Sadie clicked the remote off. She could not abide one more racist rant out of Donald Trump’s mouth. She emptied the bottle of red wine into her glass. Had she really drunk the entire bottle alone? She seemed to be doing that a lot lately. Picking up a pen, Sadie wrote a yellow sticky note to herself: Stay Sober. She laughed as she pressed the note to the frig door.
Sadie had bouts where she stayed sober, but those intervals were growing further and further apart, especially since she took on the job as Dean of Discipline at Lowcounty High. It wasn’t the job she wanted, but it was the best she could get given she had waited until mid-June to begin looking, and only then because Brice really up and left her like he had been swearing for years he’d do.
She didn’t mind his leaving so much. Brice had never been much of a partner, anyway. He was 36 going on 25. He didn’t have a career yet, and showed no real signs of wanting one. He’d been in and out of college pursuing a degree for the past ten years – first in biology, then in Spanish, and now Computer Science. Sadie had no idea how they would ever get his school loans paid off.
“Not my problem now,” Sadie said, stretching her long legs out on the coffee table. She took another sip of wine and rolled her head from shoulder to shoulder. Damn migraine. She’d been getting a lot of them lately. At first, Sadie blamed the fluorescent lighting in her office.
Denial had long been her default setting. Like a lot of adults who manage to survive child abuse, Sadie had mastered the art of abiding in the land of make-believe. So when she heard that Brice and the bar maid he’d taken up with were having a baby, Sadie pretended she didn’t care.
“I’m happy for him,” Sadie said when Emily called to tell her. Emily shook her head, rolled her eyes. Her sister wouldn’t recognize truth if it walked up and slapped her across the face. Emily knew that part of the reason why Brice left Sadie was because he wanted a baby and she didn’t. What Emily didn’t know was that it wasn’t that Sadie didn’t want a baby – she did in the worst way – it was that she couldn’t have one. Rather than tell everyone that she had a medical condition which had caused her to quit ovulating in her mid-20s, Sadie just pretended she didn’t want kids.
Sadie knew that if a woman told a man she didn’t want kids, she stood a better chance at lasting love, than if she told him she couldn’t have kids. It’s rare the man who will hook up with a woman who can’t have kids. Sadie believed correctly that men are wired to procreate. They don’t necessarily want the responsibility of being a father, a good father, but they sure as hell want the opportunity to spread their seed across the land. Within every man is an Abraham.
Carrying her empty wine glass to the kitchen, Sadie turned on the hot water and rinsed it out. John Grisham followed her, taking his spot on the mat by the patio door, his way of begging for a treat, any treat. Sadie had gone to the pound the week Brice left and found the most pathetic looking mutt to adopt, a mottled mix of terrier and God knows what else. She’d named him John Grisham because of the way he tucked his chin and stared at her from underneath bushy eyebrows.
“You really should consider taking up a street corner, Grish. You have this hangdog persona down,” Sadie said, dropping a piece of jerky on the mat. Grish grabbed it up and ran off.
Sadie stood at the patio door looking at the streaks of blush clouds in the lavender sky.
It had been an extremely difficult week. They’d had to close down all the bathrooms at Lowcounty High because a group of underclassmen had considered it the height of comedy to stuff their lunchtime apples into the toilets in the boys room and then to take a dump on them. The first time the janitor reported it, Sadie had simply replied, “Consider it job security.” The janitor had to put gloves on and fish out the crap and use a plunger to retrieve the apples. He was not amused. After the second day of the same prank, the janitor refused to clean the toilets. Sadie made an school-wide announcement, threatening to shut down the bathrooms.
The students deemed it a wildly successful prank, so the girls followed suit, adding tampons to the mix. That’s when the janitor quit and Sadie went around the school locking the bathroom doors and taping up “Out of Order” signs. Of course, the students took that as an open invitation to leave campus at any time, since they couldn’t use the school bathrooms. By Thursday, the regular 30 percent absentee rate had spiked to 50 percent.
You’d think losing half of your student body would halve your discipline problems, instead it multiplied Sadie’s. The kids weren’t going home. They were hanging around the Commons as if it were their own personal coffee house or hovering around the secretary’s desk because there was no better place for swapping gossip, or just sitting inside their cars catching as much warmth from the early spring sun as they could manage. They were doing anything but going to class.
Not that Sadie blamed them. She was under the impression that most teachers failed to make their subject matter engaging. They just didn’t keep the kids entertained enough.
“If you would keep your students engaged, they wouldn’t skip so much,” Sadie said, reprimanding the faculty during their scheduled Friday morning meeting.
“The insane are running the asylum,” muttered the disgruntled biology teacher. The librarian nodded in agreement.
Since Sadie’s arrival, school discipline had gone down the toilet, quite literally. Students ran to Sadie with whatever piddling complaint they had and Sadie, bless her heart, listened because she believed it was her job to listen. That’s the mantra she drilled into her staff: You must connect with every student.
Sadie walked to the frig and ignoring the yellow “Stay Sober” sticky note reached for another bottle of wine. She poured herself a full glass and took a long gulp.
It was easy for Sadie to get caught up in the endless, mindless problems of the student body. As long as she had other people’s problems to solve, Sadie never had time enough or energy enough to address her own.
She could continue to reside in the land of pretense and pretending. Sadie found comfort there and in a bottle of wine.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Burdy (Mercer University Press).