“You’re sharing a classroom with Mister Galanis,” Principal Twomey says, heavyset and out of breath from climbing up the stairs to the 3rd floor. The 3rd floor is the inner sanctum of the English Department. We don’t appreciate visitors here, especially ones from administration. Rarely do they bring good news. And notification of sharing a classroom? There isn’t any worse news to be had.
“I am not sharing my classroom,” I say, capping my red pen. As a rebuttal, I motion around the room—from the busts of stately literary masters on the bookshelves to the posters of philosophical quotes on the walls. Everything in my classroom is alphabetized, orderly, not a jot nor tittle out of place.
The principal looks at me in disgust.
“Now that we’ve had our chat,” I continue, “there are one hundred and eighty poorly written summer essays on the human condition that need my attention, and your tomfoolery is delaying my progress.”
“I decline to share my classroom,” I say, looking over my glasses. “Let Mr. Galanis fire up his Bunsen burners elsewhere.”
“Miss Foxcroft—our enrollment numbers necessitate that we pool our resources. This is not really your classroom, per se. It is a resource of the school, one that is sorely needed during your planning period.”
I stand up, eye to eye and toe to toe with this—this—principal—young enough to be my son. “You are commandeering my classroom for the new science teacher?”
“Just during your planning period . . . you may teach your other six periods here.”
“Oh, can I?” I purse my lips, sarcasm pooling in the corners. “O lucky me. Thirty years of dedicated service to this school, maintaining a passage rate of 90% in both AP English Language and AP Literature—and THIS is how you repay me?”
“Don’t. You. Miss. Foxcroft. Me.”
“And exactly where do you think I should spend my planning period?”
“In the teachers’ lounge?” he replies in upspeak, typical of his generation. Does no one use declaratives anymore?
“If I want to snack on stale banana bread while being propositioned into joining a multi-level marketing scheme, I will deign to sit in the teachers’ lounge. In the meantime, let me do my job.” I uncap my red pen and prepare to eviscerate a thesis statement.
“Tomorrow, Miss Foxcroft,” the principal says on the way out the door. “Vacate your room during 6th period.”
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Someone is opening my classroom door.
“Oh hullo, I’m sorry. I didn’t think anyone would be here.” Mister Galanis awkwardly pushes a cart into my room. He’s about my age. Silver hair. Lean. His last name derives from the Greek, meaning “pale blue.” Like his eyes.
“Well, I am in here,” I reply, returning to grade my students’ essays. He’s wearing khakis and a red striped polo shirt. “I did not know you were coming today,” I lie.
“Well, in about four minutes, twenty-seven 7th graders will be joining us,” he says, unfolding newspaper pages, spreading them across the floor as a drop cloth. He busily sets up a variety of bottles and buckets. I cap my red pen.
“What, pray God, are you going to do in this room?” I ask, an eyebrow arched in warning.
He pauses to look at me for a moment. “We are going to make elephant toothpaste.”
I return a blank expression. There are no words.
“It’s an exothermic reaction,” he explains. “Look at this! I got 40-volume hydrogen peroxide to make this sucker bubble up like a foam python!” He laughs like a madman.
I look over at the bust of Chaucer, embarrassed that he has to witness such a pedestrian event.
“You want to help?” Mister Galanis asks over his shoulder. He’s adding food coloring and liquid dishwashing soap to the oversized bucket.
I grab my papers and flee.
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“Miss Foxcroft, what is your concern now?”
“Principal Twomey, I’m afraid our arrangement with Mister Galanis is not working out.”
“What high crimes and misdemeanors has Mister Glanis committed now?”
“There was half a bagel left in the wastebasket. Food cannot be left in the classroom. It attracts ants.”
“And his 7th graders rearranged the desks. It took my last period at least three minutes to realign them into the proper rows,” I huff. “So we cannot share a classroom any longer. The situation is untenable.”
Principal Towney sighs, leaning back in his chair.
“I have tried to be patient,” I explain. “And I’m sure Mister Galanis is just as upset over the situation as I.”
“He is not.”
“He is not upset?”
“He is not anything. Mister Galanis has said nothing about you or your classroom. He just does his job, and frankly, those 7th graders love him.”
“We’re lucky to have Mister Galanis. He’s a retired forensic scientist and former state police detective with the major crime squad. Teaching is his third career.”
“I figured with your love of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers, you’d have invited him to speak to your classes.”
“Now, when I asked Mister Galanis how he’s managing, he specifically said that you’ve been nothing but helpful and kind to him.”
“Even though it was before I was born, Miss Foxcroft, you do remember when you first started teaching? You do remember how overwhelming everything is?”
I hang my head.
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Someone is opening my classroom door.
“Oh hullo. How’s your day going?” Mister Galanis smiles, pushing a cart into our room.
“Good,” I reply, noticing how his dark blue polo shirt accentuates his eyes. “I, uh, made some banana bread for the teachers’ lounge. You want a piece?” I hold up a paper plate covered in tinfoil.
“Ooooo,” he says, grabbing a few slabs, popping them into his mouth. “Chocolate chips! My ex-wife used to add those in.”
“I was wondering, Mister Galanis . . . we’re starting ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ next week. Any chance you’d like to give my students your expert opinion on Poe’s Auguste Dupin?”
“Ah, the first literary detective with his special reasoning power. Of course. I’d love to.”
“Thank you, Mister Galanis.” My cheeks flush. I have no idea why.
“Poe’s Tales of Ratiocination!”
“Yes, logical reasoning…”
“Just let me know what periods. I’ll be there.”
“Thanks, Mister Galanis. It will be a real treat.”
“Just like your banana bread,” he grins.