I had an interview today for a long-term maternity leave at the high school. I think I looked nice, and more importantly, I think the interview went very well. I thought the same thing the last three time though, so who knows? One teacher gave me advice on dressing more professionally, and how to wear my hair and whatnot, and I appreciated the kind words, but it made me feel insecure and icky. I debated not going to the baby shower after school today, but I knew that I had to and in retrospect, I am very glad that I did.
I went to dinner with an old friend tonight. We went to Hibachi, and I stuffed myself like a big, fat pig. My friend is going through a rough time, and I was glad I could talk to him about it.
I’m not crazy about today’s prompt, so you’ll have to let me know what you think.
THE PROMPT: “Retirement Party Food Fight”
After 40 years at the same job, you are finally ready to retire. Your coworkers throw you a party with cake and ice cream. Everything is going well until the end of the celebration when they ask you to speak. Instead of using this opportunity to thank everyone, you reveal a deep, dark secret about your boss that leads to a massive food fight.
I remember standing at the podium – an aged, cheap wooden contraption that had been at the school as long as I had been. Most of the faculty had gathered in the large cafeteria, with its harsh halogen lights burning overhead, and their asses were all going numb from the uncomfortable benches and chairs that students were only subjected to for thirty minutes. Inexpensive plastic plates holding remnants of ice cream cake that had my name plastered on it, with the words “Happy Retirement.” Forty years ago, I walked through the doors of the high school and my boobs were firmer and further above my waist, my smile displayed more of my real teeth and my hair was longer. It seemed like forever ago, and as I looked out at the faculty members in attendance, I realized that they were infants – children, toddlers, and babies. Not a single soul had been present for my first day on the job, save for one, and he was my boss.
Mr. Smith was only a few years older than me when I started as an English teacher for the 12th grade, but he was older enough for me to be impressed and intimidated. He was charismatic and charming, and he was married. But that didn’t seem to matter to me when he took me by the hand and kissed me near his car, or when we slept together after the teachers’ convention in Atlantic City. After the sex, and after the mystery and intrigue had vanished, we hadn’t seen each other socially. He stayed with his wife and had a family. We were young, optimistic, romantic and stupid – I convinced myself that was all it was, and was comfortable with our past. For forty years, I had let sleeping dogs lie but for some reason, in front of these strangers, I opened my mouth and said, “I’d like to thank Mr. Smith for the best sex I’ve ever had. And for giving me a job, I guess.” I offered an awkward smile stretching across my crooked mouth, and met only silence.
Then suddenly, from the back of the crowd that was facing me with open mouths, I heard a woman shout, “You pig!” I closed my eyes and braced for the impact, because I was sure she had thrown something. I hoped it was just a plastic cup, or maybe some plastic cutlery, but a small piece of me feared it might be the knife we had used to cut the cake. Nothing hit me though, and I remained unscathed, so I opened my eyes. The young woman in the back, the newest hire in the foreign language department, had thrown a full cup of diet soda at Mr. Smith. Her hands were trembling at her sides, so she clenched them into fists and breathed deeply through her nose like a raging bull. I wondered if I should clarify that I had slept with Mr. Smith a lifetime ago, but then Mrs. Radner, another English teacher, stepped between Mr. Smith and the young woman. She had a freshly cut slice of cake upon a plate in her palm. She faced Mr. Smith on steady feet, and demanded to know how many others he had conquered. He looked down at his feet, mumbled something quietly and whatever it was, Radner did not find it satisfactory. Not caring for dignity, and mustering up all the anger and shame that she could, she shoved the cake into his face.
Several faculty members gasped and shuffled backward. It became eerily quiet and again I wondered if I should say something, explain myself perchance, but then an older math teacher entered the circle and faced Radner. The math teacher, Mrs. Northampton, had cake of her own and slammed it into Radner’s face, screeching that Mr. Smith deserved more respect as a supervisor and besides, Smith was in love with her, and would be leaving his wife. Radner’s best friend, Ms. Schue, dumped the bowl of pretzels over Northampton’s head and told her she was crazy. Soon, all sorts of female faculty members were throwing condiments, entrees, appetizers and desserts at one another, while the male members stood back to watch with goofy, juvenile smiles.
I felt responsible, but enjoyed my removed position, and so I very discreetly stepped off the podium and headed to the double doors to the right, which was far from the fray. I had my purse, coat and car keys, so I was good to go. It wasn’t exactly the note I had wanted to end on, but I felt satisfied that no one would ever forget the day I left those hallowed halls of education. I was smiling in spite of myself, but stopped when I saw the ever-popular Mr. Smith, sitting just inside the exit doors, wiping cake from his face. He looked to me, and he looked ridiculous – covered in cake and deflated; somehow smaller than he had been just moments ago. “Happy trails, Linda.”
“Good luck, Frank,” I said. Then I left the building.