Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred

Mrs. Riles surveyed her unwilling pupils. Each one engaged in a personal style of avoiding attention: itching an imagined irritant, reading over his paper, or feigning interest in the unadorned walls. Eeny, meeny, miny, “Ms. Winters.”

Wil looked up; by every appearance surprised to be sitting in a classroom, let alone addressed by name. The reaction, in turn, unsettled her teacher enough to soften her tone. “Would you please read your composition, Ms. Winters?”

“Oh!” Wil scrabbled around her desk before successfully retrieving the small pile of papers sitting on top. Stumbling out of the seat and legs, she clumped up to the front of the room and turned to face her peers. She read over the top page, not seeing it; glanced back up at the sea of teenagers. One yawned. Most settled into positions of boredom. Reagan, two rows back and next to the wall, made an expectant gesture to continue whilst smiling her trademark smirk.

Wil smiled in return and resumed her task. The typed symbols resolved to readable English letters. “Harriet Tubman, Moses of America.”

*MRS. RILES!* the ancient loudspeaker on the wall crackled. Their school secretary, Mrs. Bird, never formed her requests as a question.

Mrs. R. did not hide her irritation. “Yes?”

*SEND WILHELMINA WINTERS TO THE OFFICE TO CHECK OUT.*

In case anyone thought to defy the blaring wall speaker, Mrs. Bird added *NOW!* She crackled off with a high screech.

Wil, her class, and the teacher winced; then took turns looking from one to the other to the other in surprise. “Well,” Mrs. R. finally concluded, “Get your -oh.” She saw that Wil had nothing waiting at her desk. “Erm -hand in your report, Ms. Winters, and we’ll continue this another time.”

Wil stood, uncertain.

“Wil?” Wil met her teacher’s eyes, and felt calmed by their focus. Mrs. R.’s features resolved to an unusually kind expression. “Wil, come here.” Clunking in her heavy boots and bumping the odd desk, Wil went to her teacher. “May I have your report, please?” Her hands obeyed. “Thank you.”

“Now,” Mrs. R. said, “I think you’d better go to the office. We’ll see you in two days.”

Wil nodded; found her voice. “Okay.” She made it to the door before thinking to add, “Thank you, Mrs. Riles.”

Her teacher, in answer, waved her on. She was already focused on selecting her next victim. Wil didn’t know what lay in store for her at the office, but felt a distinct relief at being rescued from her own oral report.

 

Continued from Ninety-Nine.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

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