Mrs. Mann meets me in the office that afternoon. She give me a smile and beckons me to follow her out into the hall.
"Nicole, Jody, Beverly," she begins. "Those are the current 1st grade teachers. We are incredibly overcrowded. It took 911 Locust forever to figure out where all the teachers belonged. I'm hoping for one more 4th and one more 1st, in fact. Let's see Beverly first."
Beverly's classroom is right next to the office. She is almost as large as Mrs. Mann, but with Florence Henderson's haircut and glasses I think my mother threw away in 1986. Mrs. Mann introduces me.
"Bridgett? I'm Beverly Wheaton." She then continues a conversation with Mrs. Mann as if I'm not there, and halfway through, when I realize she's talking about her husband's brother is in prison for child molestation, I wish I were just about anywhere else. Mrs. Mann lets her go on a moment, until Beverly starts circling back to the beginning of the tale. Then she holds up her hand.
"Bridgett's the new first grade teacher," she explains. "Which students would you like her to have?"
Later on, much later on, when Derek's father shows up with a belt in one hand and a beer in the other, this method will strike me as, well, imbalanced. Beverly, in the end, is a nice person, but who wouldn't give up her worst behavior problems to the new girl who's just showed up at the door?
"Derek," she points. "I've had him for two years," she explains to me. Also later on, I will come to understand this means Derek's doing his third year in first grade. He is 9.
"Hector, Robert, Trevor, Leon," she then says quickly. Mrs. Mann holds up a hand while she locates all of them on a roster. "Paul?"
"Ok, Paul. Derek, Hector, Robert, Trevor, Leon, Paul. Anyone else? Maybe two more?"
Beverly looks back at her classroom. "Greg and Benny." Eight boys.
Derek is running up to Beverly as Mrs. Mann locates these last two. Beverly flinches and puts hands in front of her as he punches her in the stomach. "I hate you! Why are you giving me away?"
"Now Derek," Beverly begins. "This is your new teacher." She looks at Mrs. Mann, who nods.
"Send him to see me," is the answer. "The rest start in the new room tomorrow."
Nicole's classroom is next door and she's about my age. Mrs. Mann gives her the same offer: what basket cases do you want to rid yourself of? I get 9 there, only three girls. And Jody, who is brand new and looks at me with exhaustion that I fear I'm looking forward to, rattles off 10 names before Mrs. Mann can stop her. "Give me 8."
"Fine. I'll keep Kelly and Felicity."
We leave with the marked up roster. Jody's classroom is right below mine. "She started with 4th grade, but it was too much for her," Mrs. Mann tells me quietly as we go up to my classroom. She hands me her handwritten notes. "Twenty-five. I'll have children and desks sent up tomorrow in the morning."
We stand there, awkward now. It's after lunch and I have nothing to do but probably cannot leave early. "Did you get furniture?" she asks, even though the room is still empty.
"I picked some out, yes. Chuck said by the end of the week. And Mrs. Mann, what about books?"
"We have a shortage. I have science books for you, and reading. No math."
"I see." I lean against the chalk rail. "What now?"
"Fill out your roster book. Didn't Mrs. Morris bring you the supplies?"
I shake my head. I don't even know who Mrs. Morris might be.
"Fine. I'll have her bring everything to you. And I'll try to get Chuck to act faster than by the end of the week. Again, welcome to Henry."
She leaves me there with nothing but my purse locked in the closet.