Chapter Description: Clark presses his luck with regards to the school dress code.
“Mr. Gibson,” Mrs. Brollish said, “you have a lot of explaining to do.”
I stood at full attention, my back to the chair I’d declined to sit in. To Brollish’s right, Raine stood there, eyeing me like a dog does a steak. To my left was Mrs. Beouf, acting as my Union Representative. This was almost a shot for shot replay of my last close shave. Almost.
This was first thing in the morning, I had the whole day ahead of me. Even as Brollish glared down at me, the last of the buses were rolling in and Tracy and Mrs. Zoge were covering for our classes.
There was no snot-nosed brat accusing me of something I hadn’t done. I’d done this. Guilty as charged.
I stood there, with a Tweener sized purple sock pulled over my head and flopping down goofily over the side of my face. Likewise, two mismatched Amazon socks- one orange and yellow polka dot, the other checkered black and white- were yanked up my legs to the inseam to approximate pants. The bottoms had been cut out so my loafers would get a decent grip. I still had a job to do. The blue and green socks slid over my arms and up past my elbows had been similarly modified so I could use my fingers and thumbs.
The real piece de resistance however was the plain white t-shirt that went down to my knees. It had started out as a plain white tee, but it was impossible to tell now because of the layers of socks stitched and carefully layered over each other.
I looked like a bizarre hybrid of socks, starfish, and fir tree. I was sweating, but that was because having so many layers of clothing on made excellent insulators.
“What can I help clarify, Mrs. Brollish?” My top lip was retreating behind my goatee. My bottom lip was uneven, my facial hair doing its best to mask the not-quite frown that was doing everything it could to not bloom into a smile. I was this close to cracking up.
From beside Brollish, Forrest leveled a finger at me. “He’s gone full baby,” she said. “He can’t even dress himself anymore.”
“Is that why you manhandled me into this office?” I asked, rhetorically. My tone was even, confused, maybe even a little hurt like I felt sorry for her. Fat chance.
Brollish cocked an eyebrow. “Manhandled?”
“Scooped him up right in front of the kids,” Mrs. Beouf said. “Saw the whole thing. Scooped him up right in front of the students at the bus loop. Very unprofessional.” Words like ‘unprofessional’ were just one step away from ‘immature’. As far as polite Amazon society went, those were fighting words.
Raine gestured to me. I was vaguely surprised she didn’t accidentally wrench her arm out of its socket. “He’s acting like a baby! He dressed himself like a baby!”
I pouted my lip out and frowned; a display of confusion. “I thought babies couldn’t dress themselves, Miss Forrest.”
“YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS!”
“So does your makeup but no one is threatening to smack your huge ass.” (Okay I didn’t actually say that. I just wanted to.)
What I did say was, “Thank you, I think the children very much enjoyed my participation in Silly Sock Day.”
Brollish’s face turned to stone. “Silly Sock Day…?”
I did my best to smile demurely. “Yes Ma’am. Today is Silly Sock Day.”
“I know that, Mr. Gibson. What does that have to do with your...your...outfit?” Ooooh boy. She was starting to boil.
I kept playing innocent. “At the faculty meeting last week, you said that students and faculty were encouraged to wear silly socks, today. So...” I gestured to myself.
“This is…!” Like a volcano that wasn’t quite ready Brollish rumbled, and then quieted down. “Most unusual.” I was pushing it. Really pushing it. But I hadn’t crossed the line yet.
Beouf stepped in. “That’s why it’s silly. He’s not breaking any of the school rules. No dress code violations.”
“I have normal clothes beneath this. Everything is covered.”
Beouf nodded. “And you did say you wanted faculty to participate.”
“NOT LIKE-!” Forrest was silenced with a single withering glare from the Principal.
Brollish steepled her fingers. “Mr. Gibson,” she said, “aren’t you concerned that your attire will distract your pupils?”
“Not at all ma’am,” I said confidently. “We can use this outfit to review concepts such as counting, colors, and sizes, and I think this will go nicely with our read along of Crocs in Socks. Tracy even has a paper mache snapper for me to wear back in the classroom.
“And what if it’s too distracting?” Brollish narrowed her eyes. “Overstimulating?”
I smiled. “Thank you for your concern, ma’am.” I said confidently. “Fortunately, I brought a spare change of clothes and have some alternate activities that cover the same basic skills, as noted in my lessons plan that I submitted last month.”
“Ah,” Mrs. Brollish said. “That explains why you wrote that.”
Translation: “I didn’t read it at all.” Administrators NEVER read lesson plans. No time. They just check that it’s been done. I wrote and submitted this gem waaaay ahead of time just to cover my ass so that it didn’t end up covered by something else.
Mrs. Brollish had one last straw to grasp at. “What about your students' parents?”
I opened my mouth and then shut it. I frowned slightly. “What about them?”
“What if,” she said, “they don’t approve of their child’s teacher dressing in such an…” she paused just to let me know she was trying not to say the ‘i-word’. “...a silly fashion. Could create some hiccups if their children come home with confused stories about their Little teacher dressing inappropriately or incorrectly.” The faintest trace of a smile started to appear on Brollish’s mug.
Yes! “Oh, I’ve already called them about it,” I told her. “Last week. They’ve all given me their blessings.” It wasn’t quite a month until Summer Vacation. By this point in the year all of my students’ parents were hooked on me. “In fact, Elmer’s mother is stopping by to help volunteer with some of the activities today.”
The slight wisp of a grin vanished. “You really have thought of everything, Mr. Gibson, haven’t you?”
I nodded. “Thank you, ma’am.” It wasn’t a compliment, but I took it as one.
“That will be all. To your classrooms.” Beouf and I walked out. “Not you, Miss Forrest…” We shut the door behind us.
On the way back to our classrooms, Mrs. Beouf smiled down at me. “Proud of yourself?”
“You know that’s not gonna work again, right?”
“Still worth it.”
Beouf positively cackled at that while she opened the door to my room. “Mind if I cut through?”
I shook my head. “Not at all.”
Tracy was on the phone at my desk. “Okay,” she sounded relieved. “He’s back. Yes, Ms. Grange, he’s back and smiling. I’m guessing everything went perfectly. Okay. Okay. Yeah, I’ll let you get back to class. Good-bye.” She hung up the phone. Now she was smiling at me in the same way that Beouf had been. Not quite insulting, but not entirely approving, either.
It was Beouf who spoke first. “Happy Birthday, Mr. Gibson.”
“Whaaat?!” I did my best not to laugh. “My birthday was almost a month ago.”
Tracy went back to serving breakfast to our students. “But getting away with this nonsense is your present, Boss.”
I made a show of turning my nose up. “I have no idea what either of you are talking about.”
Beouf just laughed as she went back to her room. Tracy helped a cluster of kids open their milk and pour into their single serving of cereal. It had gone perfectly. That day I did feel invincible, even as I had to fan my face. Damn it was hot. Already I was regretting my daring choice to toe the line and fluster administration. Was it really worth wearing what was functionally a full body sweater all day in the end of Spring?
If I had known then that that would have been the highlight of my adult life, I might have enjoyed it more.
But I didn’t...