling the long list read in church services. Once the meeting was held at a boarding school for theology students, where the chef generously offered them lent snacks, greatly appreciated by all participating teachers. She went round the feast table pinching something here and there, then she left the meeting before its closure. She went home feeling sad and lit a cigarette, a habit that usually helped her forget that the world is even more fantastic than anything she had ever seen.

For instance, she did not understand what was the point of those boring hours beside payed school hours, when some teachers were appointed to sit all day in a small, clean and quiet room on the top floor and had a student at their command as a kind of camp aide, effectively wasting their time. She opened the register she found on the table and discovered that other teachers had more fantasy and made jokes about the hours spent in that guardian tower. Martha did not understand why their superiors asked her to write so many reports and projects and endless tables that she could not have filled only from her empty fantasy world. What was she supposed to write there, when she could count only what he saw in front of her and could not not guess at all what was hidden behind any wall?!

A colleague, much more popular among students, spoke to her one day : "You are a materialist. Do you really think that this table in the teachers’ room is just a table ?Do you really think it exists as such here and now ?" She answered simply yes. She did not like Hegelian dialectics or sophistry of any kind. She was not an attractive person in conversations. The other lady teachers talked about the “glass bead game” and usually about the books she did not read. She felt sad and alone, but still she did not lose hope. She knew, a long time before becoming a teacher, that she was always an outsider, if we take into consideration society’s models and norms. Everything she planned was in vain. The fact that logic is not enough in life was a lesson that she could not understand. First she succeeded, then everything tumbled down. The same happened with her success among students. Once, when her colleagues were smoking in the teachers’ room (smoking was forbidden to students), one of them made a joke that there are too many witches for one pot, that single ashtray on the table. Martha did not fit such kind of humor, she really did not understand others’ jokes and for a moment she thought maybe it was her the cauldron, but then she quickly shook off the ashes and the stray thoughts, and the world seemed the same again. She also did not quite understand why they stayed so long in the schoolyard, both teachers and students, after a mere fire simulation, but probably with true firemen, climbing and watering the school’s roof and walls in plenty.

Then came the conflict with one of her student groups. She had categorically refused to be a form master, since she already had too many papers to administer. She remained only a teacher, but only with an honorific title. The reality was that in the classroom, some of those students that she loved too much with her too warm heart, did not even listen to her. That’s what she saw, that’s what she thought. Young people, 16-17 years old (actually she thought they were no more children, for her they were young people) made loud noises covering her weak voice and when she turned to the blackboard to write down and explain some formula, a volley of shots made of small paper balls or even chalk pieces aimed to her outfit, a pretty faultless dress in fact. After several such unsuccessful small wars she complained to other teachers, who were form master teachers in the same time, and they told her on a peaceful tone of voice that she has the bread and the knife in her hands and she should understand this. Then Martha tried desperately to admonish her students, to lower their grades if they were deserved of course, but it was worse. A school psychologist intervened and children wrote on anonymous notes complaints that their teacher ... one note (she knew from whom) said that she looks like a goodhearted person, but ... , someone else (she did not know who) said she was too fat and the great majority of students wrote that she does not know how or she cannot communicate or have a dialogue with them. Martha was sad, this was the most unacceptable thing for her, because what she valued the most was the dialogue. Another lesson she did not understand was that dialogue does not happen only because someone is openhearted and sincere.

After two years of apprenticeship, Martha left that job for various reasons. She was left alone with a rent to pay, like a broken cuckoo clock in a deserted house. That benevolent gentleman did not help her anymore and her money from an unexpected inheritance dwindled away. Moreover, that nightclub was re-established with fresh horsepower and her nights became real nightmares. What I wrote here are excerpts from her diary that got by chance into my bag. It was an interesting reading for me, because I had been another kind of Martha my whole life. On the third floor and a half, above her apartment, someone established a law firm with young ladies treading the floor on high heels in weekends and off-hours. After Martha managed to move to another part of the town, I cannot say neither what happened there nor what happened to Martha, because her diary ends there with the words: "it remains to be seen". It seems that she moved somewhere near the old Fire Tower where she would eventually visit the firemen museum, fantastic like any other museum . Martha had a fanciful mind precisely because she could not make use of her imagination.

© Copyright 2017 Cristina1900. All rights reserved.

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