Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ELA substitute-Part One

          Evelyn arrived at the end of September, the third substitute in three weeks in the classroom next door. I walked to her room to meet her at lunch time, figuring she needed a break on her first day at Belvedere High.
          “I'm Gina. I teach art, next door. There is a decent salad bar in the cafeteria that took us a couple of years to convince the Honcho to let us have it, and if we don't use it, she’ll go back to serving crappy burgers and tacos, the same stuff she serves the kids every day.  There are over one hundred adults here.  They could fix something decent.”
          " I usually bring my lunch, but  I'll try the salad bar." She looked around the room, trying to take in the mess the previous class had made.
          “Come on. We only have half hour. Actually, it’s now twentyfive minutes. If you want to use the restroom, better hurry.”
         We walked briskly across the quad where teens were  lined up in long lines to grab their bag lunch. Strong smells of ketchup and sweats mixed with the smoky-hot Santa Ana winds typical of the late summer weather in Southern California.

          When she paid for the salad, she mumbled something to me about the size of the bowl. We sat by ourselves, all other seats taken already and I heard about  how hard it was for her to afford the gas to get to this school  from her house in the valley.  I found out we lived in the same neighborhood. We arranged carpool.
Time moved fast on those long rides on crowded freeways, starting with the Ventura and ending with the Long Beach, eyes and ears picking up signals that might change the route at a moment's notice.    
She had chosen the San Fernando Valley neighborhood not realizing that these schools had closed recently. Parents were sending their children to private schools, to avoid court mandated desegregation, and public schools didn't have enough children to remain open.  Her two children were enrolled in a school two miles away.
  Around six-thirty, when she picked me up, she had already dropped her children at the YMCA’s  extended day program and  sometimes left them at the door. Her daughter, Brianna, had covered for her.
“Where is your mom; why are you here alone?” The director would inquire when she saw two children waiting at the door when she arrived.
 “You just missed her.”  Brianna would respond.
“Your mother can’t leave until I’ve signed you in.”
“Yes, ma`am."

I knew more things about her in a short week than I knew of my neighbors of twenty years.  She had moved here from Florida,  late August, and this was the first assignment she had received. 
          "Why would you leave a paradise like Florida?”
          “Hot and humid.  Children with ant bites, diaper rashes and skin infections. Gully washers every afternoon at three, precise enough you can set your watch by them, almost every day. At Apalachicola, the little village on the Gulf where we lived before mother died was way too remote. My  husband is in the oil industry  and  got transferred to California."

to be continued.... 


  1. Hmmm. I moved to and from Florida once :). The school situation in CA does concern me. It will be my biggest consideration next to cost of living.

  2. The school in this fiction piece is/was in East L.A. Back in the early eighties, it problems of poverty, transiency, lack of qualified teachers, racial tensions. Racial tension can be quite a force.

    Schools everywhere are having many problems these days. Check you your neighborhood school, talk to parents, children. Not every school is like the one I've portrayed.

    We lived in Woodland Hills, San Fernando Valley. The schools were excellent, and my children thrived there.

  3. hmmmm, hmmm, i wish this were longer with more subtext - i like to create a vision of the surroundings of the main characters. . . the lunchroom visual is exactly what i mean, i liked thinking of the seat mixed in with the wind. . .is this calm intro to some wicked action?