The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 192: Louella Teaches Math

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       ONE GOOD THING ABOUT having connections, Louella thought, is that it sure cuts out wasted time. Thanks to the admissions director at the social work school, who made a couple of phone calls in her behalf, she was on her way to a $125-a-day long-term substitute position in a Baltimore City middle school.
       “Really, don’t thank me,” he had said. “You’re going to be doing a valuable service while you wait for our admissions decision.” His eyes had twinkled. “Who knows?” he said. “You might just like it!”
       Now here she was at the swank school headquarters office on North Avenue. All around her, smartly dressed women were clicking their high heals on the hard floors as they went briskly about their business. Louella checked her watch. She’d been waiting an hour.
       Finally a receptionist called her. “Mr. Fox will see you now.”
       Clutching her old but now distinguished Coach briefcase, Louella made a few clopping noises herself as she traversed the broad corridor. It smells like school in here, she realized, feeling a little anxious chill.
       Mr. Fox rose to greet her. “Please, sit down. Sorry to keep you waiting. Would you like some coffee?”
       Boy, this is something new! I feel like I’m being courted or something! “Tea, black. Thank you.” Mr. Fox busied himself at a console along the wall. Louella noticed he was wearing a huge gold class ring. Maybe it’s a weapon, she thought. Maybe I should dust mine off if I’m going to be in the classroom. I hear you might need something like that.
       “Well, I’ve got to say your résumé came across my desk at the right time,” he smiled, handing her a styrofoam cup. Louella favored him with a smile as she took a tentative sip. It’s only Lipton, but what did I expect?
       “And what time might that be?” she asked, feeling coy and brave. Hey, I’m in the driver’s seat, and it feels good!
       “We have a long-term opening at a middle school--I think you may have heard about it?”
       “Yes, but no other details.”
       “Well, it was your M.B.A. that interested me, you see.” He cleared his throat. “We, uh, need a math teacher.” He gave her a glance that was at once challenging and pleading.
       Math? I don’t even balance my checkbook! I chose all my courses to stay away from math! “Why do you think that qualifies me? I’ve never taught school, you know.”
       “But you could come in under our new program! You don’t have to have the education credits. We’ll work with you on that.”
       “Is there any other long-term position available?”
       “None like this. You’ll practically be a real teacher in this position--”
       Why not just go ahead and do it? If he thinks I can, I guess I can. I mean, how hard can middle school math be? “Are there any benefits? I’d need health insurance at least.”
       “Well, I’m not sure we can go that far at first. After six months, if everything goes all right....” He shrugged. “You know--it’s the bureaucracy, rules we have to follow and all that. But we might be able to let you sign on to our program and lpay your own way.”
       “That will be fine. When do I start?” Oh, my God! What am I doing? I don’t believe this!


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This story was published on January 5, 2000.