Her name was Jane Hulsebosch. She was my math teacher for fifth and sixth grade. Jane was a tall large woman with black tight curly hair. Her eyes were brown and beady, like a ferret.
She was approximately five feet and eleven inches tall, but to me she seemed much taller. Jane did not stand, she loomed. If she looked over my shoulder while I took one of her labyrinthine exams, it felt like the sword of Damocles swinging over my head. Jane was an extremely heavy woman who was plagued with varicose veins. When I was young, however, it looked like she had beanbags stored under her skin. Jane was a heavy smoker. I could not help but notice the stale smell of smoke on her fingertips as I gingerly approached her desk with a paper to grade.
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Jane to me was the educational equivalent of terrorism. I was not stupid enough to actually volunteer an answer to her questions. I attempted, like my other poor unfortunate classmates to crawl into a crevice in the floor by keeping my eyes downcast. Silly me.
Like a panther circling its prey Jane walked around our classroom. Employing the Socratic Method, she barked questions at me. And I, paralyzed in fear, failed yet again to answer correctly. The woman was an insidious masochist. I know she delighted in terrorizing us. She threw erasers and chalk at us with the precision of a stealth bomber while wailing “DOPEY!”
My morning prayer was that Mrs. Jane Hulsebosch die a long painful death. In my head I painted glorious medieval deaths. My personal favorite fantasy was one where she is disemboweled. My classmates, however, preferred the “drawn and quartered” method. God it seemed, never answered our prayers.
Then one cold damp winter morning it seemed that God did answer me, well sort of.
Jane entered the classroom but her gait was unsteady. She smelled like something I had never identified until I was in college. She smelled like a brewery.
Her face was swollen, like someone who just got pummeled in the face during a game of dodge ball, but worse. Was that a black and blue that I saw? I did not know, and did not care to draw her attention to the fact that I was staring at her. Quickly, I looked at my textbook and pretended I was reading.
A haunted silence filled my classroom. All of us just sat holding our breath. My stomach felt like there was a lead balloon in it. (Indeed, as I write this paper, the feeling sets in.) What did we do? Did we do something so terrible that we rendered her speechless?
Did Sean get caught cheating again? After what seemed like hours, two police officers entered our classroom along with the principal. What was happening? Were we being arrested for being bad students like she promised? Was the threat of our behavior going on our “permanent record” happening now?
No. Jane was being led out of our classroom. Suddenly, as she passed my desk I was compelled to look up at her and a tear hit my shoe.
Outside, someone was wailing. It was Jane, but it was not the same yelling that she did in class. What was happening? Our principal entered the classroom and told us that he would be teaching us for awhile and that we should all pray for our teacher.
Well, we did…but not for her return. That night I remember my parents whispering in hushed horrified tones and then calling me into their bedroom to “discuss something”. I was asked an interminable amount of questions about Jane, the throwing, the yelling and that smell. Jane, they told me was in the hospital. Her husband had been beating her and she had a drinking problem.
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