What happens when a student takes an essay assignment seriously and actually researches love rather than giving in to urges of lust? Maybe this…
Weldon Bell was lost in thought while Ms. Dickinson looked gravely at the students as she began her fourth hour English class. She was a Miz, and not a Miss or a Misses, because “That is nobody’s business but my own.” In fact, the entire Carter High School faculty, save for Mr. Barnowski, knew that she was in love with none other than Mr. Barnowski. He, however, loved Miss Mueller with all of his heart, at least since Miss Farley had become Mrs. Dietrich.
Weldon did not care about Ms. Dickinson’s love interests, since his own interests were those of a typical high school sophomore. He was interested enough in the fact that he could nearly see down Andrea’s shirt from the angle at which he was sitting, and at least two other young men in the class had discovered the same amusement. Ms. Dickinson did not vocalize her observation that a fifth of the male students in her class were glancing down Andrea’s shirt, and Andrea herself had no clue.
“I know that you are merely high school sophomores,” said Ms. Dickinson, with an air of superiority that only a Miz of thirty-three years can exhibit. “I wonder, however, do you know anything about love?” She posed this question as she observed each and every student before her, including young Sean, who thought he knew something of love, after having visited Tammy, who presently raised her hand, nightly for the past month. “Yes, Tammy,” called Ms. Dickinson, not having meant her own observation to be addressed by a pupil.
“I know what love is, Ms. Dickinson,” Tammy said with a smile. Weldon, along with most of the other students, knew that Sean had convinced Tammy that he should demonstrate love to her. Some of the other girls, including, in no important order, Kelley, Lisa, and Jaimie, had also found similar love, with Sean as their tutor.
“Please do not keep us in suspense, Tammy,” returned the Miz, not satisfied that Tammy could possibly know as much about love as herself. The students, seated at desks arranged in regular rows, presently looked back at Tammy.
“I know that love is when two people, like, you know, love, or like each other more than, like, anything. It’s deep. Bigger than words, I guess.” Tammy looked over towards Sean after having made her feelings known to the entire class. Sean did not want to limit himself to such a singular definition of love, so he refused to let his eyes meet hers, though she did have two of the most perfect blue eyes of any girl at the school, and most every other young man would have felt honored to look upon them in good favor.
“Quite,” returned Ms. Dickinson. “We shall see.” Not satisfied with the young lady’s response to the question of love, Ms. Dickinson selected no less than ten books of various size and disrepair. She began to quote great authors as to how they envisioned love, and she appeared to believe every one of them, though they often contradicted each other, as well as themselves. (Would the reader like to hear some of the quotes? None of her students remembered a blessed line that she feelingly bequeathed to them, nor will you, therefore, know one.)
After having finished nearly forty minutes of inspired reading, Ms. Dickinson decided to assign a paper dealing with the ideas she had presented to the class. “I want you to write an essay about love, to be read in front of the class on Monday,” she said, as the bell rang. “You may use anything I have discussed in today’s lecture.” Had she told the students of the acceptability of plagiaristic behavior before her somnolent diatribe, no less than three of them would have, in fact, taken notes. Alex, Stephanie, and Andrea would have been compelled, by the desire to impress each other and the old maid, to jot down any and all pertinent information, based on past note-taking experience.
Stephanie liked to use direct quotes within the context of someone else’s thought process, not that Stephanie did not have her own thoughts. She just figured if it had already been written down, the author must have known something (besides how to spell). Alex liked to use loose association between himself and the name of some learned gentleman. His method did not negate the use of his own thoughts, though he usually misused the thoughts of others. Andrea liked to sketch flowers in her notebook, and she often linked the right thought to the wrong conclusion because of her propensity to make squiggly lines here and there. Nobody really cared whether Andrea was right or wrong, except for Ms. Dickinson to some extent, and a few mean-spirited girls, since Andrea herself was the prettiest little unplucked flower at Carter High.
One student who did not care in the least whether or not he should have taken notes during Ms. Dickinson’s rantings was Weldon Bell, the hero of our tale. He loved sports, and he loved being regarded as extraordinary by his fellow male students, but he did not see himself as interested in love, nor in Ms. Dickinson’s definition of the word. He knew about physical love, and he had had some awkward, yet fulfilling, experiences in that regard with Desiree Jackson, a cheerleader and all-around popular girl. Not to say that Weldon himself was less than popular, being a member of the football, basketball, and baseball teams. Some of the young ladies even referred to Weldon as “a hottie.” He was also an average student, which, in an average world, allowed for average academic recognition by his peers. Genial superiority was not the most respected attribute at Carter High.
Weldon had to get the assignment from Jess Green during their sixth hour gym class, since he had been disoriented when Ms. Dickinson was verbalizing the requirements. Jess was a good student in the vaguest sense of both the word “good” and the word “student.” He did not like school, but he showed up. He did not like homework, but he completed every last assignment. He certainly did not like Ms. Dickinson, but he demonstrated no less than the most courteous politeness to the lady. Jess did admire Weldon, though, since Weldon treated him with the utmost respect and benevolence despite Jess’s station in life at the bottom of the Carter High food chain.
Weldon began working on the assignment as soon as he learned of it during sixth hour. His apparent thoughtlessness in many of his classes was due to the fact that he worked on other assignments while he should have been concentrating on the current lecture. To be sure, Coach Dunbar was not exactly lecturing, but Weldon did miss an inspired explanation as to why “we don’t bounce when we stretch.”
The importance of the assignment for Ms. Dickinson’s class eluded Weldon for the entire weekend. He did think about it Sunday evening just after the televised local game ended, but the game highlights on the news interrupted his train of thought. To be sure, Alex, Stephanie, and Andrea had already secured their places as the top students by writing their papers before the big game. Stephanie did not exactly give a hoot about sports, but she felt that people needed the civic pride offered by local teams, so she watched the game. Andrea watched the game in order to spend time with her father, who never noticed she was spending time with him while he was watching sports. Alex liked sports.
Weldon was the first to wake up in his house on Monday morning. He had to get his sisters ready for school. They were both in Middle School. Tasha was in sixth grade and Jamayla was in eighth. Jamayla was the prettier of the two, taking after her mother in those years prior to single-parenthood. Weldon was the parent on mornings after his mother had worked the late shift over at the hospital. He forged so many permission slips that a teacher might have accused Rhonda Griffin’s own signature of being a forgery. Rhonda had never been Mrs. Bell, and she only remained Mrs. Griffin for the sake of her two daughters with that name. Around the house, she was just “mama.”
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Weldon lived only six miles away from school, and if he had had an automobile, the ride might have lasted about fifteen minutes. As it stood, he needed a little over an hour and two transfers on the city bus. By twenty after six every morning, Weldon was waiting for his ride to school. Stephanie was in the shower by 6:20, while Andrea was just waking up. Alex’s alarm was set for 6:45, since he could drive the ten blocks in a mere three minutes, and he was endowed with low-maintenance hair. Tammy woke up at 6:30 to a picture of Sean next to the alarm clock on her nightstand. Sean himself awoke at 7:20 next to Kelley, and their walking in late together put blushes on numerous faces, though not Tammy’s. Ms. Dickinson was up promptly at 6:30, just like every other morning. She took two cups of coffee and read personal ads in the morning paper, circling one ad that requested a “mature and independent woman, 30-55 for friendship/more.”