Mr. Pinsler placed the stick of chalk on the blackboard’s lip using two fingers in such a way the fleshy pads contacted wood surface first, making very little sound, inaudible to most students in the room. As 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, murmured.
Mr. Pinsler slid his high backed wooden chair over no more than three inches, twisted his body and sat, laying both palms flat on his 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 his pre-cut piece of chalk. He had gone about the circle’s labeling while discussing its assigned definitions in a voice not overbearing but sufficiently loud so as not to strain the ears of the children in attendance. He employed his usual neutral tone without over or under emphasizing any one aspect of exposition. Students were required to commit all the mentioned terms to memory, regardless of relative importance.
Every Sunday evening, seated at dining room table, Mr. Pinsler opened a new box of chalk. Using sturdy vice, precision rule, and fine toothed jig saw, he cleaved each piece to measure, within a sixteenth, two inches in length. He always placed a tea towel between table top and jaw of vice, assuring the table surface remained unmarred; the towel also made for less wobble. On Monday morning, after commanding the class to silence, Mr. Pinsler, in precisely the same order each time, unsnapped his briefcase, transferred the ten freshly hewn pieces of chalk into desk drawer, then aligned, in order, pencils, pens, and 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 his elbow in the course of travel, mimicking a compass motion yet was 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 travel, remaining poised mid-flight, I too feel, Ms. Poisson, my execution of a near perfect circle sets a powerful example.”
“Oh, indeed you do, 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.
As Mr. Pinsler sat in front of the class that morning, a fly landed on the rim of his spectacles, and crawled onto the inner surface of one lens. In reaching the center, it began to clean itself. After a few moments, the fly scurried back and forth, seemingly for not reason whatsoever and thereby captured the attention of each and every student. Its wings nearly brushed Mr. Pinsler’s corneal surface several times as it performed several abrupt direction changes. The fly finally walked confidently over to the edge of the frame, around and across the outer lens surface, and came to its opposite edge whereupon it stopped, cleaned itself one final time and scampered back onto the inner surface. Mr. Pinsler observed the insect’s activity, unblinking, his eyes turned inward. The class, in turn, observed Mr. Pinsler.
"Freak," Pratt, the class bully, murmured.
On that day, Mr. Pinsler wore, as he normally did, his meticulously buttoned sweater, brown as a paper bag, his jacket, a 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; a general release of tension was felt. The Brownian motion of student activity recommenced.
“Weltzein,” Pratt hissed and yanked 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 student and Master both, the latter position he accepted immediately upon University graduation. Mr. Pinsler ultimately relocated to the States due to some vague issue and assumed his present stewardship.
As Weiltzein minced down the classroom aisle, all heads turned as if 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. 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, 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 and ran around the corner, intending to repeat the same gesture. He slowed, noticing the padlock on Mr. Pinsler’s locker had been 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 original Tropicana lids and each jar filled to the top with the same brown liquid. Pratt carried 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. With everyone’s attention fixated on the dook jars, 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 and wiggled them. Satisfied, Weltzein pushed his hand inward a little farther, then farther still until his whole arm was immersed within the unknown humor, all the way up to his shoulder. All attention in the classroom was focused upon the two glass jars, leaving Weltzein 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 his hand at least 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 the night sky. As he felt no resistance and perceived no real danger, Weltzein yanked the plywood board out, turned sideways, and stepped into the darkness. He disappeared completely. A moment later, Weltzein stepped back into the alcove and brushed himself off.
Mr. Pinsler rushed into the classroom, having remembered in arriving at his library post that he had not secured his locker's padlock. Pulling up abruptly, he stared at the two jars around which the tornado of children careened. He swiveled to examine his wide open locker door in the alcove and attempted to clap both hands together forcibly. Each hand ended up missing the other almost entirely, resulting in a faint scuff.
“Seats! Every child in their assigned seat!” Mr. Pinsler bellowed.
Weltzein had already been seated, staring straight ahead calmly as if nothing out of the ordinary were transpiring.
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 placed them back down 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 one of Mr. Pinsler’s near perfect circles on the blackboard.
Mr. Pinsler, in the meanwhile, was standing in front of his locker, studying the sheet of plywood leaning to one side. Darkness was no longer present in the rear, only the locker’s scuffed steel panel, where a large magazine center fold had been taped. The photograph showed a man standing over a glass jar releasing a torrent of loose stool . The pin up was Mr. Pinsler himself, taken some years previously. Pinsler fumbled with the plywood sheet, hammering it in place with his fist. He adjusted the two orange juice jars to previous orientation, closed the door, and fastened the padlock securely. He angrily 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 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 to receive his punishment but proceeded straight to the board and picked up one of Mr. Pinsler’s pre-cut pieces 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 clear 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.