A Story by Willys Watson

This is a first draft that likely will be edited.




With the exception of those wanting to go to the restroom on occasion, when a student in Mrs. Miller’s class raised their hand it was almost always either Sarah or Doc.

"Yes, Doc,’ she responded when seeing his hand raised, doing so while stifling the desire to roll her eyes.

"I know why communism doesn’t work and just figured out how it will end,’ he blurted out.


"Say I’m from a poor family and only have two pairs of shoes, one for school and play and the other I have to save for church on Sunday, right?" Doc started to explain, then paused when several of his classmates, knowing he was using himself as an example, giggled, then continued, "Thing is if everyone is poor and has the same things no one has a reason to be jealous, right?"

"While this may be true what does this have to do with our history class?" she asked while hoping this would bring the subject back to the chapter they were studying.

"But everyone having the same isn’t fair because some work harder or a smarter and they should be rewarded more for their hard work. That’s why it will never works right. You want to know why it won’t last?"

"No, Doc, now is not the time," she stated with a veiled warning.

"The real problem is that most folks do work hard and have little to show for it in the commies countries because very greedy people steal from everyone else to get even richer and they live in luxury while everyone else stays poor."

"Let’s get back to the lesson, Doc!"

"When they can’t even feed their own family sooner or later the majority will finally get enough courage to fight back, and if the US waits long enough we won’t have to beat them in war because the people in Russia will topple their own government," he finally finished and Mrs. Miller gave a sigh of relief that lasted just a few seconds as she saw Sarah rise from her chair.

"Doc is right, Mrs. Miller, even if he needs to explain it a little better," Sarah proclaimed.

"Sarah, Honey, he may be right but I’m teaching history here and we need to focus on that."

"Mrs. Miller, my mom says we need do something now because it might happen here if our own middle class keeps working harder and keeps having less to show for it because the greedy here aren’t satisfied enough just being rich."

"Sarah, let’s get back to the subject we’re studying," Mrs. Miller sternly cautioned her.


"Yes, Mrs. Miller, I will, but my mom says we need to worry about it now if we don’t want to end up in a world where we’ll have some Khrushchev type guy leading us. And, oh, my mom thinks we should be teaching a history repeating itself class here in our schools."

"Sarah, I’ve told you we need focus on the chapter we’re studying now."

"I’ve read the lesson three times and will get an ‘A’ even if some of the questions I answer I know are false. I’ll still answer the false questions like a good little student is supposed to."

"I don’t come up with false questions of the test, Young Lady, so you better settle down!" Mrs. Miller warned her.

"In that test when you asked us what nationality Columbus was I gave the right answer because he was born and raised in the Republic Of Genoa long before it became part of Italy. So he wasn’t really an Italian explorer. You said my answer was wrong and gave me a 98 on that test.

"Sarah’s right about Columbus, Mrs. Miller. I’ve read that, too," Doc added to support his classmate.

When the rest of the class started laughing their teacher quickly rose from her desk and pointed to the door.

"Sarah, Doc, both of you go to the principle’s office now. And stay there and wait for me."


Mr. Carson was in his first year as the school’s new principle and was younger that most of the teachers, seemed less old fashioned to the students and most generally thought he was pretty cool. Perceived as cool or not, Sarah and Doc waited silently on the bench outside his door and avoided eye contact with Mrs. Miller when she exited his office.


Being the first one called into the office Doc sat nervously in the chair in front of Mr. Carson’s desk. Although he had waited outside the school offices a half-dozen times during the year it was always to see the vice-principle, not Mr. Carson himself. This added to Doc’s stress because he didn’t know what to expect from the actual principle.

"We really have to do something about these interruptions you cause in class sometimes," the principle’s sermon began. "You do understand it’s become a real problem, don’t you?"

"Yes, Sir, I know, Mr. Carson, but I don’t do it on purpose. I’m not a troublemaker. It’s just that sometimes ideas I get come so suddenly to me I just seem to need to hear the words spoken just to see if they sound logical. Does this sound logical or kind of weird to you?"

"Natural enough thought process to me for a bright person. And your mother has told me you’ve always been this way and your whole family is allowed to express themselves without restriction. So anyway, I think all you really need is some discipline to solve your interrupting the class problem," he suggested, and when he noticed Doc squirming in his chair, the principle quickly amended his reply while softly laughing. "No, not the old school paddle type discipline. That’s not my style. With you I mean you simply need to develop a little more mental discipline. Like with your sudden ideas I suggest you start carrying around a small notebook and when you get your ideas you quickly write them down while they’re still fresh in your head. By writing down what you’re thinking you can visualize saying it out loud."

"Yes. Sir, I’ll start doing that."

"Doc, I know you’re much smarter than your grades suggest because I’ve seen your equivalency scores and they’re pretty high. I also know you’re a promising artist and are well read because I’ve seen some of the drawings by you and some of the literature you read that’s been confiscated by your teachers. Personally, though I’ve not fond of blank verse, I do love Maugham’s ‘The Razor’s Edge’ and I like some of the poets you read, like Wallace Stevens. But that’s not the point. While in class you just need to focus a little more on the actual school criteria. You can do that for two more years, can’t you?"

"Yes, Sir, I can. I mean, I’ll try to do my best to do better in class."

"You’ll have to do better than just doing better if you ever expect to amount to anything beyond being a starving artist, an obscure, unpublished poet or a common laborer. While there’s nothing wrong with working with your hands we both know you’re too talented to not use all your talents," Mr. Carson sincerely suggested.

"Yes, Sir, I promise to do my best," Doc responded as he rose from the chair while thinking the lecture was over.

"Have you started defining the path you’ll be on after school?"

"Not yet, Sir. I just think I need some real world experience first."

"That’s understandable," the principle admitted, while offering Doc a handshake. "And by the way, Mrs. Miller conveyed to me your theory on the collapse of communism and it sounds fascinating. I would love to read it when you’re developed it and have put it down on paper."

"Thank you, Sir." Doc responded with a wide smile.

"You’ll have plenty of time to work on it during your two day suspension," Mr. Carson stated in what he thought was a joking manner. But when Doc’s smile quickly melted Mr. Carson added, "Tell your folks it’s a school assignment and if you get it to me by the end of next week I’ll suspend the suspension and I’ll make sure you get extra credit for it."

Doc grinned and quickly backed out of the office before the principle could change his mind.


This was Sarah’s forth trip to Mr. Carson’s office and, unlike Doc, she was not uncomfortable sitting across from the real principle. It helped that both of her parents were well educated and very progressive for the small, conservative town they lived in. Her father was an engineer who developed prototype instrument panels for the nearby aircraft plant and her mother taught classes of Contemporary History at the local university, so their social awareness, emphasis on education and justly earned confidence was passed down to Sarah, their only child.

"Whatever am I going to do with you, Missy?" Mr. Carson asked in a milder tone than he had used with Daniel. When she simply shrugged her shoulders he added, "You’re top of you’re class and will likely achieve a great deal in your life. So I simply can’t punish our future valedictorian, can I?"

"Thank you, Sir," Sarah replied while trying to suppress a grin.

"Be that as it may, the problem is you may not amount to anything more than getting your head busted in by cops during a pro-civil rights march if your don’t practice a little self-discipline, a little more restraint, a little more subtlety, in getting your points across. Understand what I’m saying?"

"Yes, Sir, I’ll work on my subtlety."

"And, yes, I know our textbooks are outdated and sometimes flawed. We can blame that on our state’s public school budget. You could always aspire to change that by writing or editing history textbooks when you get out of college," he teased her.

"Sorry, Sir, but I’ve made other plans," she responded.

"I’m sure you have, and asking you to be a little subtle is not like I’ve expecting you to give up your dreams or principles. You’re a natural role model and with your intelligence, drive and passion I just think you’ll be able to help more of the people you want to help from a position of respected authority. Does that make sense?"

"Yes, Sir, I suppose it does."


"And, Honey, not all of our students are as academically gifted as you and they have to try harder to learn what you learn easily. So we should try to let them learn on their own schedule without the interruptions, okay? And try not to become a snob. Profound concepts can come from less formally educated people.

"Yes, Sir. I’m learning this more every day. Last weekend my father used Eric Hoffer as an example to remind me not to stereotype."

"Yes, Hoffer is an excellent example and I’m looking forward to meeting your parents during out next Parent-Teacher open house," Mr. Carson agreed as their meeting ended.


By the time she retired after twenty five years Mrs. Miller had become less stern and a lot more flexible as a teacher to the point of becoming, by the late-70s, semi-feminist and even changed her name to Ms. Miller. And as a benefit to her transformation she began to be remembered fondly by her later students. Because she and her husband were childless she treasured this late blooming show of affection from them.

And during her retirement she naturally wondered about what happened to the lives of some of her students after high school. Many she knew never left their small town for long, if at all, and they married, settled down and raised their own families nearby. She knew this because she often came across then while shopping, at football games, in church or at class reunions. Some did get divorced, of course, but even most of these never ventured far from home.

The ones she wondered about the most were the ones who went off to college and didn’t return or otherwise just fled the community. In her mind most of these were the students she considered the misfits or outsiders or, tactfully, the originals who never really seemed to fit into small town life and she secretly envied them. And she often thought about her two most difficult students.

She had worried a lot about Sarah and was afraid she might become an imprisoned radical and was relieved to learn she had gone to law school, joined a firm in Dallas that specialized in civil rights infringement cases and eventually was appointed a circuit judge. But as far as Ms. Miller knew Sarah never returned to the town she spent the last six of her school years living in. And it sadden her that Sarah never came to one of the class reunions so she could her how proud she was of what her former student had become.

As to Doc he had served in the military, was stationed in Viet Nam for a year, and later was stationed in Washington. She knew this from a story in the local newspaper. From a second hand source she heard he had moved back to town and bought a new house and was an investigator of some kind. Then she heard from a neighbor of his that within a few years he had left town never to return. And although she knew some of his family still lived locally she respected their privacy and never inquired.


Still, she wondered. Did he die tragically young, perhaps from taking drugs. Ms. Miller quickly discounted this possibility because he never seemed like the type to abuse anything. Because he showed advanced talents as an artist did he become a serious painter? If so she couldn’t find any information about him under his name. She knew from his school days that he loved literature. Did he become a noted writer while using a pseudonym? Did he end up burying or setting aside his talents for some reason? Perhaps because he never reached the level he wanted to obtain?

As often as she wondered and longed to know, deep inside she really didn’t want her questions answered. Over time her mind had imagined him as an original who lived his life as it was meant to be and as she aged she wanted to, needed to, believe he found his true purpose in life and was living a long, fulfilling life.

Though she never admitted it to herself Ms. Miller lived vicariously though the perceived social rebels who had been, for a fleeting moment, some of her students and she did not want the illusions shattered. The illusions had personal names like Scott, Roxanne, Clifton, Sarah, Jack, Lillian, Randal and, of course, Doc. She lived through their lives because during her own long life she never had their courage to become more than what she settled for.



© 2017 Willys Watson

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Added on November 26, 2017
Last Updated on November 28, 2017
Tags: high school, students, memories, education, politics, art


Willys Watson
Willys Watson

Los Angeles, CA

Writer, Artist, Scalawag. more..