Henry Constant used to call him Ed, and he called Henry Hank. He would come in and philosophize with Hank during his free hour; no appointment necessary. They’d sit there in the office with their feet up on that solid oak desk, he and good old Hank, drinking coffee and calling each other by their Christian names and wondering what the world was coming to. But a month ago, just before Easter, wise, dependable Henry Constant had passed away from a heart attack—possibly a complication from the cirrhosis—and the control tower downtown had replaced him with Ms. Mode, a freshly-minted young EdD who had got the job, as the Kirkland Buglereported, because of “her skills in personnel management.”
She whipped off her glasses and flashed a temporary smile.
He thought it appropriate to smile back.
She leaned forward. “I thought we should talk about the future,” she began.
He nodded and cleared his throat and began to search for a masterful sentence that would introduce the speech he had spent this past Memorial Day weekend formulating and revising and polishing and practicing in front of the bathroom mirror—the speech that would eloquently put forth his vision of the future for Language Arts at Sunset High; the speech that would begin with a declaration of his well-considered philosophy of education, formed by the experience of thirty-odd years; the speech that would subtly demonstrate his mastery of the Classics, those immortal works of outstanding merit, those monuments of the human spirit, those shining and infallible touchstones that had stood the test of time; the speech that would off-handedly remind her (in case she had not had time to look at his file) that he had spent ten long hard summers working on his Master’s thesis on Shakespeare’s tragic heroes; the speech that would proceed to inform her that with Henry Constant’s sage counsel, he had been grooming young Bob White to replace himself as Chairman of Language Arts in three years, when he would turn sixty-two and would finally be eligible for Social Security; the speech that would go on to recommend that Bobbie, despite being just fifty-one and having just a B.A. and being just a mite weak in Greek tragedy and Shakespeare’s later plays, as well as having just a slight stutter, was the perfect man (having spent the last five summers on his thesis showing the influence of Aristophanes’ The Clouds on John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces) to step into his own shoes and continue the long venerable tradition that had made Language Arts the pride of Sunset High—in fact, the pride of the entire Kirkland School District, if they only had the good sense to recognize the gold mine they had on their hands.
But that masterful first sentence would not come. It was a prisoner in his brain, tied up in a knot of words and parentheses and dashes and semicolons.