Friday, May 11, 2012

#fridayflash "The Substitute"


For today's #fridayflash piece, I used a writing prompt generated from this website here. The writing prompt is in bold.

The Substitute

It was hard to command any sense of gravitas with gravy stains on your shirt. Of course, it could’ve been worse. I could’ve had onion breath or collard greens sticking between my teeth. My hand fluttered before my mouth for a quick breath check. Nope, still minty fresh. I smoothed down my tie. Perhaps the students wouldn’t notice the stains. Why had I left my coat in the car?

“My name is Charles Fisher, and I’m substituting for Dr. Roberts today.” My gravelly voice barely made a dent in their conversation. Thumbs flew over cell phones. A girl laughed, high-pitched and flirty. Thirty years ago, such a giggle would’ve thrilled me. Now it made me feel old, sad.

Sweat pooled in my armpits. I loosened the tie, which felt more like a noose with each passing second. A spitball splattered against the dry-erase board. My fingers fumbled through Dr. Roberts’ notes. Their chatter increased as they ignored me. I didn’t blame them. Who respected a fifty-seven year old grad student? My mouth dried out before I could even mentally count the number of students. With a sigh, I slammed the notebook shut and sank upon the stool. My loafer rested upon the stool’s rung.

“She said you were studying Descartes’ philosophy.” I stood from the stool and wrote “Cogito ergo sum” on the board. I might exist, but these students didn’t think I did.

“Does anyone know what this means?” I waited. “It’s Latin.”


Another spitball flew and dotted the “I” in “cogito.” If I wasn’t supposed to be teaching them, then I would’ve been impressed.

“So . . .”

The volume crescendoed, so I strolled to the desk, grabbed the trash can, and flung it against the wall. It boomed and rattled delightfully with a metallic clang. The room silenced as mouths dropped open.

“Does that trash can exist?” I perched on the desk. Not a single student looked away from me, but none answered.

“Does it?” Instead of yelling the words, I spoke softly.

“Y-yes,” a girl answered.

“Prove it.” I crossed my arms, almost not caring I had gravy on my shirt. After minutes of disrespect, I had their attention now.


If you like flash fiction and want to try your hand at writing some, don't forget my blogfest coming up on May 21-23. Click here for details and to sign up.


Anonymous said...

Been there. Very evocative.

Anonymous said...

It's never like that on Glee. Great snap shot of a moment in this guys life. A satisfying end too. Nice detail with the precision spit: it anchors your scene.

Christine Rains said...

That was awesome. I startled when he threw the trashcan. Great way to teach philosophy!

Hildred said...

Looks about right. I enjoyed being in this guy's head. although when he was talking about stains at the beginning I was wondering if this would end with dead bodies in his trunk XD

pegjet said...

I loved this! My only critique (because someone pointed this out to me years ago)....never start a story with "It". Otherwise, great characterization, voice was perfect, actions were organic...this was a fun flash.

Anonymous said...

Now why didn't I think of such a stunt back in my substitute teaching days? I was hooked from the gravy stains. Loved it!

Anonymous said...

It's so hard being a sub. I'm glad he got their attention.

Great piece. Have a great weekend.

Catherine Stine said...

It's cool how this obviously freaked out new teacher takes command by doing something totally unexpected. I like the tie as noose analogy.

mshatch said...

great short piece and what a great way to get the students' attention!

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh I like that! I was almost on the students' side until that display of bravado. Good for him!