249 words by Stanley Lieber
There was a slow dithering moment before it all coalesced and came upon him like a spilt dinner tray. All of the air went out of him at once. What the tiny viewscreen showed him would certainly mean the end of his tenure; if not his career as a children's instructor of literature.
Little Violet reading from her diary.
He clutched at the front pocket on his shirt for tobacco. Must keep watch. (Can't watch.) He ran a knotted hand through his auburn strands (or lack thereof) and pulled at the lobe of his ear while blue smoke ran fingers of its own down his cheek, mocking him tenderly.
Another minute, maybe less.
As Violet brought her reading to a close, the other children began to text each other about the performance, proceeded to update their class journals. The classroom was devoid of snickers. The group had broken out into mad hysterics of flat silence. Rimbaud's attention was still rapt: What Violet had said.
He pocketed the monitor and poked his cigarette into a receptacle. Attached his glasses and pushed back through the heavy air of the empty hallway. Resumed his classroom.
She'd kept quiet.
In spite of her innuendo, bald threats, blatant comminations, exaggerated bluster, roundabout disparagement; she hadn't shared her scathing review of his first novel with the class.
That is good.
That is a good girl.
Rimaud considered staying on.
He thought: Those who can't, teach.
The students remained silent as he entered.
To be continued...