My So-Called Life
The Substitute

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The Substitute

At school, English class is letting out. Students file past Mr. Colcord handing him some assignment or other. Jordan brings up the rear; Mr. Colcord calls him back to say, "I appreciate the fact that you don't want to monopolize the discussion, but, I mean, come on! I need you, do you understand? I need you to TALK MORE!" "O! KAY!" Jordan yells, exasperated, and glances around to make sure no one is watching the exchange. Mr. Colcord picks up a paperback copy of something by Steinbeck (I can't make out the title), and tells Jordan, "You left this behind." Jordan protests that he didn't leave it, and Mr. Colcord snaps, "Just take it, will you? We'll discuss it tomorrow." Jordan reluctantly takes it. Mr. Colcord turns around and sees that Angela's still sitting in her seat; he exhales, "What?" Angela haltingly tells him that she thinks that his throwing the Lit submissions out the window "wasn't right" and showed a lack of courtesy on his part. She adds that the oak tree poem was hers, and that she "put a lot of thought into that." "Did you?" he smirks. Oh, all right -- heh. She asks why he did it, and he repeats the question, adding, "Good question. I did it to clear the slate. I did it to wake you up. I did it to do something to find you. And now, guess what? Here you are, wide awake, right in front of me." Oh, whatever. That's so clich├ęd I don't even want to expend the energy making fun of him. Okay, just a little: What are you, Lionel Trilling? Get over yourself, you're a sub! If you had any consistent teaching talent, you wouldn't be an academic nomad. Anyway, F.R. Beavis continues, "Wasn't that worth it? I mean, that, uh, poem? That oak tree poem? That was yesterday. What are you going to write today?" "Good question," Angela replies. Ecch, get your own intellectual identity; don't mooch off Toothpick's.

At some later date (again, the new outfit is my clue), Rayanne "Steno" Graff accompanies Angela to English. Angela exposits, "You're not in this class." Rayanne replies, "So? Neither are half these kids," and indeed, the room does look much more fully packed than it did a mere three pages ago. Rayanne further exposits that Angela has been talking about Mr. Colcord for three days, and that Rayanne has "gotta view this guy!" The bell rings and the students dutifully take their seats. Through teeth clamped on his omnipresent toothpick, Mr. Colcord snaps, "Get out your notebooks," and strides to his desk. The toothpick calls its agent. Rayanne leans forward and mutters to Angela, "Substitute, my ass. He is the real deal." Mr. Colcord drops his knapsack on his desk and announces that he wants the class to "start over." Brian whines, "Start over on what?" and some other kid (possibly Jordan) pipes up, "I didn't bring a notebook!" A third asks, "Can't you show a movie?" Mr. Colcord ignores them and instructs, "Don't give me anything quaint. I don't want any domesticated animals, or [in Angela's direction] greenery. I want anger. I want honesty. I want nakedness." "I'm right here, baby," purrs Rayanne. Brian raises his hand to spoil everyone's nascent fun, and Mr. Colcord tells him to write down whatever he was going to say. He further instructs that the students should write down things they've never told anyone, themselves included, and that they shouldn't fear exposure since none of them will be putting their names on their papers: "This will be completely anonymous." "Just how I like sex," Rayanne stage-whispers to Angela. Mr. Colcord settles down beside Rayanne and asks, "What about you?" Rayanne stumbles for a minute, and then says, "I'm not in this class." "You're not? Where are you?" asks Mr. Colcord, adding, "How can you say you're not here? You're here -- I see you. Get out your notebook." Rayanne tries another tactic: "I never wrote anything for the Lit." Mr. Colcord snorts, "Yeah, well, then you have an unfair advantage here." Oh, burn! I should think he'd want to teach this class the poetry of Robbie BURNS!

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My So-Called Life

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