Like a Vulture
Ellen was frustrated with herself for having done it again. She had signed up for Saturday “duty” and she was already kicking herself in the backside for her lack of preparedness. She should have told Joanie that she had other plans, which would have been true. Of course, her plans had not included school.
Instead, when Joanie had waltzed in after last class had let out, Ellen’s guard had been totally flattened, and she had not sensed the trap until it had been sprung. She had made a promise to herself at the beginning of the school year, that this year would be different than the first two, which had found her overwhelmed, over-worked, and over a barrel, more weekends than not, because she just couldn’t say no.
That’s what educators did, though, and wasn’t she starting to know it all too well? You were the bottom of the heap the first year and then some. There was no other way to get out from under, than to make yourself noticed by those who were in charge. But making yourself noticed, meant spending long hours not being on your own time, in your own space.
Ellen couldn’t help thinking weekends should be off limits. Was nothing sacred? She had wanted to take a spin down to the city, to see about doing a little light shopping, and maybe even stopping by at Anna’s, her favorite art supplies shop, and picking up a couple of new brushes, and then who knew what else she might have gotten up to? This living by herself was getting so old. But she would be doing nothing, now, except for going down to school to sit there and sign up people for the walk-a-thon. How fun for her.
She knew it was a good cause, especially since the kids were among the ones doing the walking. The school had been conducting this particular fund raiser since the beginning of time, and kids participated as well as parents, teachers, even local celebrities, all to help raise money for the music program. Last year the kids had raised the bar as far as participation and end results. It was dumb of her not to have anticipated Joanie’s lasso.
She made the commitment on Tuesday, and it hung over her head like a vulture, the rest of the week. Of course, she made the best of it, out on the playground while doing yard duty, carrying around a stack of the entry forms, and getting the word out. In her conversations with the kids, seventh and eighth graders, she’d enjoyed the good-natured jockeying going on amongst students from different homerooms, each set on being the winning class. The big reward was ice cream sandwiches.
Did kids really compete for ice cream sandwiches, still? Of course, they didn’t compete for the ice cream, they competed for the prestige of being number one. And they did it as a unit, working together to get the word out, and to encourage siblings and relatives to sign up for the walk-a-thon, and to just be kind of zany about the whole thing.
One of her students named Aaron, had talked to her more than once, telling her that his uncle was going to be participating in the walk-a-thon, and was she, Ellen, going to walk?
“Oh, I have to consult my calendar. I have so many social engagements...” She smiled sideways at him, and he had laughed with her. “You know I’m going to walk for music!”
Friday night was a distinct letdown, as Ellen geared herself up for what she knew would be a very long and trying day. She’d agreed to be down at the school from nine in the morning until three, six hours of painting a smile on her face, to conceal the fact that she’d like to be walking all right, just anywhere else but school.
Saturday morning found plenty of the major players stopping by the multi-purpose room, but things began to slow down after noon. Time which had gone by quickly earlier, seemed to be turning into jello, refusing to plod along any faster, than the angel fish in her aquarium, daintily exerting just enough movement with its fins, to keep it from drifting backward from the current caused by the filtering system.
Just when she was about at the end of her rope, in walked Aaron, and with him, an older gentleman, who turned out to be that uncle he had been telling her about. She had paid about as much attention as she normally did with exchanges involving eighth grade boys, and that amount of attention could easily rest atop the head of a pin, with room to spare.
Now, Ellen wished she had been paying more attention. This man standing in front of her was one fine looking specimen of the male population, and more importantly, he had a welcoming smile on his face.
“Hi, I’m Clint, Aaron’s older brother. Are you going to be participating in this walk-a-thon too?” All Ellen could think to herself was, if you’re going to be there, I will lead the charge and bang the drum at the same time.
Ellen could feel her face turning red. Why the hell was she blushing? “Oh, you know how these things go-that’s what I get paid the big bucks for.”
“Seriously? Aaron has been telling me about this event; if I participated in the walk-a-thon, would you walk with me?”
Hell yes! “I don’t know, Clint. I just met you; I don’t make a habit of dating strange men.” Ellen delivered her usual disclaimer.
“I’m not THAT strange; ask Aaron here. Besides, this isn’t a date. It’s a walk-a-thon. But if the walking went well, then maybe we could have dinner. That would be a date. What do you think?”
“I try not to whenever possible, and this is one of those times. So, yes, I’d love to take a walk with you.”