This Morning It Looked Like Rain ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
“Do you have any plans for summer?” Miss Eye asked.
“I’ll be spending a couple of weeks with my sister in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” Miss Hackley said. “Other than that I don’t know.”
“Well, we’ll all be back at school again before you know it.”
“Next year will be my last year,” Miss Peebles said. “I’m retiring.”
“Oh, I can hardly believe it!” Miss Eye said. “We’ve been teaching together for fifteen years! I don’t know what I’ll do without you there!”
“You’ll soon forget about me,” Miss Peebles said.
“What are you going to do after you retire?” Miss Hackley asked. “Won’t you be lost without a desk and a classroom full of students?”
“Oh, I have a million things I want to do!” Miss Peebles said.
Wesley-John Garbutt sighed and yawned and the ladies turned and looked at him.
“I’m afraid we’re boring Wesley-John,” Miss Peebles said.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to be rude,” Mr. Garbutt laughed. “Did you, Wesley-John?”
“Tell the ladies you didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
The ladies tittered appreciatively and Mr. Garbutt fumbled for a cigarette.
“Why, I didn’t know you smoked, Mr. Garbutt!” Miss Hackley said.
“When I’m away from school I smoke a little,” he said. “I’m afraid I picked up the habit in college and haven’t been very successful at ridding myself of it.”
“There are things that can be done about that,” Miss Peebles said in the same tone of voice she would use in scolding her students.
“No doubt,” he said, inhaling smoke and blowing it out through his nose.
It was the annual Teachers’ Picnic and Miss Eye, Miss Hackley and Miss Peebles found themselves sitting at the same table with their principal, Mr. Boyd Garbutt, and his son, Wesley-John. Their sack lunches were spread out before them.
“This morning I was afraid it was going to rain,” Miss Eye said, “but it turned out to be a beautiful day after all.”
“Yes,” Miss Hackley said. “Summer is definitely here! You can just feel it in the air!”
“And what are your plans for summer, Wesley-John?” Miss Eye asked.
“What? I, oh, uh, nothing.”
“That’s not true, now, is it, Wesley-John?” Mr. Garbutt said. “He’ll be taking a couple of remedial classes in summer school and when he’s not in school he’ll be taking swimming lessons at the YMCA.”
“Oh, won’t that be fun?” Miss Eye said.
“I don’t even have a suit,” Wesley-John said.
“A suit? Why would you need a suit?”
“Oh, of course!”
“I thought it would be a good idea for him to know how to swim,” Mr. Garbutt said. “I learned as a child.”
“I’d almost rather die than take swimming lessons,” Wesley-John said.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll have a very nice time.”
“I’m afraid of the water. I’m afraid of drowning. I have nightmares about it.”
“When you begin swimming, they’ll teach you not to be afraid.”
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
“When school takes up again,” Mr. Garbutt said, “he’ll be in junior high. No longer a baby.”
“Imagine that!” Miss Peebles said. “And I remember when he was born. Seems like about two years ago.”
Wesley-John looked squarely at Miss Peebles and said, “Did you know my mother left me behind?”
“Why, no, I didn’t know that,” Miss Peebles said.
“There’s no reason to talk about that now,” Mr. Garbutt said.
“She’s living in New Mexico. She’s married to some other guy.”
“I thought it best not to talk about the divorce at school,” Mr. Garbutt said.
“You should have told us,” Miss Hackley said. “We might have been able to help.”
“I don’t think so. It happened very fast and we decided it was the best thing for all parties concerned.”
“The man my mother married has three kids of his own,” Wesley-John said. “They didn’t have room for me.”
“I thought it best if I raised him and put him through school myself,” Mr. Garbutt said. “Otherwise he would have had to transfer to another school and that would have been disruptive.”
“I understand,” Miss Hackley said, waggling her chins. “These things are always difficult for the children.”
“We’re getting along pretty well, though, aren’t we, Wesley-John?”
“Maybe there’ll be, you know, someone else in your life one day,” Miss Eye said.
“I don’t know,” Mr. Garbutt said. “It’s too early to think about anything like that.”
“May I have one of your cigarettes, Mr. Garbutt?” Miss Eye asked.
“Why, Evie!” Miss Hackley said. “Not you, too!”
“And why not, may I ask?”
“I just never thought of you as one who would smoke cigarettes!”
“You just never can tell about people, can you?”
Miss Evie Eye laughed her cackling laugh and leaned across the table. Mr. Garbutt lit the filterless cigarette she held clamped between her ruby-red lips, and in her eyes was a special glow that hadn’t been there before.
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp