The Longest Class
by Laura W. Tomasko
I loved math until Mr. Bernhardt. Nothing much ever happened in his class. Mike always sat in the back with his watch alarm set to go off every two minutes.
“Six minutes left,” he’d say in a stage whisper for all to hear, including Mr. Bernhardt. “”Four minutes to go. Two minutes.” What could old Bernhardt say, telling time was math, wasn’t it? End of each class, he’d be off again on how modern weaponry depended on the work of the great mathematicians, the foundation for the scientists, blah blah.
“Research and development, that’s what I was meant to do,” he’d say, staring out the window. “Anyone can teach, waste of time.”
He got that right, described his class perfectly. I’d be asleep right now except Heidi Mendelson wore my favorite white lace see-through tank top today. Yesterday she sharpened pencils in that black mini-skirt. So not a total loss.
“Someday we’ll have a bomb that will kill people, but leave their cities standing,” he said last week. “Save time, we move right in and use everything, the buildings and equipment. Only a matter of time,” he said, with a glance at Mike. “We have the theoretical knowledge. All we need is a clinical trial, to get funding for the work.”
A two-hour block out of my life every day that I’d never get back. Bernhardt was coming in later every morning, hair a mess, stains on his tie, 15 straight days in the same pants (Mike kept a running tally). Bernhardt was more distracted this week than usual, if that was possible. Dark circles under his eyes. Left early, too, his car tearing down the driveway over the speed bumps even before all the busses were gone.
Today is Friday and we have a substitute. We watched a boring DVD on famous mathematicians: Newton, Euclid, Pythagoras, Fibonacci. I didn’t see the name Bernhardt anywhere on the list, you know? I wonder where Bernhardt is today; he’s never been absent that I’m aware of. Strange, he always lists homework assignments on the board for the next week, so we can organize our time. Zero excuses are accepted for late work.
“If you have a death in the family, your work better be here anyway,” he always says. Today the board is empty.
So anyway, to avoid just watching the DVD I figure I’ll write all this down, at least I’ll get my English journal pages finished with this running record of math class. I just need pages, not quality. Word count. Wonder what that funny smell is. I hope it isn’t lunch.
“Two minutes to go,” says Mike from the back of the room.
Laura Wilson Tomasko has a B.A. from the University of Connecticut and an M.Ed from Worcester State College, where she won first prize in the Kathleen Downey Short Fiction Contest. She has published in Scouting magazine, The Southbridge Evening News, and baystateparent. She is working on a memoir.
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