Comments -- First part (Prologue, Preface, and Part I: Iowa, Fall into Winter) -- Seney
Interesting premise, but confusing because it starts as non-fiction, then becomes delusional fantasy. Let me know if I missed something.
(I talked to him in the hall afterward and asked how far he got, as he'd told me he did not read it all. He read the first few pages, then skimmed through the next part., so he actually read more than most.)
This fellow has known me for three years, has a good sense of humor, is pretty level-headed, very bright, articulate, bilingual, (fluent in conversational Spanish when he came) and also worked as a teacher on an Arizona Indian reservation school for a month in the four corners area where I set my tale, giving him more background than most, so that doesn't bode well for the marketing prospects.
His classroom was up the stairs and in the opposite corner from mine, but constructed slightly differently in that his cloakroom had a door into the classroom just inside the regular classroom door, against the north wall. Our rooms were similar in some other respects. Whereas most of the classrooms have two entrances and exits, ours just have one, as the classrooms are set opposite the stair wells. He generally keeps his classroom door open even when he is lecturing, as he has the same ventilation problem with most of his room that I do -- no cross breeze.
His last spring here, I needed to pass on an assignment sheet for a student who had gotten injured, and he was the closest teacher who had not already signed. My prep period was 2nd hour, opposite an upper level history class, so near the end of the hour, I went up during his class (which I generally do NOT do.) On the door hung a notice: Use Other Door.
He was still lecturing at an overhead, facing the class (and the doorways), and the class was fairly attentive, taking notes, mostly with their backs to the doors. I slipped in, catching his eye, but not interrupting him, slowly pushed the closet door open, entered, and partially closed the door. When he reached a stopping point, he looked up and said, "Yes?"
As the class turned to see who he was talking to, I opened the closet door and darted out of the cloakroom, which was so crammed with supplies that I'd barely fit. Holding out the packet of already gathered assignments, I talked to him in rapid Spanish, which he had NOT USED OR HEARD for three years.
You lose what you don't use, so he didn't get the whole message and translated just a bit, getting stuck on "knee". Several of the students in his class were upper level Spanish students, and eagerly filled in the rest of it for him. Handing him the packet and turning to leave, I passed one very dull student sitting in the last seat of the row closest to the doors. He was known for his inane comments, not intended to be disruptive, but so silly and off base that they almost always were.
As I hit the hall, he said, "Where'd she come from? I thought that wall was solid."
"Maybe she's a ghost," one classmate egged him on over light snickers.
I could hear the uproarious laughter that greeted that remark clear down on the landing. I later heard from some of my sixth and seventh hour students that the puzzled boy got out of his seat and opened the cloak room door to reassure himself that the back wall really WAS solid.
They were dying to know how I'd gotten IN there! I figured, "Why ruin a good trick", so I told them about the air chutes that used to open into the floors of various rooms, now mainly plastered over except in some disused areas, like the former guidance counselor's office at the back of the stage.
"The area right next to his closet that now has three steps leading up to a hallway lined with hooks and a small office in the back corner used to be a stage. The business class room and the library, which are divided by shelving now, were all one big open area, used for a study hall then. There's an air chute straight across from the window in that office that empties into the closet at the back of the history room. Years ago, when the guidance counselor really used that office, students were always sticking someone else's books down the chute, then the kid would have to interrupt the history teacher to go fish out his books and papers."
A few days later, one boy told me that I couldn't have gone through that vent because it was clogged by piles of old text books kids had thrown in there.
I was quite surprised, as that office door is kept locked now that it is a storage closet for old texts, films, etc.
The vents were so narrow that only grade school sized people could get into them. When I first started teaching there, the junior high lunchroom (now the computer room) had a vent between the metal uprights that the lunch tables were folded away in every night. One kid disappeared during lunch -- by siting down and sliding backward up the air intake, finally standing so that only his sneakers showed at the bottom. When the janitors went to mop the floor, he was "discovered" and sent to the office. I might have fit at, oh, age 9 or so, but maybe not. I might have been too tall to bend my knees right.
That summer, most of the vents disappeared.