8.31.2005

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer, #53


I spotted Amy Betts striding down the hill, away from the high school, too far gone to be stopped. "Cutting, again?" I swore in my empty classroom, half wishing I could join her. The brilliant, sassy girl was probably headed for the Long Island Rail Road station, then on to New York
City, where her apple-green hair and funky clothes fit in. Kids passed in the hall; I needed more copies of my handout for next period. Amy disappeared into a stand of tall bushes, then emerged on the far side, headed the wrong way. I couldn't look away, could only scream as Amy
stepped onto the tracks. The oncoming express rushed pell-mell toward the city. They found her backpack a hundred yards down the line.

Trains are implacable. At the wake, Amy's casket was closed. Her friends clung to each other. Her family sat blank-faced with grief. A black and white copy of Amy's yearbook photo stood propped on her casket. Mrs. Betts insisted on the colorless photo. She couldn't forgive her daughter for dying with apple green hair. I saw things differently. To me, Amy's hair was her rebellion against the depressing beast that plagued her, not defiance of her mother's standards. Too bad Mrs. Betts didn't see things that way.

Amy committed suicide just before spring break. For the remainder of the year her empty desk squatted like a black hole in the back corner of my classroom. The kids wouldn't let it go. I hid the fact that I'd lost faith in my ability to psych kids out and lead them toward tomorrow. Why did I ever decide to step into a classroom and play catcher in the rye? Flipping burgers would be so much easier. Want fries with that?


This is either backstory, or a very very rushed opening. You are telling us a lot of things, not showing them to us.

You're leaving out details that could tell more than facts: I remember when a friend of my youngest sister's was killed in an accident. Her friends came to the service, dressed in black, but the black dresses were party dresses. They were too young to have funeral clothes or business suits. I've never forgotten that detail. More than anything it underscored how young that college freshman was.


This is a pass.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm just a reader, but there's something very evocative here that tugs at the gut. Forgive the horrible pun but reading this is like watching a train-wreck. I want to know what happens next.

pina_la_nina said...

Other details jar here too. I don't know of any high schools with a view of the LIRR tracks. Not to mention that thing about express. I don't think the LIRR's ever heard of it.

Still I like the emotion of a teacher gazing out the window wishing he could cut class.

Anonymous said...

FYI, re: express LIRR trains - you can catch the Port Jeff Branch 7:49 a.m.out of Syosset that goes non-stop to Penn Sta, arriving at 8:37.

Ronkonkoma branch: 7:30 a.m. leaves Brentwood, arrives Penn Sta 8:28

Don't know about schools with a view of the RR. Private school?

Beth said...

I disagree. I think the only improvement I'd suggest is to take off that first paragraph and start out with the one that begins "Trains are implacable" - and go from there exactly as written. Do that, and it reads beautifully.