Copyright© 2011 by carioca
Zoe went over the roll again, just to be sure she had it marked correctly. More than half of her class was absent. It must be that flu, most of yesterday's absences were because of it, manu of those were still out sick, but two of the kids were missing again today with no word as to why. "Okay kids, everyone have their lunches?" When she was sure they did, she led them to the auditorium and waited for the other classes. The kids finally came, escorted by the assistant principal and another teacher.
The assistant principal looked around and waved her over to him. "Miss Simpkins, You're going to have to take charge of three classes today. Mrs. Bell will take the others. I'm sure you won't have any trouble."
"Shouldn't we cancel? I thought we needed two teachers with each group."
He cut her off. "We do, one for each bus. The school district already spent the grant money, and if this trip doesn't happen, we'll have to pay it back. Doctor Sheldon called me yesterday to make sure this trip happens, and by God it's going to. Our budget can't take that big a hit. So you get these kids on the bus and out to the museum and bring them all back. You need a good first year evaluation, and you wont get it by slacking." He hurried out of the room, leaving her alone with thirty-seven children. She couldn't even bring herself to call after him.
She did much better with children. He'd left her with her own fourth grade class, the other forth grade class and a class of fifth graders. Mrs Bell had the sixth graders and the other half of the fifth. Zoe lined them up, and led them out to the bus. The bus driver was a pleasant lady in her sixties Zoe had met before. She greeted the children with smiles, calling most of them by name. Zoe took the seat in front, sitting sideways so she could keep an eye on the children. Mrs. Barlow, that was her name, chatted on the radio while the other bus filled up, then drove away with the confidence of forty years behind the wheel.
"I swear you girls get younger every year." It took a moment to realize the driver was talking to her. "What do you hear about the trouble in the city, I half expected the field trip to be canceled."
"What trouble?" Zoe asked.
"Didn't you hear? Some kind of riot. They called out the National Guard. We'll be all right I expect, the museum is pretty far from that area. Riots all over today though, reckon they saw it on the TV and decided to try it. Happened that way back in the nineties. Riots in LA one day, then all over the country the next." She segued from the subject of riots to the decline of TV programming, then to her grandchildren.
Zoe listened with half an ear, interjecting an occasional 'uh-huh' or 'and then what happened?' The woman kept talking all the way to the freeway, then was silent for a long time. "Is something wrong Mrs. Barlow?"
The driver checked her rear-view then looked over to the oncoming lanes. "I wonder if the riots got worse, there's hardly any traffic today." she reached over and turned the radio back on. "Garage, twenty-six-oh-five."