A short story by Steven Rice
While cleaning off the cars they continue their discussion that began four days ago. “I didn’t expect this to happen at school,” Beth says, tears pooling in her eyes, for the fourth time in as many days. “How does it go from ‘does not participate in class’, to this?” Ken replies, “It doesn’t matter how it--” He stops abruptly when he sees Beth’s reaction. “I know, I know. Of course it matters, but now she’s crossed a line there, too. We need to think about what to do moving forward. That’s all I meant.”
They scrape and shovel in silence, ignoring their cold, damp feet. The snow continues as they prepare to go to work, their thoughts going back four days ago.
9:51 a.m.: “We need you to come to the school, Mrs. Wolfe.”
9:56 a.m.: “Mr. Wolfe, there’s been an incident involving Ruby.”
According to the sign-in sheet, they arrive within six minutes of each other. While waiting to speak to the principal, they see a girl leaving the office; a small amount of blood under her left nostril and her scalp visible in two spots where tufts of hair are missing. She glances at them, a puzzled look on her tear-streaked face, as she walks out with her parents.
“We are deeply concerned about both girls,” the principal begins the meeting. She goes on to describe the swift and violent nature of the unprovoked attack and how the guidance counselors would be available to speak to any of the witnesses who were upset by what they had seen. When the principal comments how shocked the staff was by Ruby’s uncharacteristic assault, the Wolfes exchange knowing glances, filled with the opposite of surprise—a bruise on Beth’s stomach where Ruby had pinched and twisted, Ken taking deep breaths after being hit on his ear by a stick, each cleaning spit off their face.
The principal concludes the meeting, “Debbie’s parents informed me they do not plan to press charges; however, while this is a first offense, there is zero-tolerance for this sort of aggressive behavior.”
Over the next four days any attempt Ruby’s parents made to discuss what happened at school were met with I don’t know and vacant stares. Hopes of resolution and discontinuing further, similar outbursts at school seemingly dashed against Ruby’s stoic silence.
Today had been Ruby’s scheduled return to school, but now the snow falls, heavy and abundant. In the quiet of the storm, each parent is grateful for the delay.
Art Academy of Milton will be featuring short stories written by the students of Michael Rash's Prose Writers' Workshop. To learn more about the next workshop and other events, visit our classes page!