I am embarking on an A-Z challenge, this one featuring short pieces of fiction. Today’s letter is C for Carpet.
The Call of the Carpet
I was in my third year of teaching and it couldn’t have been going better. I used to say, “Discipline is either your biggest issue or the least of your worries; there’s no in-betweens.” And keeping those middle schoolers in line was the least of my problems. I gave them the respect that I felt they deserved, and they gave it back to me ten-fold. My biggest goal was to stay out of the principal’s office, myself, and so far I was batting a thousand. I wanted nothing to do with the carpet in his province.
Jocelyn was a seventh grade girl and she was a delight to be around. She was bright, articulate, and a natural leader amongst her peers. It was easy to see why, once I met her dad, Lou, an outgoing, intelligent guy, who was no stranger to the classroom. He was a very active parent, and obviously involved in his daughter’s life, chaperoning the dances, and always willing to help out, when a class project required it.
When the annual trip to Yosemite came up, he was an eager participant, managing his group of five students, with enthusiasm and skill. I never had to worry about whether or not these kids were supervised, or whether or not they were where they were supposed to be. Lou had it all under control. When it came to cooking for the whole group, Lou and his crew were awesome. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked, and the salad was crisp and tasty, with tomatoes, carrots and cucumber. They even tossed in several avocados.
When I sent the groups out for their orientation exercise, involving pencil rubbings of key signs and symbols, proving the group had been at that spot, Lou’s group was back to camp first, the kids bubbling over with excitement. I couldn’t say enough good things about this kid-friendly parent and the way he operated. I’ve always maintained that you could tell a lot about a parent by the way a kid conducts him or herself, and Lou was a good example.
Of all Jocelyn’s traits, compassion was one of the strongest. She was able to empathize with the student who was struggling, just as she was able to celebrate with the kid who was on a hot streak. Her grades were good because she was the classic over-achiever. These things did not occur by accident. Her father had a lot to do with it.
So when I got word that Lou had been busted for growing marijuana, I was truly perturbed. I never gave much thought to the actual infraction itself; I was just bummed because I knew what a negative impact it would have on a good person and a good family. As the months went by and the lawyers went at it, some sort of plea bargain was arranged, and word went out that Lou could benefit from character references to the judge who was to determine Lou’s fate.
I never hesitated. I also never mentioned the transgression. All I did was concentrate on those attributes that I believed Lou possessed and those elements of his character that I had witnessed first-hand. And just for good measure, I put the letter on district letterhead. I was never clear as to whether or not the judge was duly impressed, but I can definitively say, Mr. McClintock, my principal, was not.
I got a call from Bessie, the school secretary, early one morning, telling me that Mr. Mac would like a word with me in his office. Wonderingly, I blasted straight up there, not knowing what to expect. One look at his dancing eyebrows, and I knew what being called on the carpet was all about. He had no problem with my writing the letter; he had no problem with what I said. He had a huge problem with my putting the letter on district letterhead. Oops, who’d have thought? My principles had clashed with the principal’s.
By the time he was done explaining-not yelling, mind you-I knew every one of the ten reasons why I had made a bad choice. I also knew that I would never use district stationary again, until such time as I was ready to become reacquainted with the carpet in Mr. Mac’s office.