Unknown Soldier | Teen Ink

Unknown Soldier

October 23, 2009
By kookoodood PLATINUM, McGregor, Texas
kookoodood PLATINUM, McGregor, Texas
20 articles 0 photos 43 comments

“You let up for an instant and it’s all over.”

She doesn’t wear makeup anymore. She used to, once upon a time. Her face was pristine, full of idealism, back when she used to care. Now it is gaunt, aged beyond her thirty-odd years. Her lips tense as a student bursts through the door, bragging loud enough to topple a nearby janitor about a necklace he stole from a classmate. Her back protests as she rises from her swivel chair behind her desk.

I stand and watch, silently.

It was obvious that Ms. Cunningham had drawn society’s shorter straws most of her life. Every now and again she’d have to hire a sub because her chiropractor’s schedule conflicted with her own. All the instruction sheets she left for her stand-ins had “Bring earplugs!” italicized at the top. I’d had to buy a pair just to be able to think.

Her eyes, over the previous months, had become more and more bloodshot by the day.

Her ring finger was bare.

A desk hitting the floor snaps me out of my musings and I see Ms. Cunningham smile at a young man who leers at her in return. I don’t say anything, but we both know she smiles like she’s begging for a reason to.

She turns back to me and runs a hand through her disheveled hair. Dimly, I hear an expletive being flung across the room.

“I thought I did everything right.”

A boy yells something about not needing this and slams the door behind him as he leaves. She winces.

“Don’t know where I messed up.”

A paper airplane lodges itself in her hair as she says this. Shortly after she carries it delicately to the recycling, the bell rings.

Then comes the deluge.

“Please quiet down—”

“Marissa, I didn’t take your—”

“When are we going to use—”

“Why you talkin’ to me—”

“I don’t wanna do—”

“God, you’re such a—”

“Y’all, try to listen—”

I hear all this through my earplugs and try my best to drown out the noise.

Finally, the bell rings again. A young lady gives Ms. Cunningham the finger as she exits. I stay behind until everyone leaves and utter my first words of the hour.

“Will you be okay?”

She sighs as the first student of her next class stomps through the door.

“It’s hard—Chris, spit out your gum!—it’s hard…”

She takes a breath like she’s drowning.

“It’s hard to think well of yourself when you’re treated like this.” She flaps a flaccid hand at the demolished room and leans over me for a sponge to clean up a desk that has a curse written on it in Sharpie.

“But I’ll be okay. I—have to be.”

She walks me to the door and clutches at the small of her back.

“Take care,” she whispers, smiling weakly.

I want to say something but can’t figure out what.

She sets her shoulders back, turns around, and heads into battle. Spitballs fly from nowhere to hit her face and students mutter insults under their breath before the door closes.

God bless that woman, I think as I shoulder my backpack and turn around.

It’s a prayer more than anything, though God became a bedtime story years ago.

God bless that unknown soldier.

The author's comments:
I wrote this when my World Geography class was really rambunctious and my teacher kept her patience somehow.

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This article has 8 comments.

AnnieHay said...
on Jan. 22 2011 at 2:23 pm
AnnieHay, Glendale, New York
0 articles 0 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.~Ferris Beuller
The past is the future with the lights on.~Plus 44

i love how u understand this situation so well...rly deep

on Aug. 23 2010 at 10:49 am
Blue4indigo PLATINUM, Sturbridge, Connecticut
24 articles 0 photos 382 comments

Favorite Quote:
I'd rather be sorry for something that I did than for something I didn't do.
-Red Scott

That was a great story, you conveyed all the strong feelings in it using just the right words...

It's good that you actually care enough to write a short story about a suffering teacher, to view her as a person, not a thing. It really is horrible how many students treat teachers.

on Jun. 17 2010 at 9:57 pm
kookoodood PLATINUM, McGregor, Texas
20 articles 0 photos 43 comments
It wasn't that I was nice, it was that I had a soul... All those kids were just - I can't even... It was horrible. But thank you for the compliment. :)

figureitout said...
on Jun. 16 2010 at 9:17 pm
figureitout, Dorchester, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is too short to wake up with regrets.So love the people who treat you right, forget the ones that dont.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it'd be worth it.

its so sweet how you actually care about your teacher even though everybody else is incredibly rude. you must be a really nice guy to beso nice to somebody even though you were probably ridiculed for it. its nice to find a nice guy once in a while.

SarahG BRONZE said...
on Jun. 8 2010 at 6:45 pm
SarahG BRONZE, Goff, Kansas
4 articles 0 photos 14 comments
This is exactly the same as to how my World Geography teacher was treated. It was horrible, But you cant really help it.

on May. 26 2010 at 8:50 pm
kookoodood PLATINUM, McGregor, Texas
20 articles 0 photos 43 comments
Yeah, my World Geography teacher had to go through that hell this past year... I felt sooo bad for her. :( But thank you so much for reading my work. I encourage you to check out some of my other pieces. :)

Miara GOLD said...
on May. 25 2010 at 7:35 pm
Miara GOLD, Ottumwa, Iowa
16 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.
Dying is a day worth living for.
The problem with being the last of anything is by and by there be none left.

Very good.  I understand how Mrs. Cunningham feels.

Zero_K DIAMOND said...
on Dec. 18 2009 at 5:36 pm
Zero_K DIAMOND, Moosic, Pennsylvania
83 articles 0 photos 435 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life's no fun if you're not insane, otherwise you grow up to be an accountant." -Moi

WOW. This is amazing!

-Blessed Be!