The 8th grader sat at the table next to her mother, although the term “sat” could only be applied in vague terms because the girl had been born without a spine. In order to remain upright she had to maintain constant fluidity, weaving and shimmying, the top half of her body a slinky of perpetual motion. Her hair was snipped in a blunt cut. Straight teeth, glossed lips. Glittering studs of precisely .375 carats. A hoodie—polka dotted. At night she strapped herself to a hanger and suspended in the closet like a bat.
Parent-teacher conferences had been moved to the gym, giving janitors a chance to wax the floor. The custodians polished the school grounds bi-weekly, whether they needed it or not, mainly so they could watch the aftermath on close-circuit camera as the school transformed into a slick bowling lane of sliding Nikes attached to toppling children-pins. Bets were placed on last-man-standing: odds in favor of Ricky Simmons, who weebled his way through life.
Mrs. Grinaldi, the math teacher, had buck teeth that could chew an apple from five inches away and a dimple that had fallen from her cheek, leaving the rest of her face lopsided. She remembered the good old days when the snap of chalk against an exposed Adam’s apple could bring the meatiest of boys to their knees. The school board had gone soft, though, and blackboards had sunk into the tar pit of dinosaurs, giving rise to technological advances such as smart phones that could rap P. Diddy algebraic algorithms.
“Your daughter’s a terrible student,” Mrs. Grinaldi told the spineless girl’s mother. “She’ll never amount to anything more than an irregular polygon on a stripper’s pole.”
Alarm. Horror. La di da. A circular mouth with a diameter of OMG and an area of pi times radius squared. Mama took to crying, her tears neatly splicing her synthetic eyelashes. The girl slid off her chair and under the table.
They were always shocked when they heard the truth laid out in intersecting lines. L and M meet at Q, except in this case Q wore a g-string and had a crotch full of dollar bills.
“That’s it,” Mrs. Grinaldi said. “Fuck these spa-pampered parents with Gucci hairdos and purse-dog children.” She sashayed to her feet and leaped to Betty Freewald’s table. She threw the English teacher an apostrophe and diagrammed a compound object escape route. The two of them grabbed the climbing rope that hung from the ceiling like a torture device resurrected from the Dark Ages. It had been greased in pig sweat to make it more challenging but Mrs. Grinaldi swung it three times around her left bicep, creating a Gordian knot that carried them over the throng of upturned faces.
The last thing they saw on their final look back at the academic cesspool that had been their home, was Mr. Tibbons, the biology guru, waving his hankie goodbye, his coke-bottle petri dish glasses fogged with misted tears of envy.