“Vince wants you.”
Margaret looked up from her desk to see her friend and co-worker Jake leaning against the doorframe. “Fantastic,” she sighed.
She grabbed a pen and a notepad and started walking down the hallways towards Vince’s office. “What’d you do now?” Jake questioned as he followed her.
“Who knows? But I swear to God, if he makes me write one more story about gardening tips I’m going to quit,” she replied.
Jake shook his head, blonde curls flying and a small grin playing on his face. “And as long as you're your normal pleasant self, you might just get that office with a window that you’ve been petitioning for.”
Margaret grinned and rolled her eyes as she opened the door. “Shove it Matthews. You’re just jealous I actually have an office.”
She shut the door behind her and entered her boss’s office. Vince Masters didn’t so much as glance up, simply continued pouring over the notes on his desk. “And you won’t have that much longer if you don’t start giving me better stuff than ‘Pests or Pets: Ants on the Rise’”.
Margaret rolled her eyes as she took a seat in front of Vince’s desk. “Well, if someone would give me a chance, instead of sticking me in the advice or pets column, maybe I could give said someone better articles.”
Vince glanced up. He narrowed his eyes and Margaret stared back. She’d determined a long time ago not to let Vince Master’s intimidate her; she knew his bark was simply worse than his bite. Finally he sighed and slid a picture on his desk towards her.
Margaret leaned forward in her seat to get a better look. A smiling man in army fatigues and aviator sunglasses stared back at her. In the background were a metal building and lots and lots of sand. She noticed the picture was dated a few years back. “What is that?” she asked offhandedly.
Vince grinned. “That,” he said pointing, “is your chance.”
“You have ten minutes left.”
There was the tiniest of pauses in scribbling and then suddenly, everyone started writing even faster. Finn chuckled to himself, realizing that the last two or three answers on each test were probably going to be ineligible.
He looked down at his own test and sighed. Even after five years, his handwriting was still shit. He turned the paper over and replaced the paperweight he had to keep it from sliding around. He wanted to get the answer key done before the end of the day, maybe even grade a test or two.
He heard a frustrated sigh from someone in the back. Finn grinned wryly, knowing exactly who had issued it and what question they were on. Number fifty-seven: What is Mr. English’s favorite element? The answer was Einsteinium, which had almost no applications in everyday life—and was also the answer to the next question. It would be counted as an extra-credit question.
Finn had been the kid in school who hung on to every word the teacher said. He’d loved learning and had excelled. Everyone had been certain that Finn English would grow up to be an academic. A professor, a Ph.D. of some obscure subject. Something random, yet relatively important, just like his favorite element.
So, it’d been a little bit of a shock when instead of college, he’d joined the army.
Little by little, the students started finishing. They placed their exams in the basket and Finn noticed that even with the random extra credit questions he had dispersed throughout the test (number thirteen: What high school did Mr. English attend?), he didn’t receive the dirty looks that normal exam days yielded. Instead, every student looked insanely relieved to have their chemistry midterm over and an entire week off school. He could get used to this.
“It was Baker, right Mr. English?” the last student said as she placed her test in the basket.
“Wow, so someone does pay attention during my lectures,” Finn said with a laugh. “Good job Olivia.”
The student grinned as she grabbed her bookbag off the floor and took off out the door. “Thanks Mr. English, have a good spring break!”
“You too,” he replied as the door slammed behind her. He leaned back in his desk chair for a moment, imagining the week he had ahead of him. Sleep. Lot’s and lot’s of sleep coming his way.
Finn finally stood up and started making his rounds at the chemistry stations, looking for trash and pencils his student’s had left behind. He used to make everyone pick up a piece of trash before they left the room; it was a tip his sister had given him. Unfortunately, it worked better with her second graders than with his tenth.
Teaching high school chemistry hadn’t exactly been his dream. But, with each passing day he found himself actually liking it more and more. It was…a lot of things. Exciting and rewarding, yet frustrating and infuriating, mainly though, it was enjoyable. A nice substitute for what he’d done with his life before, but it would be never be a replacement.
Margaret held the pictures in her hand and looked incredulously at her boss. “You’re not serious are you?”
Vince looked at her pointedly. “Do I joke?”
She chuckled a little at that despite herself. “Vince—”
“Look Margaret,” he said sighing heavily. “It’s a follow up on a human interest story we did a few years ago after the guy first got hurt. If you don’t want it, I’ll give it to that Matthews kid or some other person that would relish this opportunity. What the hell is making this story so undesirable to you?”
“I just don’t think that anyone is going to read random follow-up story about a soldier that was injured five years ago and is now a high school teacher!”
Vince laughed. “Are kidding me? He lost half his right leg and most of his left arm, yet here he is, being a great civil servant and teaching—English?” he looked at Margaret for confirmation.
“No,” she shook her head. “Chemistry. His name’s English.”
“Chemistry then, to high school kids in the city. It’s the feel good hit of the spring Margaret! Middle-aged housewives love reading stories about attractive young men overcoming adversity.”
She glanced down at the second picture in her hand, this one of the same smiling man surrounded by a classroom full of teenagers that had been taken a few weeks ago, and her heart fluttered again.“Well, at least he is attractive,” Margaret conceded as she admired his curly black hair and crystal blue eyes. “No denying that.”
Her boss cocked his head and looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. He snapped his fingers suddenly. “It’s his disability! That’s what makes you uncomfortable isn’t it?” he finally said.
“No,” Margaret answered a little too quickly. It wasn’t that it made her feel uncomfortable per se; rather, it awakened feelings in her that she’d tried to suppress for a long time. “I just—”
“As journalists, we sometimes have to do things that make us uncomfortable,” Vince said, interrupting her. “You’ve got the old article and some contact info to start with right here. You wanted out of the advice columns, here you go. This is your chance. Take it or leave it.”
Margaret paused, weighing her options. After two and a half years of working for Vince Masters, she knew that her boss didn’t hand out chances for promotions very often. If she didn’t take this story, it was very likely that she’d never get out of the advice column; she’d be stuck writing about gardens and ant farms for the rest of her life.
“I’ll take it.”