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Al Bumen (Novel)


Chapter Two

The Beginning


Al’s teaching career began as strangely as it ended, he had completed his degree in K-8 education in the spring semester and began his search for a job. It was a tight market that year and after spending the summer sending out applications, he had all but given up hope of finding a job. He had hoped to teach alongside his cooperating teacher in the high school he had graduated from five years prior. They hadn’t even given him an interview. It was a highly ranked school and there weren’t many first year teachers.

It was a cruel joke life played on him. As a student and then a student teacher, he was surrounded by polite students bent on high grade point averages dutifully absorbing lessons, and parents calling at the slightest hint of a problem. That was what he wanted; Thirty years in a well run classroom.

The summer had been depressing, it was the last day of August and he hadn’t even had an interview. Had he been more flexible about moving it might have been different, as it was though, his applications had been confined to the mid-plains states because it was a region he felt the most comfortable in, or at least he had lived within that area his entire life. Most districts hadn’t even bothered to send rejection letters. To make matters worse, there was a glut of social studies teachers.

Disappointed, Al signed another year lease on his tiny apartment and prepared to settle into another year of washing dishes and frying doughnuts.

He sat at the table smelling the doughnuts and fresh bread coming from the shop below him. Soon, he would descend the wooden fire escape to the ground and pick something out for lunch.

The phone rang and Al answered, “Uh huh” and without ceremony, the woman on the other end introduced herself as head of human resources for the Kansas City, Kansas public schools, “Are you Alphonse Bumen”?

He said, “That’s me.”

“Between Language Arts and Science, which one would you prefer?”

It took Al by surprise, had he even sent them an application? “Science,” he always chose the second option.

“Alright, you’ll be teaching science at Hardy Middle School on Hadley. You start on Monday.”

The phone call was over in a minute and Al Bumen was a teacher. He had the weekend to find a place to live and prepare for students.

He didn’t feel elated–not even close–it was panic mode. He told the landlord to rip up his lease to which he replied, “I’ll try to rent it out, but until I do you’re legally bound to pay the rent.”

Good, he thought, just keep piling it on. He knew it would be hard to rent if anyone got a whiff of the cat piss that he hadn’t smelled when he was looking at the place.

Al walked the tiny space making a list of what was absolutely necessary then he dropped those items over the rail. Al made trips to his car with as many pairs of pants, shirts, socks and underwear as he could carry. Some items were reconsidered and left where they lay. With a quick adjustment of his lumbar pillow, he started off. The apartment door was left open for anyone that wanted the rest of it.

The hundred miles went by quickly enough, he was thrilled to have a job and, at the same time, frightened at the short notice and the idea of teaching on his own. There would be science books with lessons prepared so he could get his feet on the ground and set a routine. He worried most about finding a place to live without knowing the city.

The trip ended at the first gas station within city limits. He needed gas, and a city map.

The attendant gave some vague directions and Al started off to find the school in the darkness. The streets were well marked and it didn’t take long to find it. The school was an industrial looking building with four-stories. It was made of red bricks and had faded green-gray window frames. The school was surrounded by two story houses each with a small patch of grass on either side of the steps leading up to front porches. The spaces between the houses were too small to be of use for anything but an old trike or dog chain.

He stepped out to stretch his legs and to look for for rent signs. A tall black man had been watching him from his porch, “Get your white ass outta here.” Al was startled and turned to face the voice.

Al pointed at the school and said, “I start teaching there on Monday, and I just wanted to see it.”

“I thought you were looking for drugs.”

“No, I wasn’t looking for drugs–you got any?”

The man on the porch laughed.

Al pressed him, “No, really. I could use a lude or even a handful of aspirins if you have any. I’m nervous about Monday–I only have a day to find a place to live.”

The man studied Al and after some consideration said, “I’m your union rep–I suppose I can help you get a good start. C’mon up, we’ll smoke a bowl and I’ll show you some places to look. It won’t be around here though. Jimmie’s my name, Jimmie Cox with an “X”.”


Fine art by Michael Kmiotek.
Kinetic sculptures suitable for gardens or other outdoor locations
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