I don’t like Mr. Boule. I’m in the minority here. Everybody adores the new English teacher. He took over Old Lady Lictenstein’s AP English and immediately started a zine with the AP nerds and the Business English ‘tards. He started a monthly poetry slam. Thet is always on my ass to join Boule’s graphic novel club. I mean it does sound kind of mad fire but I just don’t like Mr Boule. I think Mr. Boule is weird. He’s one of those old guys who works out. That’s just weird. He’s shrimps but totally jacked. He’s so shredded Mr. Boule is practically as wide as he is tall. With the muscles, Mr. Boule is chill with the jocks, hanging out early to pump iron. Then when the lead weirdo got the ‘vid, Mr. Boule stepped in and saved the day by singing the Music Man. Natch. I just don’t trust Mr. Boule. I don’t trust people who are good at lots of stuff. People who walk in and take over and shit. Nobody should get to just come in and just be liked. Nobody gets to be everything to everyone. I was drawing a pic of Mr. Boule being mushed by a statue instead of watching The Red Badge of Courage. Suddenly Mr. Boule is breathing coffee breath over my shoulder. “ That’s really good, bud. Am I fighting an alien?” Mr. Boule whispered cheerful and encouraging. I rolled my eyes. I knew I was better than good, hyper realistic, expressive line work, my drawing was bet. “Naw, it’s the Bean.” “The what now?” “You know the Bean.” Gears churning, Mr. Boule looked at me blankly. “The Bean, you know Cloud Gate, that big shiny bean sculpture in Chicago,” I said wearily. “Right, right, Shytown I was just testing you,” the teacher said clapping my back extra hard. I kept drawing. I had been to Chicago with my dad because he liked to do big things to make up for all the everyday crap he’s terrible at. Half listening to the dead boring movie, I finished my drawing of Millennial Park. Then I remembered Mr. Boule said he lived in Chicago. “How could he not remember his hometown. I glanced to the front of the room. Mr. Boule was animated and excited talking about something I didn’t care about. His face cracked side to side. Mr. Boule’s mouth was all smiley but his eyes were murder. His eyes were murder and they were looking straight at me. Mr. Boyle is a fake, as hollow as a shell. He has a secret. It must be a big one to hide yourself in this one house town. And he would hurt to me to keep his secret. The bell rang. We locked eyes as I gathered my stuff. I saw myself tearing Mr. Boule down from his wall. “See you tomorrow.” We said to each other.
“Dearest, that hat does nothing for you. Don’t make a face I’m only trying to help you look better. Speaking of needing help, have you heard about the Perraults? Where have you been under a bridge? I heard from my girl who heard from the butcher’s that the Perrault girl eloped with a nobleman’s son. You know the one? No not Maelle, she makes men run away. No the other one with the face, never wore a decent frock. No, silly, not Hughette she needs more of of a tent than a frock. No the pretty one, Andre’s daughter not Odile’s pair, that one sold Odile’s silver, bought finery, and convinced a wealthy boy she was a damsel in distress. The little scamp has the big house and the servants and everyone wrapped around her finger. I heard Odile is living on pride. She wears paste jewelry, poor dear. No, Odile won’t say a word out of fear. All she can hope for is the jezebel’s kindness and to marry off her girls with no dowrys. No Andre Perrault didn’t have a sou. He lived off his first wife’s inheritance until he snared Odile. Dear, try this one with the lavender ribbon. Every tradesmen knew Andre was lead painted gold. If Odile had used her head instead of her heart she wouldn’t have fallen to the dogs. What’s her name? No not Ella, or Cinda. Anyways I heard Odile is hoping the little hussy throws her a few coins. That Perrault girl is no better than she ought to be, you’re so right. Some people are just not kind. That hat is worse than the first.”
I had to kill her. I never thought I could think such a thing. She was a piece of me as much as if she was my flesh. Hans married me for my face, another ornament for his pretty collection. Without a dowry and over 21, I was no bargain according to my eldest brother. Still I left my books and my little garden with a heavy heart. Such is the way for gentlewoman without means, governess or second wife. Our honeymoon was brief and uneventful. Hans didn’t mention his daughter until the carriage pulled up to the manor. I suspect the toddler slipped his mind. I can still picture her bone china face with hair black as a raven’s wing peeking from behind the skirts of one of the upstairs maids. “Rosenrot, this is Edelweiss,” Hans said. “It takes after its mother more the pity.” My bridegroom sniffed and turned away. I bowed to the wee babe and asked to enter her home. She looked at me shyly before throwing her porcelain arms wide. We were one. After losing three babies, I opened my near dead heart and found life with this motherless babe. I grew to understand Hans, the old fool, despised the child almost to the point of horror. Up until he suddenly died Hans tried to turn me against his little girl. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. No bad word I could hear against her, my snow flower. Oh my girl was lovely and brilliant. Of course she could be imperious and vain and yes a touch cruel. When I was cross with her, Edelweiss would hug me tight and all was forgiven. Yet the vicious whispers bloomed as my girl blossomed. I ignored the superstitious villagers. Ignoring my own brain, I trusted my heart. Once I saw her transformation on the full moon, once I saw her drinking from a young peasant, once I saw her red red lips stained with blood, the scales fell from my eyes. We fought. My crucifix caught the moonlight and she fled into the night. Now I sit in my boudoir before my looking glass ugly from the blood of her victims because I sheltered a monster. I hired a huntsman to track the creature, the daughter of my heart. I hold the proof of her death in a box in my hands. I can’t bear to see it. I was a stepmother and now I am the evil. I protected the world from this abomination yet I feel her still in the room with me right behind me and though it is wrong I would give my life for one more embrace in her snow white arms.
Dead at the center A cigar box grand edifice Chrome shined relic drowned By zeros and ones
I walk these burnt umber tiles Under the blueness of fluorescents Through jungles of dumb canes Tip-toeing around ghosts of Orange Julius
From big boxes half empty Past shadow boxes of retail past Side stepping kiosk eruptions, Searching (no I don’t want a shoe shine) Questing (gummy grapefruit yes please) Crusading for my own Holy Grail A pair of jeans that fit
Dear Diary, I promised myself a good day. I promised. I woke up happy at least happy enough. I took deep breaths on the hill by the split oak. I gathered mulberries for my porridge. I tended my garden and collected chamomile, ginger, wild lavender, and armfuls of mint to barter in the market. Maybe some smoked pheasant I just wanted a nice supper. At the market people stared. The air grew thick charged with anger. I kept my head lifted. I know what I am. I am the savior when a child has a bone that needs setting, or when a granny has the chilblains, or a baby wants to be born. But the crops were poorly this year too little rain then too much. The town wanted a door to lay the blame on. It is the same story, always the same. No one remembered when they needed me needed my knowledge of the herbs needed my knowledge of all the old old ways. I schooled my face. I promised to have a good day. I smiled at Dagmar with my basket of greenery. The butcher woman turned away to tend to others. “The nerve.” “Shameful.” I spun to face those who whispered and I tripped over the Gottlieb boy I fell hard. His little sister laughed and tossed an apple core at me. The town square cracked into laughter. With a hot face I ran through the woods to my home as those two children chased after me laughing and throwing stones. I wanted a good day. Maybe good days are not for me. But I know Hansel and Gretel would be sorry. I promise.
“Good morning, Miss Dalrymple. I’m sorry to have to bring you in today,” Vice Principal Greenleaf said in his most solemn voice. “Morning, sir. Don’t be sorry. My old auntie Daisy always said any day you wake up is a good day.” The young teacher’s cheerful disposition radiated in the shaded administrative office. Greenleaf adjusted his tie with nervous fingers. “So would you like to explain your side of the events from Friday’s field trip?” Greenleaf tented his hands, the picture of solemnity. Folding her arms, Dalrymple smiled sweetly. “No not really.” “What! You! what,” the vice principal spluttered. “I’ve been flooded with complaints from upset parents this morning. Don’t you want to defend yourself.” Dalrymple smiled more sweetly. “No, sir, not really.” They stared across Greenleaf’s nicely polished black walnut desktop. Greenleaf raked his hair then smoothed it. “Okay okay Miss Dalrymple, what happened at the gallery on Friday.” “I took my fifth grade class to the children’s book illustration exhibit at the Honeycutt Museum. Lovely exhibit and my kids will be making their own books this week. I want them to tell their own stories, sir. The installation was in the John William Wilcox room in the Norton wing and of course I explained how Wilcox was this county’s sheriff was known for letting Boss Man Norton get away with literal murder and these families both made money exploiting sharecroppers. And that money brought respectability and prestige.” The teacher continued smiling with serious cool eyes. “Now Miss Dalrymple can I call you Dahlia? Dahlia don’t you think that went too far? We don’t want to stir up bad feelings or make people uncomfortable.” “Well Nathan I wasn’t stirring. I was teaching local history. It’s important to know where we are by understanding where we come from. I’ve got 24 kids and they went home excited to write, excited to ask their families about their histories. Maybe one of my kids will be a writer or a historian maybe we will hear stories from people whose stories we never hear. I had over twenty positive emails this weekend so no stirring, just teaching Nathan.” Mouth agape, vice principal Greenleaf slumped back. “I better run along now. I have to prepare the paperwork for our next trip. We’re going to the library, the Robert E. Lee Memorial library. Morning Nathan.”