Chapter Description: Clark goes to pick up his pre-kindergarten class from the buses while at the same time Beouf's class is unloading at the same time.
Chapter 4: Just like the Big Grown-Ups
The sun hadn’t been up long when the first of the buses arrived. Most teachers hated bus duty. Within their classrooms, every teacher is a benevolent dictator; a king or queen. A demi-god. Outside, even on campus, our power is greatly diminished. We’re not in our space. We’re not in our environment. Not in our zone of control. We’re not acting, and we can only react and hope for the best from our students.
That’s the nicest way to put it. Teacher lounge talk went a little more like: “Darn kids keep dragging their feet.”, “It’s not hard! Just get to breakfast!”, “Why is bus 1017 always late?”, and “How am I supposed to get any planning done when I’m on monitor duty?”
Me? I loved it. My students were too young to walk across campus unaccompanied, and the Pre-K bus as well as the (sigh) Maturosis and Developmental Plateau bus were scheduled to be the last to arrive. Ergo, I was always on bus duty, at least until my students came in. All of my current students, anyways.
“Good Morning Eleanor. Hello Michael. Glad you’re back Mindy, hope you’re feeling better.”
“Good Morning Mr. Gibson.”
“Hey, Mr. G.”
“I am. Thank you, Mr. Gibson.”
And so it went.
Going into my tenth year of teaching meant that I knew a good chunk of every kid in every grade. I’d taught a lot of these children their alphabet and first sight words. Heck, I’d potty trained a lot of them. For all their blather about maturity and adultness, Amazons in my experience tend to suck at potty training their children.
I’m showing my bias, but I suspect that deep down neither their children nor they are ready when it happens. That and the giants tend to spoil their children and make up in the “discipline” department with the Littles that they choose to “adopt”.
Knowing the kids had its perks. Regardless of size, there was an almost mystical power that happened when you called someone out by their full name. And I knew a lot of names. “Phyllis Mary-Ann Finster! You know better than that!” The third grader’s jog slowed into more of a power walk. “That’s better, Phylls! Thank you!” I wasn’t going to begrudge a power walk.
No one gets into teaching for the money. They get into it because they want to make a difference in a stranger’s life. They want to pass on what they know and what they’ve learned to the next generation; the next several generations if they’re lucky.
I was no different. My first class of pre-schoolers were all late middle school and early high school age now. I was able to watch them grow up- watch all of my students grow up- and got to be a constant presence and example for them. I was proof that any preconception of Littles they might have had was wrong. I was just as much a teacher, just as much an authority figure, just as much an expert, and just as much an adult as any Amazon on campus. And I reminded them every day as they got older just by saying hello and reminding them not to run over each other as soon as they got off the bus.
After the initial bus and breakfast rush- the infamous bus 1017 included- Mrs. Beouf’s and my buses pulled in. Tracy looked to me. “You want I should get our guys off?”
I stroked my chin in thought. “Not quite,” I said. “Sosa says that most of our guys are making gains in their O.T. metrics, right?” Tracy nodded. “Go on in,” I said. “Tell them to unbuckle their seatbelts. We’ve got a couple minutes to practice getting off the bus like big boys and girls.”
Dang. How did I forget about Elmer? “Help Elmer,” I told her, “but let him be first off. He can be our good example.” Amazon strength buckles were hard enough for Amazon strength kids that age. Elmer was my youngest this year AND a Tweener. He was also the only kid in my class that was completely potty trained. Yes, even for nap time.
“You got it, chief.” Tracy said before climbing up the stairs to get things underway.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Beouf was busy unloading her “children”. Mentally, I kicked myself. In taking the time to teach my own students real life independence, I was forcing myself to be exposed to some very unpleasant reminders. Life just wasn’t fair.
Mrs. Zoge trotted up, Ivy riding shotgun on her hip. “Excuse me, Mr. Gibson,” she said. “Would you mind watching Ivy for a minute while I go help Mrs. Beouf unload?” She didn’t wait before sliding Ivy off her hip and placing her down next to me. She stayed at Ivy’s (at our)eye level long enough to say, “You be good.”
“Yes Mommy.” And then Zoge was off, climbing onto the bus so she could unbuckle restraints made to look like car seats. Ivy looked at me and then waved as if we hadn’t already seen each other not ten minutes ago. “Hi.”
I gave her a polite nod of recognition and then turned to face my bus. I tried to give Ivy-to give all the Littles at Oakshire Elementary-a modicum of quiet dignity and respect. They were infantilized enough. A simple understanding nod would go a lot farther than a big toothy smile or a cooing voice. That’s what I told myself.
In hindsight, it went deeper than that. I should have taken it as a compliment from Mrs. Zoge, really. Babies didn’t watch other babies, and she was super possessive of her “daughter”. I’d just scored a victory over Forrest and had been a hair’s breadth away from humiliating Brollish. But the truth was captured Littles made me uncomfortable. Why wouldn’t they? No one liked looking at a worst case reflection of themselves. Ivy and other Littles like her were reminders that victories didn’t matter so much when I only needed one loss for it to be game over for good.
If Ivy and I had ever been alone behind closed doors, I might want to talk to her. To ask her if she was okay. Ask her when had adulthood been stolen from her. Offer to try and sneak a message to her family, her real family. Let her use the toilet. Let her sit on it for a few minutes, even if she didn’t have to go; just for the novelty. Show her a funny internet meme with cursing in it. Maybe even, in my wildest fantasies, tell her to run.
But we were in public. And Little legs never got far without cover of darkness, a crowd, and a several hour head start. I probably wouldn’t have asked or offered Ivy any of those things if we had the privacy to talk, anyways.
Ivy would have likely refused. Likely tattled. Helping “adopted” Littles escape was against the law. Tantamount to kidnapping. A crime, ironically, punishable by “adoption”. Ivy would have turned me in, I knew. There were Helpers, and then there were Littles who were just so far gone that they completely bought into all of the Amazon’s hype.
Perfect Little Baby Dolls.
That was Ivy all over. She wasn’t worth the risk. A nasty thought burned in the back of my skull. Was I watching her, or was she watching me? I stood up a little straighter as Elmer hopped down the steps and onto the sidewalk with me.
“Come on, Elmer. Good job!” I looked at him. He was still a bit shorter than me. “Do you want a high five, a handshake, or a hug?” Elmer, held out his hand, grinning. I slapped his hand and he gave me a giggle.
Meanwhile, Beouf and Zoge were trotting out of the bus, carrying Littles out in ones and twos. Oakshire Elementary didn’t have school uniforms, and there wasn’t really a dress code for the MDP unit, but I’d noticed certain trends held true over the years.
Boy Littles tended to be dressed in shirts and shorts that did nothing to conceal their diapers, usually with the top still poking out over the waistband. Girls tended to be forced to wear dresses that were so short they barely covered the tops. Onesies and shortalls were fair game for both sexes, especially in the hotter months.
Anything that covered the knee was avoided unless it was cold enough to see your breath. And even then, the Littles were so bundled up with cutesy crap that there would have been almost no chance for them to run away through all the extra layers.
All ten of Mrs. Beouf’s charges wore shoes, meaning they were expected to be able to walk at least some of the time. Walk was a generous term. Their legs were forced to bow out to keep their balance thanks to all the plastic and padding stuffed between their thighs. Waddle was a more apt descriptor.
As my class was slowly but surely making their way down the bus steps and getting their high fives, handshakes, and hugs from me, Mrs. Beouf or her assistant would set a Little down, guide them hand-over-hand to each other, and force them to clasp onto one another. Then, they’d get a pat on the head and their Amazon caretaker would go back to the bus to get more. It was a kind of nursery school chain gang. Ivy, of course, was their good example and Line Leader.
None of them looked directly at me, or I at them. No cries for help. If nothing else, everyone had accepted our limitations and expected roles. We all knew what this was.
“LET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!“
Except, apparently, for the new fish. The side of the school bus opened and a ramp was lowered down. Beouf came down the ramp wheeling a blue umbrella stroller. A kid, he might have been twenty, was strapped in, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a very wet diaper. Sopping wet. Discolored. Close to leaking.
His lack of clothing probably meant that he was a new capture. His “Mommy” or “Daddy” had “adopted” him on impulse and hadn’t taken the time to buy a more expansive and babyish wardrobe.
“LET! ME! THE! FUCK! GO!” He definitely talked like he was new to this. Poor bastard.
“New student,” Beouf called over the stroller.
Mrs. Beouf put on the stroller’s breaks and walked around. She took a knee and looked him in the eye. “Chazz, right?” The kid nodded. “I’m Mrs. Beouf. I’m gonna be your teacher for the rest of the year. Okay?” Chazz said nothing. There was a pacifier clipped on to his shirt likely the kind where the little rubber bulb inflated so that a Little couldn’t remove it on their own.
Chazz recoiled when she took the pacifier. He looked confused when she unhooked it and put it in her back pocket. “You can have this at nap time if you want it. But until then, it stays with me, okay?” The guy spit in her face. Beouf didn’t even blink as the saliva dripped off her glasses.
Fun fact: Beouf had just screwed Chazz over and he might not even have known it. A gag, spanking, or additional restraints would have allowed Chazz to scream his head off and feel (and to other Littles at least, look) justified. Now his options were to either keep fighting and screaming and be written off as a “fussy baby”, or to keep his temper and seem complacent in his treatment.
“Chazz is already soaking wet,” I heard Beouf tell Zoge. “You take the others to the cafeteria. I’m going to stop by our room and change him.”
Mrs. Zoge nodded and had Ivy start leading the way; an entire pack of Littles all waddling like good baby boys and girls to get spoon fed their breakfast. If they were lucky they might get to play with finger foods. Chazz’s screams went noted by the other Amazons, who just clucked their tongue and made loud remarks to everyone in earshot, including their students, how someone got up on the wrong side of the crib and was super cranky.
Damnit. Not that I blamed the guy, but we were at decidedly cross purposes just then.
“That’s everyone,” Tracy told me when all of my students got off the bus. Thank god. My students got in line, no hand holding required. I’d weaned them off of that. I gave the Amazon pre-schooler in the back of the line a hug and then noticed the wet spot on her jeans.
I waved Tracy over and cupped my hand to her ear as she bent over. “Natasha’s had an accident...again.”
My assistant let out a sigh. “Again?” She stood back up and moved Natasha to the middle of the line. Physical camouflage. Spare the girl some grief.
“Do you think she has any spare clothes in her backpack?”
“Checking…” Tracy said. Followed by a, “No sir.”
I frowned. “Clinic probably doesn’t have any spare undies, either.”
Tracy shook her head. “Nope.” How was I going to keep this kid out of diapers? “Don’t worry,” she said. “I went and bought some spares as soon as we got her parents to take away the Pull-Ups.”
I was genuinely touched. “Tracy,” I said. “you know you didn’t have to do that.”
She beamed at me. It was a smug, know-it-all expression. “I know.”
I exhaled. Darn it. I just couldn’t get mad at her. “Alright then, class,” I said. “Elmer, lead us to our room.” And off we went. Me walking right beside Elmer, with Tracy taking up the rear lest any of our students fall behind.
We didn’t eat breakfast in the cafeteria. We ate in our classroom. A cart of single serving cereals, milk cartons and fruit was always left just outside our door by the cooking staff. I’d managed to convince Brollish (with Mrs. Beouf’s help) that it’d be better for my students to start their day eating breakfast in my room so that they could be closer to a toilet. Fewer accidents and less embarrassment if they had one.
In reality, it was mostly because I couldn’t stand the cafeteria.