Read Muchacho Online

Authors: Louanne Johnson


BOOK: Muchacho
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For Corey, who never meant to kick that teacher

and for all the “secret readers

who are sitting in school
keeping their intelligence to themselves


old lady’s book. She had her head tipped down so I couldn’t see her face real good but I knew it was Beecher on account of her hair is the exact same color as a car I stole once. Bronze metallic. Beecher doesn’t look like a regular librarian but at least she didn’t look like she was falling off a cliff the way she did most of the time back when she was trying to be a teacher.

I didn’t go all the way inside the library, just stood in the doorway waiting for Letty and Juanito to finish listening to the story lady, but Juanito saw me and he yelled, “Eddie!” I quick looked at Beecher to see if she heard Juanito holler my name because if Beecher looked at me, then I would nod, maybe say, “Hey, how’s it going.” But she was busy helping another old lady find her library card so I ducked out.

First time I saw Beecher, I thought, Oh great, another one of those Peace Corps people with their organic shoes and their tofu sandwiches and their posters showing how important it is to save the whales and the rain forests and the baby seals and me and all the other semi-literate at-risk underprivileged economically deprived youth at the alt school who don’t really give a shit about getting an education because what difference would it make if we did. We’d still be us. We’d still be freaks and losers except we’d be freaks and losers with educations, so we’d understand exactly what we couldn’t have.

The day Beecher showed up at our English class, Edgar Martinez asked how long had she been a teacher. We knew Beecher was virgin the second she started to answer the question because the old teachers know better than to leave themselves open like that. Beecher told us she was going through a program for alternative certification because she didn’t decide to become a teacher until after she already graduated college. So she said we had something in common because she was an alternative teacher and we were alternative students. For like two seconds, I started to fall for that idea, but I caught myself in time.

I don’t miss Beecher or nothing, but at least she was better than the guy we have now who is a total pathetic pussy who wears pink glasses. He thinks if he tells us four hundred times a day that he went to Stanford University, then we’ll appreciate what a big sacrifice he’s making to be a teacher
who gets paid crap and works in a place that looks worser than Juárez. He thinks we’ll like him for devoting his life to helping disadvantaged kids become successful, productive members of society but we mostly think he’s a
dick-head. At least if he was driving around in a cool car with a hot stereo and a shiny rich girl in the jump seat, we could be jealous and hate him and maybe we would jack him up and take his car, but now we hate him worser because he could of had all that stuff and he was too stupid to take it, so now nobody has it. If he really wanted to help kids who didn’t have his advantages, he could of saved up his giant allowance and got his parents to buy him a real expensive car and then he could of just came here and gave us the money and the car. He could of even sold lottery tickets. I bet a lot of kids would go to school if they might win twenty bucks or a car just for showing up. But he blew it. How can you respect a teacher who wasn’t even smart enough to figure that out?

Beecher didn’t try to pretend she didn’t appreciate her nice easy white-girl life. And she wasn’t scared of us like most of the lady teachers are even though she’s skinny enough that you could probably pick her up and throw her down the stairs real easy. And she didn’t try to feed us all that crap about how useful our education was going to be someday, like how we would need algebra to figure out how many square feet of carpet we need in our living room because everybody knows that we’ll be renting some crappy apartment our whole life and even if we could buy a house,
measuring the carpet is the carpet guy’s job and he probably has a calculator.

The first day when nobody would open their grammar books to the page number she wrote on the board, Beecher didn’t even yell. She just sat down on the edge of her desk, still holding her book, and looked around the room. Not with mean eyes. More like she was surprised that we weren’t all following her. Like if a mother duck turned around and instead of waddling along in that nice neat little line, the baby ducks were running all over the place where they could get lost or killed so easy.

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to exert a little effort and get through this material quickly, so we can move on to something more interesting and relevant to your lives?” Beecher asked us.

“Oh yeah. Ha!” T.J. Ritchie laughed his hard dirty laugh. “Like how to sell more crack?” T.J. is big, really big, probably seven feet tall, and he doesn’t give a shit about anything. Usually new teachers give T.J. that look that says you’re a stupid nothing loser and someday you’ll be sorry you wasted your pitiful little life. Or they send him to the office or else just ignore him, but Beecher hooked her hair behind her ear with her finger like she does when she’s thinking and said, “You’re a drug dealer?”

T.J. shook his head and made check-her-out faces at his friends and they were all like, Duh. Beecher walked over and opened the door. “Then you might as well go.” She flung her arm out into the hallway.

“You can’t kick me out,” T.J. said. “I didn’t do nothing.”

“I’m not kicking you out,” Beecher said. “I want you to stay. But if you want to be a criminal, I can’t help you.”

“I don’t need your help, lady. You think you’re all better than us but you’re not.”

“I absolutely do not believe I am better than you.” Beecher shook her head and her hair sort of shimmered around her ears. “I can understand perfectly well how a person might decide to reject capitalism and corporate corruption and choose a criminal career over a traditional education.”

By this time, T.J. and everybody else was just staring at Beecher like she needed to get real, but she kept on talking. Her voice is thick and smooth like a talk show lady and she has this way of saying stuff that sticks in your brain afterwards and plays back even when you aren’t thinking about it, like those TV commercials that get stuck in your head and drive you

“You and I have different ethics and values, Mr. Ritchie,” Beecher said. “I choose to live within the law because I could never survive being incarcerated, but if you don’t mind risking your freedom in pursuit of a life that offers you fulfillment, that is your choice. However, analyzing literature will not help you be a more successful drug dealer, which is why I suggest that if you seriously wish to pursue that avenue, you focus your efforts on your criminal career. The sooner you start, the better chance you have of being successful—until you are incarcerated or killed.”

T.J. didn’t say anything for a minute and he probably would have let it slide except this one girl giggled, so he had to say, “Whatever.” Then I think Beecher realized you should never talk that long to a kid like T.J. because she closed the door real quiet and folded her arms and looked around at the rest of us.

“That goes for everybody,” she said. “If you truly didn’t want to be here, you wouldn’t be. And I am not foolish enough to think I can make you do anything. So we won’t even pretend that you have to do the assignments. And I would prefer not to have this discussion again.”

We didn’t have that discussion again, but we had a lot of other ones that the school board wouldn’t have liked even though they are usually pretty desperate for teachers because New Mexico is like forty-nine out of fifty when it comes to how dumb and fucked-up the students are and how backwards the school board is and how fast the teachers give up and go away. If we lived in one of those smart states like New York or California, there would probably be a whole lot of teachers like Beecher, and she wouldn’t even have to worry about getting fired for being a liberal intellectual.

One thing about Beecher I remember the most is that she would look you right in the eye when she was talking to you and you could tell she wasn’t thinking bad things about you, even if you just said something real stupid or pronounced a word wrong when you were reading out loud. Like if you were reading something about trains and you said DEE-POT
instead of DEE-POE, she wouldn’t let anybody laugh at you. She would just wait until you were done reading and then she would say, “Has anybody ever been to a train depot?” and she would pronounce it the right way to let you know how you were supposed to say it. The other teachers would jump on that wrong word and pronounce it the right way the second you said it wrong because even though they went to college and we didn’t, they always have to show how smart they are. But Beecher was too busy trying to show us how smart we were instead of how smart she was, so by the time we wised up to how smart she was, she was already gone.


teacher. All you got to do is get a few kids to pretend the teacher inspired you to turn over a new leaf and live up to your potential and appreciate the opportunity to get a free education. That teacher will get so psyched about being your mentor and role model that they’ll answer any questions you ask them, even if you slip in a question about evolution or gay marriage. Then you pretend like you just love going to school because you’re learning so much and you talk about your cool teacher at home and all the parents get so excited they look like they’re going to pass out. Then you repeat what the teacher said about evolution or gays in front of the right kid’s parents, like those Anglos who have those little blue and
white signs with the Ten Commandments sticking up in their front yard, and—boom!—that teacher is history.

We didn’t even have to pretend we liked Beecher to get her to say stuff she could get fired for. Like when Joey Dinwiddie said he and his girl were going to get married, Beecher said, “I bet you think if you get married, you’ll be able to have sex every day.” Joey laid back in his chair and puffed up his chest. “Damn right,” he said with his big talking-about-pussy grin.

“I hate to disappoint you,” Beecher said, “but getting married is the best way to make sure you don’t have sex every day. If you don’t believe me, go home and ask your father.”

Everybody started making kissing noises and shouting out stuff about sex and a bunch of kids stood up and did some air-humping. Beecher held up her hands and said, “You children obviously are not mature enough to be sexually active. If your only goal when you have sex is to experience an orgasm, then you are masturbating on other people. You would do better to have sex with yourself. No danger of disease, no possible pregnancy—and no broken hearts.”

Kids started screaming their heads off as soon as Beecher said masturbate. Beecher didn’t even blush. She just waited until the screaming died down. Then she said, “My point exactly. If you cannot say the words
penis, vagina, breast, orgasm
, and
without giggling and blushing, then you are not mature enough to have sex.”

Somebody ratted out Beecher for telling us to masturbate.
Teeny White who works as a student clerk in the office said she saw Beecher go into Mrs. Nichols’s office and Teeny could hear Nichols hollering and when Beecher came out it looked like she was crying. But there’s so many pregnant girls in our school that they can’t fire anybody for talking about sex because then it would get in the papers and the parents in this town freak out totally if they even see the words
on the same page.

Mrs. Nichols visited our class the next day and sat in the back and wrote a bunch of notes and we figured Beecher was history but nothing happened. We couldn’t figure it. Beecher isn’t local, so she couldn’t have cousins on the school board and nobody in her family is a county commissioner. Usually it only takes a month to get rid of a new teacher. Two minutes is our all-time record. But if they make it to the end of first quarter, they usually last a whole year. Beecher was still going strong by Halloween and we started to think she might make it, but then she read us this story the day before Halloween. It was just one of those dumb ghost stories that are supposed to be spooky and scary but only little kids are scared of them. Beecher lit candles and turned out the lights and put on some weird, spaced-out music. It was actually pretty interesting and everybody was kind of getting into it, but about halfway through the story, Beecher read the word
or something like that. Nothing, really. Not even a real swearword. But this is Rosablanca, so when we came back to school the next day, T.J. Ritchie’s mom ran screaming into
the principal’s office and said Beecher was preaching Satanism and T.J. had been traumatized by the experience.

BOOK: Muchacho
8.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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