My dad was recovering from an illness at the same time he worked as a mentor for student teachers. I was his chauffeur and box carrier for a few days, driving him from school to school, so he wouldn't strain himself. At one elementary school, while sitting in the car in the small parking lot, waiting for him to emerge from the brick building, I noticed a man and woman standing in the lot a few spaces from me. They spoke in a very animated way to each other. But I couldn't make out any intelligible words. Soon they slowly walked around the side of the building, still talking non-stop, and I watched them head toward a grass field. What were they saying? I was bored and really wanted to know. And so in that warm car, even with the windows down, I started playing out in my mind the dialogue between this man and woman that eventually turned into a story.
Dan Crawley lives and teaches writing in Phoenix, AZ. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including Camroc Press Review, SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years, North American Review, Wigleaf, Curbside Splendor, and Gravel.
Permalink: The New Principal's Wife
She followed the new principal around the elementary school he would run come fall. They walked by large grass fields behind the six buildings of the school. He pointed out the baseball diamonds with their high chain-linked backstops. Other schools in the district didn’t have it so nice. She saw how he couldn’t stop grinning as he showed her one dark classroom after another, palming her lower back, pushing her through doorways. She winced when he opened the multi-purpose room’s double-doors, causing a loud bang against the painted cinder block walls. Other schools didn’t have such a space for a cafeteria or an auditorium or an indoor playground for recesses on rain days. Finally, he showed her his new office.
She wanted to ask, “Who is your secretary?” but instead asked, “How many people work in that huge outer office?” Her fingertips trailed along the wide desk until she came to the picture of his children, the frame already positioned just right. She sat in his leather chair that smelled like a drawing room.
“Three. Will you check out the view?” He lifted the Venetian blinds. “I see everything. The parking lot. All those pretty Victorian homes across the street.”
She wanted to say, “I can’t stand the thought of you here with new people I don’t know,” but instead said, “Won’t you miss our school?” The two of them had taught at the same school for the last six years. “You once told me in our school parking lot that I said the most perfect things at the most perfect times.”
“How do you remember stuff like that?”
The new principal’s wife wanted to say, “Because you said this on the day of your wedding anniversary with your first wife, who was waiting for you to come home from school,” but of course she didn’t. Instead she said, “Won’t you miss everyone?” The other teachers were the only family each of them had left.
“Yes, I’ll miss everyone, including you.” His smile made her wonder about his skin and muscles and the ache that was most likely settling into his lower jaw.
She watched him take out a tissue from his pocket and rub at something on the glass. Then he tossed it toward the trashcan, bouncing it off the rim.
She wanted to say, “I know what you’re capable of,” but instead said, “We won’t be able to go home together at the same time. Isn’t it nice to be able to leave together?”
“Yes,” the new principal said and looked out the window.
She looked out the window from where she sat and saw everything, too.
She wanted to say, “I know it takes twenty-two minutes from that parking lot out there to our school’s parking lot. I drove the route yesterday,” but instead she said, “You’ll call when you’re leaving and I’ll wait for you.”
“You’ll be done long before I am.” He told this to the parking lot. The Victorian houses across the street. “Most days I’ll be here awhile with my new administrative duties. You shouldn’t wait.”
She would have to think now about the perfect thing to say next.
She picked up the tissue and threw it away.
by Dan Crawley