Mr. Pinsler placed the stick of chalk on the blackboard’s lip using two fingers in such a way their pads contacted the wood surface first, making very little sound, or making sound inaudible to most students. When he turned to face the class a ray of light passed through the thick dirty window and lay across his cheeks for an instant.
"Dough," Weltzein, a student seated toward the back, thought.
Mr. Pinsler slid his high backed wooden chair over no more than three inches, twisted his body and sat, laying both palms flat on the desk either side the stack of papers he earlier had aligned with considerable care.
While standing in front of the blackboard moments before, Mr. Pinsler had completed another near perfect circle using a pre-cut piece of chalk. He had gone about the circle’s labeling while discussing the assigned definitions in a voice not loud but sufficiently audible so as not to strain the ears of those children in attendance. He always employed a neutral tone without over or under emphasizing any one aspect of exposition. Students were required to commit all mentioned terms to memory, regardless of their relative importance. This was the way he had been taught.
Every Sunday evening, Mr. Pinsler opened a new box of chalk while seated at his dining room table. Using a sturdy vice, a precision rule, and a fine toothed jig saw, he cleaved each piece to measure, within a sixteenth, two inches in length. Having placed a tea towel between table top and jaw of vice, the table surface remained unmarred; the towel also made for less wobble. On Monday morning, after commanding the class to silence, Mr. Pinsler, in the same order, unsnapped his briefcase, transferred ten freshly hewn pieces of chalk into then desk drawer, aligned first pencils, pens, and lastly, papers. After securing the briefcase, he lowered it to the floor just one side of his left foot and nudged it forward until becoming flush with the desk leg.
Mr. Pinsler consistently drew near perfect circles on the blackboard, creating the first one of the week no later than class’s end on Tuesday; although more often right after first bell Monday morning.
His near perfect circle demonstrations served to emphasize perseverance in practice and reminded students of his prowess as master and that one day, providing considerable effort was exercised over time, they too might approximate that level of skill, or not. The students remained still as a church congregation whenever Mr. Pinsler turned his back to complete the motion; even the class bully Pratt remained poised to a degree. The mathematics instructor’s arm appeared to disarticulate at the elbow in the course of travel, mimicking a compass motion yet imbued with a cavalier, even aggressive, aspect.
On one occasion, over a glass of sherry, Mr. Pinsler shared with Ms. Poisson, the French instructess: “As Evil Kineval soars his motorcycle over a line of school buses in near perfect trajectory of travlel, and remains poised mid-flight, I too feel, Ms. Poisson, the in the execution of a near perfect circle, I am setting a powerful example.”
“Oh, indeed you are, Monsieur Pinsler," she said and they had touched glasses.
Mr. Pinsler, a man of apparent high propriety, took their relationship no farther, despite the fact Ms. Poisson had applied a false mole to one cheek for the occasion.
As Mr. Pinsler sat in front of the class that morning, a fly landed on the rim of his spectacles, crawled onto the inner surface of one lens and reaching the center, began to clean itself. After a few moments, the fly was scurrying back and forth, having captured the attention of each and every student by then. Its wings nearly brushed Mr. Pinsler’s corneal surface several times as it performed several abrupt direction changes. Finally, the fly walked confidently over to the edge of the frame, around and across the outer lens surface, coming to its opposite edge whereupon it stopped, cleaned itself one final time and scampered back onto the inner surface. All the while, Mr. Pinsler observed the insect’s activity, unblinking, his eyes turned inward.
"Freak," Pratt, the class bully, thought.
On that day, Mr. Pinsler wore, as he normally did, a meticulously buttoned sweater, brown as a paper bag, a jacket, the hue of corrugated cardboard and his walnut brown slacks, under which he had strapped his chesnut brown support hose. A pair of beaver brown shoes had been polished to a uniform luster. Their color, in particular, had been carefully sought through review of numerous department store catalogs: Mr. Pinsler was acutely aware that Beaver and brown were related etymologically, or nearly so.
After the fly departed, the students slumped back into their seats and a general release of tension was felt. The Brownian motion of student activity recommenced.
“Weltzein,” Pratt hissed, yanking the hair of the boy seated to his front.
“Pratt!” Weltzein jolted backward, inhaling through gritted teeth.
“Weltzein to the front,” Mr. Pinsler stated flatly and stood. In that posture, the frays of his sweater became apparent, shone upon by that same single beam of morning light which had captured his yeast like countenance. He had worn these same articles of clothing since attending his English boarding school in capacity of both student and Master, the latter position he accepted immediately upon University graduation. Mr. Pinsler ultimately relocated to the States due to some vague issue and assumed the present stewardship.
As Weiltzein minced down the classroom aisle, all heads turned and followed, as if all were coupled to a mechanical actuator. Mr. Pinsler gripped Weltzein’s hair and lifted him into the air. The boy grimaced, his shoulders rising as he attempted to maintain contact with the floor.
“No talking!” Mr. Pinsler shouted into Weltzein’s ear and lowered him just as the bell rang. Pinsler removed his briefcase from under the desk, unsnapped the locks, placed papers in the front-most compartment, pens in the middle, and pencils in the rear. He pressed the briefcase closed, tapped it twice, locked his desk drawer and walked out of the classroom, already one minute late for his library proctorship, a responsibility which would last the entire next hour.
Due to scheduling oversight, no instructor would arrive in the home room for another fifteen minutes. The children arose and began flinging themselves around the room like autumn leaves buffeted by unpredictable gusts of wind; all of them, that is, except for Weltzein, who continued to rub his head, standing beside Mr. Pinsler’s desk.
A spit ball stuck to the side of Jiminez’s head. He, in turn, punched Luchars in the arm as hard as he could wile O’Connor crept around the corner into the teacher’s alcove, entered the bathroom, unrolled a measure of toilet paper, ran the wad under the faucet, re-emerged and pelted the transfixed Weltzein on the side of his neck. Pratt, the bully, observed O’Connor do that and ran around the corner, intending to repeat the same. He slowed, noticing the padlock on Mr. Pinsler’s locker was left unfastened in the professor’s hurry to leave. Pratt jumped into the air and kicked the handle upward, sending the padlock clattering across the floor. The locker door careened against the adjacent steel cabinet causing a jarring vibration.
“Pinsler.” Pratt snorted, studying two glass quart-sized orange juice jars sitting side by side on the locker floor. Their labels had been removed. Both were sealed with the original Tropicana lids, each jar filled to the top with brown liquid. Pratt brought both jars into the classroom, placed them on the floor in front of the blackboard and unscrewed the top of one. Pratt scowled, waved his hand in front of his face, and shrieked:
“Pinsler’s dook jars!”
The children gathered and began flinching and gyrating around the jars. With everyone’s attention fixated, Weltzein wandered into the teacher’s alcove and stood in front of Mr. Pinsler’s now open locker. He examined the plywood board at the rear, displaced slightly to one side. Darkness was visible beyond the gap between the wood’s edge and the locker’s metal sidewall. Weltzein glanced over the locker’s top at the thin plaster wall, painted dour green, the wall which separated the staff alcove from the classroom. The darkness in the gap appeared to recede much farther than the few inch thickness of the wall. Weltzein moved his hand forward and inserted his fingers into the space beyond. He wiggled them. Satisfied, Weltzein pushed his hand inward a little farther, then farther still until his whole arm was immersed within the unknown humor, up to his shoulder. All attention out in the classroom was still focused upon the two glass jars so Weltzein was left to his own devices. As it happened, Mr. Pinsler had been collecting his feces in glass orange juice jars since he had been a boy at boarding school, even joining societies of like minded individuals.
With his arm fully extended, Weltzein felt it should be well within the classroom space next door yet he saw no light not desks nor students within the gap between wood and metal, only the vague twinkling of light, like stars in a night sky. As he felt no resistance and perceived no real danger, Weltzein yanked the plywood board out, turned sideways, and stepped into the dark space. He disappeared completely. A moment later, Weltzein stepped back into the alcove and brushed himself off.
Mr. Pinsler rushed into the classroom, having remembered as soon as he arrived at his library post he had not secured the locker padlock. He pulled up abruptly, staring at the two jars around which the tornado of children was careening. He noted his wide open locker door and clapped both hands loudly.
“Seats! Every child in their assigned seat!”
Weltzein was already seated, staring straight ahead and if anything could have been described as serene.
Like a mother hen, Mr. Pinsler recapped both jars and carried them gently into the alcove. “There will be serious repercussions,” he called over his shoulder as he replaced them on the floor of the locker.
With Pinsler occupied, Pratt yanked the back of Weltzein’s hair again and hissed, “Weltzein.” Welztzein remained still, staring ahead at Mr. Pinsler’s circle on the blackboard.
Pinsler stood in front of his locker and studied the sheet of plywood laying to one side. Darkness was no longer present, only the locker’s scuffed rear steel panel, where a large fold out magazine photograph had been taped. The image showed a man standing over a glass jar releasing a torrent of stool from his rectum. The photo was of Mr. Pinsler himself, taken some years previously. Pinsler fumbled with the plywood and hammered it in place with his fist. He adjusted the two orange juice jars to their previous orientation, closed the door, and snapped the padlock into its secure position. He strode back into the classroom and in a rumbling voice asked,
“Who has been in my locker?”
Pratt called out: “Weltzein. Weltzein found your jars, Mr. Pinsler, and opened them up in front of the class.”
“Is this true? Weltzein?”
The students looked at one another and a few wagged their heads up and down.
“I saw Weltzein holding your dook jar, Mr. Pinsler.” Jiminez said.
“Weltzein,” Pratt hissed.
“What you saw was NOT. . . a dook jar,” Mr. Pinsler spoke with his jaws tensing. In the fluorescent lighting at the classroom’s edge, his complexion appeared even doughier than before. He spoke more quietly: “You were mistaken.”
The students remained silent.
“Weltzein. Were you in my locker?”
Weltzein arose and walked down the aisle yet did not stop and turn as had been customary but proceeded straight to the board and picked up Mr. Pinsler’s pre-cut piece of chalk.
“Weltzein? I did not specify the black board nor did I instruct you to touch the chalk.” Pinsler turned toward the class. “Did I specify the blackboard or instruct Weltzein to touch the chalk?”
“No, Mr. Pinsler,” half the class replied.
“Weltzein, you are already facing near certain expulsion.” Mr. Pinsler spoke in a near monotone.
Weltzein drew a perfect circle just underneath Mr. Pinsler’s near perfect circle. The class could clearly see the difference: Mr. Pinsler’s circle was askew compared to Weltzein’s.
“Weltzein, what are you doing?”
Weltzein drew another perfect circle, then another then another, all without any effort whatsoever. He turned and addressed the class: “Mr. Pinsler keeps jars of his own shit in his school locker because he is obsessively compelled to do so. He allows Pratt to get away with his bullying because Pratt’s father went to the same boarding school as he and shares his fetish for shitting into jars.”
At that moment, the principle of the school burst into the classroom accompanied by a police officer.
“Mr. Prinsler, we need you to open your locker. Atop my desk a few minutes ago was placed an envelope containing several highly disturbing photographs. Parents have apparently received the same packet of images and are congregating in the school lobby as we speak.”
There was a burst of walkie-talkie static as Weltzein placed the chalk back onto the blackboard’s lip, making a distinctive tic on the surface of the wood.