Jim Bridger

Sam by Jim Bridger

The teacher turned to her class and smiled. Although she was in the hall, she suddenly had this sinking feeling, that the children may have heard what the principal had just told her.

It was hard to hear anything however, through the blanket of sound the children projected. For a long moment, it hummed through her mind and drowned out the world.

“Miss Welling,” came a voice. “Miss Welling, do you understand me?”

The hum subsided.

“I was just taking lunch orders,” she said. “I can’t…-”

“Of course, finish that first,” the principal said. “But you have to tell them. You have to tell them properly, or they’ll hear at recess. Don’t worry about lessons today. Unless you think it will help.” With that he departed down the hall.

Alison Welling walked back into her classroom, and stared at the lunch orders in their bucket. She counted them, especially the top three, which she counted several times before asking her class who still had a lunch order.

A boy came up with his envelope. “Here, Miss.”

Alison checked the order. One sausage roll, two dim sims, two chocolate milks. She frowned.

“Rhys, Sam won’t be coming into school today, so do you want to just get one milk?”

Every Monday, Rhys Myer’s parents gave him extra money for lunch, and every Monday, Rhys bought a chocolate milk for Samuel Taylor, who could not afford chocolate milk.

Rhys bit his lip and thought for a moment. “No, that’s ok. Joseph can have the other one.”

“Actually,” Alison whispered, crouching down to eye level with the boy, “Joseph’s not allowed to drink milk. Why don’t I just write one, and since your parents gave you a note, you’ll get some change at lunch.”

“Oh. Okay…” Rhys said, visibly bothered by the idea of not spending all his money. He trudged back to his desk, pondering reality.

Two more students gave Alison their orders, and then she placed the lid back on the bucket. For a moment it refused to click into place, and wobbled in her grip.

“Miss Welling?” said a girl; Amelia Grace.

Click, went the lid.

Alison stood up, and tried to regain some composure. Her hands were shaking. Amelia would notice. She would ask.

“Yes, Amelia?”

“I left my drama book at home today, sorry,” she said. “But I can use some paper and write in my book when I get home.”

“Oh… Uh, sure. That’s fine, Amelia. Don’t worry about it.” Her voice was catching; surely Amelia could tell.

“And, is Sam sick? Are we doing roles today? If Sam’s sick can we do it a different day?”

Every week for the last three years, Sam and Amelia had been partners in Drama.

“What face should I make here?'” Sam would ask, and describe the next role.

“This one!” and Amelia would contort her face with startling precision, much to the delight of the rest of the class. And Sam’s eyebrows would shoot up, and pencil in hand, he would attack his book.

“Or if he comes, I could share his book!” Amelia said.

Sam’s drama book contained nothing but drawings of Amelia’s face. She would find it of limited use.

Alison laughed, but what she heard was closer to a loud sob, and she frantically muffled herself in front of the children.

“Miss Welling, are you okay?” asked Joseph.

“What’s wrong?” asked Amelia.

“Alison?”

This voice was different. It was the school counsellor, Susan. Alison stared at her through blurring eyes, feeling her jaw muscles straining; a fragile dam against an ocean of grief. She was going to burst.

“I thought perhaps you might like me to speak to them,” Susan said.

Alison didn’t want to speak to them. She didn’t want Susan to speak to them. She wanted Sam to come to school, and drink chocolate milk and draw silly faces. She wanted Rhys and Amelia to worry about extra change and forgotten books. And she wanted to put all the time in the world between them and the world.

Suddenly, armed with this new resolve, and divine willpower, Alison Welling regained herself.

“No,” she said. “I’ll tell them. Just give them a minute.”