Spot Writers: Back to School Night

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week the prompts are any three of the following words- tub, motorcycle, papers, hard.

This week’s post comes from Val Muller, who you can stalk at

Back to School Night

Barbara sat staring at a stack of papers. Period Four Literary Analysis. They leaned unevenly atop the ungraded journals from Intro to Comp. She thought about grading another set, but instead she doodled on the daily attendance memo—a dove emerging from a window. Then she slouched at her desk, kicking out her knees. Her foot hit the edge of the desk, and the stack of grading shifted.

It reminded her of the leaning Tower of Pisa and its awkward beauty—only this one was ready to collapse onto her at any moment. Just like the job threatened to collapse onto her life. She glanced up at the chalkboard. Ms. Levine, she had written, followed by the date and Welcome Parents with a cartoony smiley face. She was told to be as optimistic as possible during her first year of teaching.

The busses pulled away, and she rose to glance at the window. The early autumn leaves billowed in the busses’ wake. A gust of art school blew through her mind, followed by her mother’s worried voice after the graduation festivities had ended. “So what are you going to do now?”

Double-majoring in English had made teaching a quick degree to earn, and she’d gotten certified and hired before the dust of her decision had even settled. And now here she was, stuck at school until 7 p.m., killing time before her first back-to-school night. She dreaded meeting the parents—people almost old enough to be her own parents. What did she have to say to them about English composition and the district’s new grading policy?

If only she could talk about art.

It was going to be a long night.

It was going to be a long year.

She sighed and considered grading again. Her feet ached from walking around all day, squeezing through the cramped desks of the tiny classroom. If only she could have a bath—a nice soak in a tub filled with lots of bubbles. There would be no such thing as grading or parents or students. Only mellow music and relaxation. She listened in the hallways, but all was quiet. The students were gone, and most of the teachers had run home to eat before the parents arrived.

Barbara lived too far to go home and make it back by seven, so she was stuck here for three more hours. She wondered whether any of the other teachers felt this way. They all seemed to enjoy their jobs—at least, at times. Was she the only one who dreamed of drawing and painting instead of waiting in line of the copier and marking up grammar exercises?

Before she knew it, she was doodling again, a fantasy sketch this time with a damsel in distress surrounded by a monster-filled moat, and prince charming of on the other side of a dark forest. She could practically hear the water of the moat rushing under the monsters’ webbed appendages, and she swore she could hear them growl.

She looked up.

It wasn’t a growl. It was Mr. Watson clearing his throat.

“Oh—” she stammered. “I didn’t see you.”

“It’s okay,” he said. He nodded to her drawing. “I was watching you sketch during our last staff meeting.”

She felt her face heat, and she pushed her hair in front of her face. Mr. Watson shook his head.

“I meant that in a good way,” he said. “Watching you sketch was the only thing keeping me sane during the meeting. I thought it would never end.”

She smiled. “You mean I wasn’t the only one bored out of my mind, Mr. Watson?”

Mr. Watson smiled.  “Call me Greg. And of course you weren’t the only one bored. We just all know how to hide it real well. You’ll learn with time.” He cleared his throat. “Are you stuck here, too?”

She nodded. “No sense in going home. I’d just have to turn right back again.”

“Me, too.” He paused. Looked down at his feet. “I was wondering… do you maybe want to grab a bite to eat? We’ve got plenty of time to kill before the parents arrive.”

Was he asking her out? All of his features seemed to jump out at her at once. His cheekbones. His determined eyes. His broad chest. What was she thinking?

“Okay,” was all she could manage. She stood to leave.

“You’d better drive,” he said. “Unless you’d like to ride on the back of a motorcycle.”

She slammed her hand onto her desk and watched the stack of papers tumble into a messy pile. She didn’t’ give it a second thought. “As a matter of fact, I would like to give the motorcycle a try. I’ve never ridden on one, but I can’t imagine there’s much more freeing. And I’m feeling like I need a little freedom right about now.”

He nodded. “It’s freeing, alright. I’ll make a rider of you in no time.”

They walked down to the parking lot, where the last of the busses had left a trail of early autumn leaves. As they sped away on his bike, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist, she noticed the beauty in the angle of the sun and the wind in the trees. And the ungraded papers were the furthest things from her mind.

The Spot Writers- our members.


Catherine A. MacKenzie

 RC Bonitz

 Val Muller


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