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Seven Broodlings

Max had been nominated for teacher of the year in his district.  The newspaper had done a small article on him.  He meant to frame it but they spelled his name wrong so he didn’t.  The correction was published a few days later but it wasn’t the same.
    All things considered his nights consisted of drinking, chasing tail, and getting shot down.
    The whole professor in a tweed coat thing and a shitty fake southern accent trying to mask a New York accent hadn’t been pulling in the tourists girls since Katrina.  There simply wasn’t the same numbers coming through the French Quarter anymore.
    So he had resorted to seducing his coworkers.  In the public school system there was about a 95% population of slightly educated, Christian female teachers.  Take out the obese ones and you had a remaining 25%.  Take out the ones that were married and you had maybe 10% left that were viable candidates. 
    Still, the odds were in his favor.
    So that’s why he had decided to take Christine out on a date at the recently reopened French/American restaurant named Bourbon Street.  She was an 8th grade teacher at a middle school in the same district as his.  She was a redhead, with blue eyes.  The works.  But an odd straight laced sort of way about her views on things made her more of a librarian than a vixen.  It would take some work but he was up to it.
    “It’s that moment in the movie where the woman starts talking about all her hopes and dreams and you know it’s just over at that point.  So I change the channel or leave the theatre.  There’s no coming back at that point,” Max said as he cut his steak.
    “What?  That’s just awful,” Christine said as she stopped eating her chicken Caesar salad.
    The waiter came over.  “Would you like another beer sir?”
    “I see no reason to stop now,” he responded.
    “The same?”
    “Indeed.”
    The waiter nodded and walked away.  She scowled as she looked down at her salad.
    “That’s what I like to see,” he said.
    “What is that?” she asked.
    “Restraint,” he said between chewing. 
    He gestured at her lack of consumption with his fork.  She went back to eating but slower and more reserved.
    Max ate his steak the way a pissed off inmate on death row would.  Slow, belligerent, and ready to ask for seconds.  That was just one of the things about him that turned Christine off.  The pauses he would take to leer at things and people.  The odd smirks of joy he took when he noticed people suffering at the next table because they didn’t get their food in a timely fashion.
    “What exactly do you do?” she asked.
    “What do you mean?  Like for a job?  For fun?”
    She nodded.
    “Well…” he chewed his food as he thought about how to phrase it.  “You know when people drink too much during pregnancy, or smoke crack when they should be getting an abortion, or simply breed when they should have had a government forced hysterectomy?  Well I’m the guy that takes care of their kids.  I herd retards.”
    She blinked a few times, picked up a glass of water almost drank it, then put it down.  “You teach special Ed?”
    “Yes, retards.”
    “That’s,” she put her hands on the table.  “I can’t in good conscience believe that.  I think that’s just awful that you should lie like that.”
    “You want to see something really fucked up?”
    “No.”
    He pulled his wallet out and threw a plastic ID card from the high school in New Orleans that he taught at.  He was smiling in the picture but one eye brow was raised.
    “I was drunk when that was taken.”
    She looked at it, then back up at him, then back down at the card and frowned. 
    “Look Max, I don’t know what to make of you.  You seem well…”
    “Like an asshole?”
    “Yea, frankly, yea, and a drunk.  This is very confusing for me.  Sheryl said you were like this but she never said you taught Special Ed.”
    “Is that a problem?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Why would it be a problem?”
    “Because I’m too horrified by you to imagine you teaching those poor special children.”
    He thought about it.  Teaching the little bastards about the finer elements of gambling had been last week’s project.  Malcolm, his prized student, had to be taken to the nurse’s office because of a glue chugging contest.  There was also a lesson in peer pressure in there somewhere.
    “I teach them how to be men…  Except for the women.”
    “That’s just wrong.”
    “What?  It’s not like I beat them.”
    “But do you talk to them that way?”
    “Sometimes…”
    “See, I don’t know if you are being funny or just being you.”
    “What’s wrong with either?”
    “I don’t like either…  I’m sorry.  I just don’t find you attractive.  I mean, this is hard to say because I don’t like being mean.  I just don’t like the way you are.  I think you are physically good looking and I like your smile, half the time, but not when you look at people like a Jackal.”
    He kept chewing his steak.  “OK.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”
    “That’s not good enough for me.”
    “Look, I’m sorry but I just naturally assumed my abilities dealing with retards would naturally give me an advantage when dealing with someone of your mental ability.”
    “What?  Are you- No!  Fuck you!  Don’t you ever talk that way to me!” she stood up.  Grabbed her purse and strutted out with her head held high.
    The waiter came over.
    “Is everything alright, sir?”
    “Dirty bitch…   Another beer.”
    “Right away, sir.”
    The night ended six beers and 8 shots later with a taxi ride home.  He woke up in the shower with the water running over him cold.  His vomit had clogged the drain again and it had flooded around 4 AM.
    After unplugging it with the plunger he went to bed grumbling about hypothermia and woke up three hours later to begin getting ready.  Another taxi ride was required to get him to school since he was still too drunk to drive but good enough for the gifted.
    Class was in the basement of the high school also known as the Tomb.  It was the only class down there, 24 feet below sea level with no windows and almost zero oversight from above.  As long as they didn’t hurt themselves or anyone else every minor infraction was overlooked.  He was sure someday he would be fired as soon as their budget was increased but until then it was his world of black mold and warped text books stacked in the corner. 
    His class came in with the special bus driver leading the pack like a group of bewildered ducklings.
    “Broodlings,” he called them as they came through the door and sat down.
    The bus driver, Shathea, once accidently pronounced Shit-Head at the DMV, glared at him.  “If a man can’t respect himself then how is he going to teach the children he is entrusted with about respect?”
    From a hybrid position somewhere between a slouch and a hunch he responded with “Shathea…  Have you lost weight?”
    She pointed a finger at him.  “You and me, we gonna have words one of these days.” She left and looked back at him once to mouth the words ‘DRUNK’.  He smiled at her and waived her goodbye.
    The seven special ED kids sat at their desks.  Some eyes wide, some staring off at random things, some looking down at their hands in their laps. 
    IQ’s ranged from 78-84 in his class.  Of the five boys and two girls the girls led the pack in intelligence, but they made up for that with a few bad things.  Lack of underwear for a start.  Maria the more attractive of the two was a fiend with the boys.  Alma on the other hand was introverted and violent.  At the age of 15 Maria had slept with more boys then most girls would in their entire lives.  In comparison Alma had beaten more women and men than most violent offenders had.
    At times Max had toyed with the idea of nicknaming them after the seven dwarves or the magnificent seven.  He had even shown them a few movies he could sleep through during the really bad hangovers, but they rarely understood what was going on and the two girls threw off the equation in the end with their constant giggling.
    Teaching the special children had never been what he wanted.  But there was a part of him that secretly enjoyed it.  The thrill of showing them how the popcorn machine worked, the way their eyes lit up when fresh play doe hit the table, fucking crayons, etc… 
    Mostly their willingness to believe anything. 
    “Today, kids…  I’m going to teach you about women…  Now have any of you ever gotten the birds and the bees speech?”
    One of the kids, Alfred, raised a hand.
    “My daddy once told me if I was ever lucky enough to get it in there to never leave anything behind…  And to make damn sure I didn’t pick up anything either.”
    Some of the kids started laughing and so did Max.
    “Wow…  I needed that.  Your dads’ a smart man,” Max said.
    “He’s in China.”
    “With the Asians?”
    “No.  In California.  It’s a jail.”
    “You mean Chino?”
    “Yes.”
    “Good to know.”
     Max tossed a cherry Jolly Rancher from his pocket to Alfred as a reward.  Yes and no where important concepts for them.  He stressed to them the importance of saying ‘yes’ as opposed to ‘yea’.  The candy helped them remember the same way the boozed helped him forget.
    Under his desk in a secret compartment he removed a few bottles and began mixing a white Russian in his Teacher-of-the year mug.  He added a few ice cups to it from a soda cup he had brought with him before class from the teacher’s lounge.
    “See the trick to a solid and healthy relationship is lies.  If you tell the truth people are going to get pissed at you, so most people learn a combination of avoidance, known as omission, and lying.  Do you get me?”
    A few open mouths and squints from the Broodlings.  He took a drink as he reworded it in his brain.
    “Imagine your mom gives you a present for Christmas.  But the present isn’t exactly the one you wanted.  Or in fact it’s one you absolutely hate.”
    “My mom’s a fucking heroin addict,” Alma stated.
    Max paused speaking to chew on a piece of ice from his drink before responding with.  “I don’t doubt that for a second.”
    “Alma’s mom is a heroin addict,” Samuel whispered from the back of the class room and a few of them started laughing.
    Alma spun around and made a fist at them.
    “Samuel!” Max yelled at him.  “What rule did you just break?”
    Samuel lowered his head and muttered.  “Rule number 3.”
    “Right.  Don’t ever under any circumstances talk about anyone else’s family.  Why do we have this rule?”
    “Because Alma will kick my ass again.”
    “Exactly.  And what else do you say now?”
    “I’m sorry, Alma.  I won’t call your mother a heroin addict again.”
    “Good enough, Alma?” Max asked her.
    She was breathing heavy but nodded. 
    “OK, now back to the present you don’t want.  What do you say to your mom?”
    “Buy me something else?” Maria said.
    “No.  You say thank you.  Because if you don’t you are going to hurt your mom’s feelings.”
    “But lying is bad,” Malcom said.
    “No.  Lying is key.  It’s only bad if you are hurting someone or if you get caught.  Especially if you are in a relationship with someone.  The strongest marriages are built on lies.  No one wants to hear the truth.”
    “What if they ask for the truth?” Malcom asked.
    “Especially when they ask for the truth.”
    “Can I have a drink?” Maria asked.
    “Yes you can go get some water,” he said.
    “Can I have some of yours?”
    “No.”
    “Are you lying?”
    “No.”
    She spread her legs.  He wasn’t sure if Maria even owned pants and was positive she didn’t have underwear.     
    “No,” and he opened a book and placed it on the desk blocking the line of site from his eyes to her crotch.  He threw back the rest of the drink and she sighed in frustration crossing her legs back together.  He kept the book up for good measure and started making another white Russian. 
    “Why do you drink so much?” Malcom asked him.
    “I don’t know…  I just hate the way I feel when I’m sober.”
    “Do you get into a lot of trouble when you drink?”
    “All the time.  Especially with women.  That’s the problem with alcohol.  It makes some people honest.  I’m one of them.”
    “Maybe you should lie more,” Maria said.
    “I’ve been telling myself that for years.”
    “Why are you a teacher?”
    “I don’t know…  I’m not a normal teacher though.  I don’t like dealing with normal kids.  I like you guys.”
    “Why?”
    “Because no one cares about you.  As far they are concerned you are never going to amount to anything.  Hell, 50 years ago the Nazis had this plan to wipe you all out.”
    “Nazis?”  Samuel asked.
    “You know, the guys with the cool costumes,” Maria said to Samuel.
    “Oh yea…  I mean yes,” Samuel said.
    Looks like Schindler’s List had paid off, he thought, and in that moment of realization Max felt both spiritually and physically aware of the poison that infected his life, and its name was honesty.
      He was tired of telling the truth.  From now on he would live his life one lie at a time.  Not only to the people he hated but the ones he loved, and most importantly he would lie to himself. 
    That day he decided to stop drinking, to become one of the unwashed masses, to filter everything he said and be loved for everything he wasn’t.  He could hardly wait.     
    Standing up he looked at the Seven Broodlings and saluted them with his half empty white Russian in hand.
    “The last bit of wisdom I’m going to give you is this.  Not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to fuck.  None of you are going to be doctors, scientists, or presidents.  My advice to you is to get the fuck out of here, join a culinary program at one of the local junior colleges and learn to cook.  Pay’s not great but at least you won’t starve.  And you three retards in the back.  Though you have never contributed a single sentence in this class, and I’m not even really sure what your names are, I bid you a fine farewell.  I love all my less-than-beautiful Broodlings equally…”
    Maria uncrossed her legs again. 
    “…and God Bless Unclean Women.”
    He finished the drink and walked out of the classroom.  On his way out of the school he pulled the fire alarm.  They had earned it…

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