Long Valley Road Excerpt
“This is Deanna Fowler, Teacher’s Aid at Junction Road School speaking. We’ve had a bit of an emergency. I know school has just about started and I wouldn’t call but I can think of nobody else to ring at this late hour.” The words all rushed into Kylena’s ear.
She glanced at her watch. It was ten to nine, commencement time. “Tell me what you need, Deanna,” she replied in a soft voice that appeared to calm the woman on the line down a little.
“It’s Bruce. He’s had an accident at home,” Deanna said. “I’m not sure of the details but Janice is rushing him into the doctor. I’m left with the whole school to look after. One parent is coming in to help but we need a teacher.”
“Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Kylena replied. “Now don’t worry. Just tell the children to do project work or read until I arrive.”
“Thanks Kylena. I know you’re on maternity leave but, as I said…”
“I’ll see you soon,” Kylena replied and hung up.
“Who was that?” Fiona asked.
“Bruce Cheever, the principal at Junction Road School had an accident and Janice, his wife is rushing him into town. Deanna Fowler is at her wits end, I’d say. I could hear kids screaming in the background as she spoke. I’m going over.”
Fiona frowned. “But…”
“It’s an emergency. I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t overdo it,” Fiona warned.
“Okay. I’ll leave a note for John,” Kylena replied and rushed through to the bedroom to change into a maternity smock. She hated the things but couldn’t very well wear shorts and blouse in front of a class of strange children.
The noise met Kylena as she walked down the path and in the senior room door. No adults were around and the place was a shambles. On red-faced senior girl was standing at the front trying to control the twenty or so children, paper darts were flying around and a tall boy at the rear was banging his desk top up and down to add to the mayhem.
“That will do!” Kylena’s voice cut the room like a knife. “All sit down, please.”
All eyes turned her way and the noise subsided as she walked to the front of the room. However, as she walked by a group of four senior boys one sniggered, “The fat lady arrives.”
Kylena stopped and turned so her eyes bore into the youth. “And what did you say, Mr. Newson?” she asked. She didn’t know the boy’s first name but knew he was one of the Newsons who lived on Long Valley Road.
“Nothing,” the boy muttered but gave his companions a grin.
“I see,” the teacher replied. “Andrew Newson’s son, I believe.”
The murmur of noise that had begun to rise again, stopped.
“So!” the boy retorted.
Kylena knew the sort. He bred off his macho image and would thrive if she showed any weakness or anger.
“Your first name, please?” she asked in a voice that was ice cold but low in volume.
“Len,” the boy replied and held her eyes as if he dared her to do anything. Kylena walked to the front of the room and saw what she was looking for. On the message board was a list of the families and telephone numbers. While the noise began to rise again, especially from the four senior boys who sensed victory, she noted a number, turned, walked back to Len Newson and stood beside him.
The noise dropped as the teacher pulled a mobile phone from her pocket. She punched in a number and in a voice everyone could hear, spoke to the person on the other end.
“Good morning. Is that Andrew Newson?… Good. This is Kylena Berg speaking. There is nothing to worry about but Bruce is absent and I have been asked to teach at the school for the day… No, none of your children are hurt, Mr. Newson. Your son, Len, though, has refused to co-operate. I’d like you to come down and take him home.” She glowered at the boy. “Yes, Mr. Newson, I am afraid I cannot teach a child who calls me a fat lady and continues to think it is one big joke…” A loud voice could be heard coming through the instrument. “You’ll be here in ten minutes. Thank you. Goodbye.”
She turned to Len. “Your father is coming to get you, Len.”
The boy swallowed and stared at her but Kylena ignored him. She walked to the scribble-strewn chalkboard and wiped it clean. Only when she was finished, did she turn and face the class. “Everyone here will find something in their desk to do for ten minutes. Read a book or continue any project work you have. You will not, though talk or get out of your desk.” Her eyes hit the four boys, three subdued and Len looking pale. “If any of you think you can fool around, I would strongly advise against it.”
She waited while the children found work or a book before she began to draw on the board. In a couple of moments she had a picture of a dragon drawn, a massive creature bellowing smoke from its nostrils. Kylena drew in a gigantic broken wing, some burnt tree stumps and a human crouched behind one stump.
Finally she wrote, Where? Who? Why? and How?” in large letters across the board, turned and smiled at the class. “I want a list of ideas to go with the picture,” she said. “Year 7 and 8 will write at least twenty ideas, the younger children, ten or more. Nobody will talk and you have ten minutes. Go.”
The children, except Len, gave a slight grin and began.
Five minutes later a very irate farmer appeared out the classroom windows.
“Len’s dad,” someone whispered. “God is he mad!”
There was a knock and Andrew Newson stood there. He looked a younger version of Kevin, all red in the face and holding his wide brimmed hat in his hand. He glared at his son and snapped as if he was talking to a dog.
“Get out here, boy.” The boy shuffled to the door and received a rough shove on the shoulder as he walked past his father. “I apologize for his behaviour, Mrs. Berg,” the man said but still looked annoyed. “He won’t do it again.”
Kylena almost felt sorry for the boy as she explained what had happened. The farmer nodded. “The other two okay?” he snapped and nodded at his two other offspring in the room.
“Yes, fine,” Kylena said. “I don’t know if I’ll be back tomorrow but if I am, Len we will be welcome to return.”
“Right, Mrs. Berg. Sorry again. I’ll let you get on with it,” He turned. “You,” he snapped at his son. “Get in the truck.”
Kylena turned and wandered around the classroom as the children wrote their notes in silence. Deanna appeared a few moments later, full of apologies and said she had been held up in the junior room. “Was that Andrew?” she asked.
“Yes,” Kylena replied. “I sent Len home.”
Deanna rolled her eyes but made no comment. She gazed at the dragon picture and the children all working away. “How do you do it?” she whispered.
“They’re good kids but just need a little motivation.”
“But Bruce never has them this quiet.”
“It’s what I expect. See you at morning interval.”
She turned to the class. “Right, I want you to come and sit on the carpet. We’ll see what ideas we have.”