Before launching the Iridia zine, I began work on a mini-supplement. It was a mix of Buffy, Little Fears, GURPS I.O.U and Monsters and Other Childish Things. The project eventually became the "This Is LA" series of articles. What follows is the article that started it all. The two illustrations are concepts that David Hamilton developed for me.
My name is Mr. Reed and I teach [Teaching IQ/Average] 2nd grade at Orchid Street Elementary School. My tenure [Tenure +5] affords me certain protections and latitude in my daily duties. In light of this, I'd like to share some of my experiences in order to inform you of the nature of education in this country and to warn people about the challenges students and educators face. At times, you may find yourself doubting the veracity of my statements. However, everything I’ve written is the truth, or as close to the truth as I am able to recall. Certain events have been so shocking to my system that I am often unable to record them with perfect accuracy.
My day begins at 6:30 when the alarm clock feature on my cell phone begins to beep without mercy. My phone never leaves my side. [Quirk -1] It is extremely important that I have quick, convenient communication with the outside world, especially to emergency services. Many nights of restless sleep and anxious dreams [Insomnia -10] have driven me to consume considerable amounts of melatonin tablets and other over the counter sleep aids to ease the transition into sleep. I do not trust that my medical records are confidential, hence the lack of physician-prescribed medication. Needless to say, I arise more than a little groggy.
Before stumbling into the shower, I unload my 9mm, which rests on the bedside table. [Guns (Pistol) DX/Easy] When people ask me about my gun ownership, I tell them that I live in a rather poor neighborhood and worry that my humble abode may be the object of a home invasion robbery. This, of course, is a deception. My pistol provides protection - and some degree of comfort - when I am away from Orchid Street. While my tenure keeps me safe there, it's useless outside school grounds. [I had considered the Paranoia disadvantage, but it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.]
I try to look for greater meaning and insight while performing even the simplest activities, like attendance. Recently I’ve been able to identify a few noteworthy trends.
Marcus is always absent the day after a full or new moon. There’s little room left for interpretation in regards to that. Julia’s attendance is a bit more puzzling. She is either tardy or absent on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 11th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, 27th, 29th, and 31st. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why that shy, pale girl is governed by prime numbers.
Student work offers many insights into their lives. Most children produce artwork and writing that is appropriate for their age and reflects the kinds of people and interests one would expect a seven or eight year old to be involved with – family, hobbies, daydreams, etc. What stands out are drawings and stories that are beyond the norm.
For example, Stephen recently shared with me a drawing of a robot with long claws and a flashlight on one arm. The boy seemed rather agitated while drawing, practically stabbing the paper with his pencil. When I asked him about the drawing, he shared with me a rather frightening tale.
He told me that the robot was short, about 3’ tall, and had a nasty habit of hiding in bushes. When he or his friends would walk by, it would leap out, claws raking and eyes glowing. Apparently, the robot was built by his older brother Kirk after ordering some parts and blueprints online. Once assembled, the robot refused to follow instructions and began tearing up the house before escaping. The robot has been lurking near Stephen’s house ever since, being most familiar with that area.
I hear stories like that all the time. If it’s not Iron Man coming over to a student’s house for pizza, it’s a 3’ tall, killer robot. Nevertheless, I offered sincere advice. Stephen may, in fact, have robot troubles. God knows I have seen stranger things.
I suggested that Stephen and his friends set up a little ambush of their own. Don’t bother telling any other adults; they won’t take it seriously. I advised Stephen to allow the robot to chase one of his friends into a narrow space where some other kids with bats can pounce, then pound the robot into submission. I added that a hose might help to short out the robot’s electrical systems. Stephen still looked worried as he gripped his drawing tightly. I wish I could do more, like hit the robot with my car or blast it with my pistol, but the staff handbook forbids faculty from mixing with (or intervening on the behalf of) students after school.
I wish that some of the harried children would band together in some sort of mutual-aid society, but that’s unlikely. At such a young age, many children are worried about being accused of lying by peers or fear being made fun of. This makes it hard for them to seek out others for assistance. Again, I wish I could help in some sort of supervisory role, but my superiors have strictly forbidden the faculty from, “…engaging students in discussions of fantasy make-believe nonsense. Any student who approaches their teacher with delusional tales are to be referred immediately to the school psychologist.”
The school psychologist? A terrible idea, but more on that later. Still, I think I know someone who can help.
A former student of mine, who is now in high school, has dealt with similar issues and helps others from time to time. Such communication is risky, since student-faculty interactions are closely monitored. I hope that luck is on my side, because Stephen’s case appears dire and I can’t sit by and do nothing. [Higher Purpose (Aid Students) +5]
The awareness of the supernatural I experienced as a child never left me, although its potency has diminished somewhat. The ravages of adult stress, I guess. [Spirit Empathy (1 inute preparation, -20%) +12] In my youth I could simply glance at something that didn’t belong and immediately note its bizarre, otherworldly origins. I could even communicate with the spirit, sometimes engaging it in dialogue. It was from those experiences that I learned to be a thoughtful, influential conversationalist. [Voice +10; Diplomacy IQ/Hard; Public Speaking IQ/Avg]
As an adult, I have to concentrate to view supernatural beings. I turn my head to see the object in my peripheral vision. I let my vision go blurry and then I can divine the true nature of a person or thing. It’s not uncommon for me to stand still in the hallway, playground or in my class, turning my head this way and that to get a “better look.” People have often commented on my strange mannerism, but I just tell them it’s an issue with a contact lens. [Bad Sight (nearsighted, contact lenses -60%) -10]
While “adjusting my lenses” I have seen some rather disturbing entities around Orchid Street Elementary, one of these being a student in my class.