Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)
TITLE: Crater Face
By julie wood
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“Prejudice is not only wrong; it’s stupid!” Her hands flapping, her fingers fluttering like birds, she paces up and down the aisles of her eighth-grade classroom. Her mist-green eyes, normally dreamy as the dawn Pacific, now harden into flashing emeralds.
Behind her back, her snickering students call her Crater Face.
All but me, that is. Perhaps this is because of the zits pebbling my own forehead, the windblown tangles flopping free from my too-loose scrunchie, the heavy lenses of my glasses slipping down at half-mast on my nose. Perhaps it’s because of the cold within that keeps me huddled forward, curled up tight around myself like a turtle retreating to its shell. Hunchback of Notre Dame is what my fellow eighth graders call me. And Witch. And Dog. And Dorko. And Mental Retard…
Perhaps this is why for me Miss Waverley is a hero.
The acne scars pocking her moon-round face are not severe. The craters are marble-sized, obscured by the moonlight flowing from her misty eyes, her dancing voice, her sparkling smile. To me my English teacher is a beauty, lovely as anything I’d spot up in the velvet midnight sky. But her real beauty stems from the moonlight of her shared passion for justice.
For most eighth-graders, passion isn’t cool. At least not the kind that grieves for Anne Frank cloistered in her garret while Nazi boots pound the streets outside. Or that flees from the Mechanical Hound with Montag the fireman, who no longer chooses to convert books into ash heaps. Passion may be cool when it comes to flirting with the football team captain, but normally it’s better to snap shutters on your eyes and exhale cigarette smoke from a bored and lipsticked mask. From a glazed and empty robot face like a thousand others, that only sparks to life when there’s something weird to mock. Like Miss Waverley’s flapping arms and fervent smile. Or like my dropped-jaw wonder when I listen to her words, the moonlight of her righteous anger reflected behind my crooked glasses.
I’m inching towards Room 204, Miss Waverley’s attendance sheets bobbing in my shaking hands. “Witch!” Brad bellows at me as I stumble through the door. The sheets slip from my fingers to spill a snowstorm about my shoes. His classmates erupt in laughter—everyone hooting but Miss Waverley herself, who rises trembling in her rage.
“You don’t treat others that way!” Her gentle eyes have once again hardened into emeralds. Her fingers become swordpoints she stabs at my tormentors. “It’s wrong to judge others upon appearances! It’s cruel and ignorant and stupid….”
I long to sink invisible beneath the paper-littered floor. For most eighth-graders, being Teacher’s Pet isn’t cool. For weeks afterwards, I will face whispers and giggles. Rumors of a friendship blossoming between us of a sort that is…well, the main topic for most junior high jokes. I turn and flee, not pausing to collect the scattered papers from the floor. Briefly I consider hating Miss Waverley. Or at least pretending to, joining my classmates in calling her Crater Face behind her back. Emptying my own face of all feeling except for mockery. Donning the mask the others wear.
But masks don’t fit me very well. They never have. They tend to slip loose like my unruly tangles, revealing the blazing sun behind. I cannot hide my own hatred for racism, for book burning, for judging people worthless over acne scars or fumbling hands or our own inability to fake it. And I cannot hide my love for Miss Waverley, my kindred spirit sister whose only crime, like mine, lies in not knowing how to be anyone but herself. Or in how to keep her light flowing from every crater of her moon-shaped face, reflecting the sun blazing within.
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