Run Straight Down

On Monday, principal Peter Galvin welcomes the committee that will evaluate Ribicoff High School for accreditation–just as someone guns down a student outside the main entrance.

On Tuesday, homicide cop Abigail Teague tells him she fears that the shooting will incite a gang war.

On Wednesday, student teacher Kim Dombrowik finds drugs in a student’s locker, and there’s a riot in the school cafeteria.

Thursday REALLY sucks.

And the evaluation committee won’t leave until Friday…

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“If there is anything education does not lack today, it is critics.”

–Nathan M. Pusey

Chapter One

Pete Galvin feels last night’s six-pack kicking behind his eyes, and the two photocopiers pounding away in the audio-visual room add counterpoint fit for the D-Day invasion. He even smells the artillery shells exploding. Wait a minute. That’s wrong.

The copiers chug along, the good one spitting out eighteen pages a minute and the older one twelve, the way they’ve been doing for the last two hours. When Galvin thinks about that, he knows what the smell is.

“Oh, shit.” He watches the top of the older copier turn brown, the plastic buckling inward as it begins to smolder.

“Oh, shit,” repeats Luther Hogden, Satan’s gift to the AV department. He grabs the finished copies out of the tray and turns the machine off. With only one copier working, the room sounds like a stereo with one dead speaker.

“It’s down for the count.” Hogden makes the sign of the cross over the machine and watches a toothpick of smoke climb toward the ceiling.

“I guess we’ll have to get these suckers done on one machine.” Galvin throttles an urge to kick the copier, but they still need ninety copies of a twenty-seven-page packet for that afternoon’s meeting. “What’s an extra hour or two?”

“Actually, with only one copier, it’s going to take another two hours and fifteen minutes.” Hogden’s a math teacher and probably does word problems instead of counting sheep at night. He and Galvin have already stapled a hundred-thirty-five copies, which two aides have wheeled downstairs to put into teachers’ mailboxes.

“Shoulda done this last week.” Hogden is seventy pounds overweight, with a bristly goatee and shiny slicked-back hair.

The sweat stains under his arms exude a smell like grilled warthog. Until Galvin realized that the copier was going Kamikaze, he thought he smelled Hogden.

“You’re right, Luther. That was the plan.” Galvin pounds his stapler again. His right hand feels like he’s been practicing karate.

“Bet those evaluation types had something to say to you about these being missing.” Hogden is what Galvin thinks of as a “Type B” teacher, the most common type: he knows more about mathematics than Sir Isaac Newton but has the social skills of a hammer.

“They did.” Galvin concentrates on his stapler. The copies were supposed to be ready for yesterday, when the whole faculty met the evaluation committee to discuss the school’s accreditation.

“Made us all look pretty fucking stupid,” Hogden continues.

“You could have told us Friday afternoon that the copy machine was out of staple wire.” Last night’s Sam Adams sextet reminds Galvin that he’s in charge and he doesn’t need this shit.

“I’m teaching four classes, too, remember?” Hogden squares up another set of corners. “How am I supposed to know if nobody tells me?”

Outside, Galvin sees teachers loitering in the hall with papers they obviously want to copy. He remembers what it feels like to make plans and have them blown to shreds on a second’s notice.
Before he can answer, his walkie-talkie belches static.

“This is Galvin.” He refuses to say “Unit One,” like they’re in some top secret police state. He’s “Galvin” or, if it’s a good day, “Pete.”

“Boss, this is Ricardo.” The security guard’s voice grates like a rusty saw. “A kid’s been shot down here. By where the buses unload. A girl.”

Galvin’s out the door, turning right, the halls long as runways but blessedly clear.

The earpiece bounces against his ear. “How bad is she? Have you called an ambulance?” The “Exit” sign glows ahead of him, big red letters above Stairway 9. He hits the panic bar and follows the echo down the stairwell.

“Betty’s called nine-one-one and Kelly’s out here.” Ricardo’s puffing. “Boss, we’re doing CPR, but she’s already dead.”