Slouching Toward Bedlam

Giving 110 Percent and Other Lies, or Dreaming the Impossible Dream

Gord Winkle was nervous. When he got nervous, he tended to eat. Since he was quite spectacularly nervous, he was eating a lot. He had a two-foot-long baked sub sandwich from Fast Freddy’s, two double hamburgers and two chocolate shakes from Belly Busters, a triple chicken sandwich with pickles from Gobs O’Chicken, and a brown paper bag with the poppy seed muffin and salad that his wife had packed that morning.

Gord Winkle was nervous because the school year was starting in two days. It wasn’t that Gord was worried about the content or methods of what he would be teaching; he had been teaching shop classes for fifteen years. He had each lesson plan memorized. He could recite his shop safety lecture in his sleep (and according to his wife, he sometimes did).

No, the thing that had Gord Winkle eating two double hamburgers at a time and already wondering about dessert was the knowledge that in two days, when the freshmen walked through the doors of Bedlam Christian High School, one of them would be his daughter Ziti. She was named after his Italian grandmother—or, more precisely, after his grandmother’s wonderful baked ziti, which was the highlight of every New Year’s Eve. For a moment, Gord’s mind turned away from his daughter as he leaned back in his chair, smiling, his eyes closed and his hands resting on his ample belly, as he imagined sausage, tomato sauce, and three kinds of cheese singing opera across his taste buds.

“Hey, Gordo.” Gord opened his eyes to see his friend Rex Kane, the gym teacher, leaning across the table to steal a fry. “What you smilin’ at? You look like the canary that swallowed the cat.”

“I was thinking about Ziti,” he said, and as the plate of baked pasta in his mind turned back to his lovely daughter’s face, his smile disappeared. “I can’t believe she’s going to be here this year.”

Rex said, “And you’ll get to have her in class. That ought to be cool.” Rex leaned across to grab another fry, but Gord’s hand came down like a hammer, pinning Rex’s limb to the tabletop. Gord wrinkled his forehead and shook his head. Red-faced, Rex withdrew his hand without a fry.

“Actually,” Gord said as he circled one arm around his food and swept it closer to him, “I’m finding myself a bit disconcerted with Ziti coming here.”

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