My So-Called Life
The Substitute

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Wing Chun: D | Grade It Now!
The Substitute

After class, Rayanne and Angela flank "Little" Rickie Vasquez going down a flight of stairs; both girls are squealing about Mr. Colcord. Rayanne: "Tell him about the toothpicks! Tell him about the socks! He always wears one white sock, and one black sock." Very seriously, Rickie declares, "I have got to see the socks."

And...there they are, crossed at the ankles on Mr. Colcord's desk. As he holds forth, all the students lean forward, hanging on his every word. AS IF. All the students, that is, except Brian, who's still pouting. Anyway, the gist of Mr. Colcord's remarks is that their more recent submissions show "signs of life." He asks himself where they go from here, and then congratulates himself, as usual, on his "good question." The answer, apparently: "We go further."

Montage alert! Mr. Colcord lectures. Students laugh, and listen, rapt, and chew on toothpicks -- even Sharon! Between classes, Rickie and Rayanne (and some other random students) stick close to Mr. Colcord in the hall, and laugh uproariously when he makes some remark we can't hear. Next, we see he's redecorated the classroom with an oriental rug and some candles (oh, now, really, THAT'S TOO MUCH), on which Angela, Rayanne, and their now omnipresent toothpicks recline, writing in their notebooks. Okay, first of all, as much as a student may enjoy writing and have a real talent or flair or passion for it, is a classroom really a place where you explore your muse? Even a classroom with an oriental rug and candles? In my experience, no. And I was using the term "muse" facetiously, for the record. Anyway, Mr. Colcord wanders through his throng of disciples (and Brian, who leans bitterly against the blackboard, writing nothing) and comes to the classroom door. Baldo Civics appears in the window at the top, evidently trying to tell Mr. Colcord something; rather rudely, Mr. Colcord lowers the venetian blind on him.

Next, Mr. Colcord walks around the class with a paper bag full of (presumably) the students' papers; the students each draw a sheet of paper. The desks are now arranged in a semi-circle. Wow, it's like a consciousness-raising session. How '70s. Mr. Colcord taps Sharon on the head, continuing to pass out papers, and says they'll start with her. "Just read it?" she asks, and then grouses that she can't read the anonymous student's handwriting, but he tells her to read it anyway, and she does; it's a poem about trying on clothes. Another student (Daryl) reads about someone looking in someone's window. Rayanne hisses at Angela that Mr. Colcord changed his socks, and Angela hisses back that she's trying to listen. Mr. Colcord harangues the class to forget grammar and spelling (which he wouldn't say if he'd ever visited the boards on this site devoted to a certain program about a pre-fabricated boy band that shall go unnamed), and various students read: "When I'm a mother, I'll get revenge. I'll ask questions that miss the entire point." "My father decides how much cars were worth before they were totalled; that's his job." "I can forgive you, but I want to kill your dog." "I'll smile when you want to kill me. I'll throw away your favourite skirt, and never admit it." "If I drive myself and his favourite car off a bridge, what would be the estimated damages?" Mr. Colcord compliments the last author for finding an ingenious way to trash his father. Rickie says that his piece has a title: "It's called 'A Fable.'" Cut to Angela, whose smile fades ever so slightly. "Once upon a time there lived a girl. She slept in a lovely little cottage made of gingerbread and candy. She was always asleep. One morning she woke up, and the candy had mold on it. Her father blew her a kiss and the house fell down. She realized she was lost. She found herself walking down a crowded street, but the people were made of paper, like paper dolls. She blew everyone a kiss goodbye, and watched while they blew away." A nervous titter ripples through the class, and Mr. Colcord asks, "Why are you laughing?" A student previously identified as Yvette snickers, "Because it doesn't make any sense!" Angela leans morosely on the heel of her hand. Mr. Colcord tells Yvette, "Yeah, that's true, but it does better than make sense: It makes you feel! Makes you wonder. [to Angela] Wakes you up." Angela smiles back.

Mr. Colcord asks whether everyone has read. Brian purses his lips and breathes, "Uh..." "Brian. Read," commands Mr. Colcord. Brian shows he has a pair, and defies Mr. Colcord: "I'm not going to read this." They argue a moment, and then Brian spits, "It's called 'Haiku for Him.'" He takes a breath and proceeds: "He peels off my clothes / like a starving man would peel an orange / His lips taste my juicy..." Various students whoop until Brian gives up: "I refuse to read this." Mr. Colcord makes a show of sauntering over, plucking the page out of Brian's hand, and reads it himself: "His lips taste my juicy sweetness / My legs tangle with his / We become one being / A burning furnace in the cold cement basement of love." Dude, that's not a haiku. Mr. Colcord editorializes: "Hormones. What would we do without them?" As the camera pulls back, I see that the desks aren't even in a semi-circle, they're all just strewn about haphazardly, with no evident pattern. Whatever. One student asks who wrote the last submission. Everyone laughs. Mr. Colcord asks whether what he's just read is a real haiku. ("Good question," except I already answered it, suckah.) No one answers immediately, and Mr. Colcord asks Jordan, who, predictably, doesn't know. Mr. Colcord stomps over to browbeat him some more: "Yeah, well, find out, huh?" He throws a dictionary at Jordan and asks him to look up "haiku." Rayanne raises her hand and asks, "Just 'cause it's not a real haiku doesn't mean you're not going to print it in the paper, right? 'Cause it's real, in the sense that it's true to life." An outraged Brian squeals, "You're going to print that in the Lit?!" "I don't see why not," Mr. Colcord drawls. The bell rings and everyone starts flooding out, handing back the anonymous submissions. Angela comes up to Mr. Colcord and tells him, "That was mine. I mean, not the haiku thing, but..." "Yeah, I know which one was yours," Mr. Colcord replies, brightly (if dismissively) and then calls out to Jordan, who's slinking toward the door. Stung, Angela looks down at her notebook.

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My So-Called Life




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