Yesterday a kid called Cheese showed up after a few days of unexplained absences, lumbering up to me with a limp and a sadly spooked expreesion on his normally grinning visage."Where you been?" I demanded. "You're supposed to be my John Proctor? You promised if I gave you the part, you'd be here every mornin'.""I know, Miss D., but I got shot in Huntington Park on Saturday.""What the hell were you doing in Huntington Park?" I was not surprised that he was shot so much as that he'd survived it and now stood there before me, still hoping for that second chance he was in the midst of after a year in juvie."I know; you don't have to tell me, Miss D. I fucked up.""Well, there must be some reason you lived to tell me this, boy," I said, what the kids call my "black side" kicking in. I sprinkled in the kind of Baptist allusions he understood as I sat him down beside me to hear all the gory details then provide the appropriate lecture about running with the wrong people in the wrong places. Apparently he and his brother took a cousin somewhere--in my mind, a seedy drug infested, gang banger public park--and some words and looks were briefly exchanged between his posse of huge black boys and an older, more serious miscreant, who responded with an eager gun. Cheese was saved by his ample yet solid girth, but his little brother is still in the hospital recovering from the four 38 slugs he caught."Was it another brother?" I asked"Yeah," this Nubian giant said with a somber shake of his head, "us dumb niggahs still out there killing each other." We talked awhile, and he headed off to the nurse as the slug is still in his gut flesh (He insisted I feel it. Eeewwww!); he also needed to tell other teachers he'd have to be out until Monday to recover after the doctors remove it today.Had he been a smaller, less formidable boy, he would have died (as so many do) because it took an ambulance 30 minutes to get there."Man, all they kep' askin' me is: 'What's your name?' and I was like, I am shot here, Motherfucker.""I guess in a place like Huntington Park, an EMT has to be all business," I explained, which caused Cheese to chuckle then wince."What's my homework, Miss D.?""Finish reading the play, study the new roots and get better."All right, Miss D. See you on Monday, fo' sure," then he lurched up and out of the library, where my class was doing a scavenger hunt for background on "The Crucible".
I hope this kid learns a thing or two about good reasons to die from John Proctor when we start the play in class next week. Believe it or not, he does a hell of a job in the part, and he is a natural leader, so all the other actors gather around to do their scenes with him in an orderly, efficient and creative fashion, allowing me time to do a 1000 other things I might not otherwise get to. I hope he's as shook up as his coach and the school P.O. say he is because Deonte (AKA the Cheese) is another keeper.