Garry waited patiently at the door as the bell rang. He was tall, taller than most of the adolescents he taught, and had a youthful face. Students were wandering out of their previous classes and through the halls, trying to figure out where their next class was. The first day of school was always like this; teachers and students uncertain, on edge, excited, hoping to fit in just so. By chance Garry’s first period had been a prep, so he spent most of the time shifting chairs around, deciding on the exact layout. He had settled on a circle.
Finally his class arrived, led by a small boy with glasses who would, in other circumstances, appear somewhat nerdy. Somehow, though, he seemed standoffish. Maybe it was the way he walked, or how he held his books; Garry couldn’t place it, but still, as this seventh grader led his classmates, Garry sensed trouble. He put on a big smile and held out his hand.
“Good morning, I’m Mr. Mayhew,” Garry said.
The boy looked at him, sizing him up better than the principal had at his interview. With a slight nod of acceptance, the boy took his hand and shook. “Good morning, Mr. Mayhew, I’m Mr. Yi.”
Caught slightly off guard, but making sure to play along, Garry replied, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Yi. Welcome to history class. Come in to the classroom and find the seat with your name on it.”
“Thank you,” Yi said, heading inside. Garry continued to introduce himself to each student, giving them the same instructions, though they all replied with first names as such adolescents normally would. Yi stuck in his mind though, unshakeable. After the last student entered, he walked in, closing the door behind him.
Taking his own seat in the circle of chairs directly in front of the board, Garry lifted his attendance sheet and scanned through it, glancing around the room to check on empty chairs; when he caught Yi’s eyes staring, he glanced down at the sheet again: Dale. Dale Yi. Good to know, he thought. He completed his check, and with every student present, sitting quietly or whispering to their neighbor, he began.
“Well, good morning, class. As you now all know, I’m Mr. Mayhew, and I’ll be your history teacher this year. My goal is to teach you about ancient history, from the Egyptians to the Romans. You all found a document on your chair. Please look at that. I’d like to go through it with you, as it outlines the plan for the year, my expectations of you, and the plan for how you’ll be graded.”
As he went through the sheet, answering a few questions here and there, he looked over to see Dale quietly watching him. This was his fourth year teaching, but his first in a full time position, and he had never felt so scrutinized. After getting through the class business, he had time to lead a couple of get-to-know-you games before the bell rang for recess. As the rest of the class filed out, Dale hung back.
“Mr. Mayhew,” Dale said when the other students had left.
“Yes, Dale?” Garry replied.
Dale frowned, looking up at Garry. “First of all, I believe I introduced myself as Mr. Yi.”
Garry looked down at his young charge and blushed. “You’re right, Mr. Yi, my apologies. I shouldn’t have been so forward in addressing you by your first name without your permission.”
“Correct, Mr. Mayhew. I’ll accept your apology this time. Now, as to your class,” he pulled a document from his folder, stapled in the top left-hand corner. “Here is an outline of my expectations for you and your class. Please make sure you study it carefully. At the end of each term, you’ll be given an evaluation of your work as teacher.”
Garry looked down, dumbstruck at the professionally worded document now in his hands. In his quick scan, he found requirements of interest and factual accuracy mentioned, as well as overall requirements of reasonable teaching. “I’ll need to read this more closely, Mr. Yi, before I can respond, of course. However, you seem to be assuming a lot.”
“Indeed. I think you’ll find the requirements quite reasonable. If you have questions, you may ask me at any time. We have high expectations for you, Mr. Mayhew, as you seem young and, as yet, unjaded by the system. I look forward to working with you.” Yi held out a hand, which Garry took. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Garry watched as the young man left his room, closing the door behind him. He looked at the paper, then back to the door. It’s going to be an interesting year, he thought, walking over to his desk to sit and read more thoroughly.
Martin Chandler is a writer and composer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is currently dodging cars in Monterey, California.
Any dad would be proud when their kid brought home a report card covered in mostly A’s, but not my dad. I was watching a 5 o’clock show when I saw my dad outside through the living room windows, coming up the concrete stairs and unlocking the front door. He was sporting a new cap, a black one with writing on it.
I pulled out my last high school report card from my knapsack. Sure, it was another pretty one, stamped with an honour roll banner. That stamp meant that Dad would give me fifty bucks. High school was ending on a good note.
Dad went into the bathroom to clean up. I waited one step away from the door. His new cap was hung on a hook in the hall, on top of his lanyard with his employee pass dangling from it. Dad worked for a company in Montreal. The cap read:
C.A.S.T.: Canadian Aerospace Systems and Technologies
Dad came out of the bathroom. His face, hairline and hands dampened by exhaustion.
“Here,” I said, handing over my report card with a shy smile.
“A gift for me?” He opened the document and seemed to be reading it line by line, from top to bottom. I had all A’s. And… two B’s.
“What are these B’s doing here?” he asked.
Asians must get A’s. Yeah yeah, I knew the joke.
“Math-related courses are hard. But I made the honour roll again,” I said.
“Do you need tutoring?”
“Math is important,” he sighed. He said that often, so often that it sounded like a mantra to live by. “You need high grades in math to get anywhere in life, especially in medicine.”
“But I got A’s everywhere else,” I said.
“Math is important,” he repeated.
I rolled my eyes. I knew I couldn’t win. Regardless, I was getting my fifty bucks.
“That’s new,” I said, pointing to his cap. He glanced at it.
“It’s not something to be proud of,” he said. “I had to work for fifteen years just to get a cap.”
“It’s exactly fifteen years to this day?” I asked.
He folded my grade report and slid it on the table in the hall, under his employee pass and cap.
“Fifteen years of being discriminated against,” he said. “Fifteen years of having CJAD Radio turned off when mad Québécois pass by, just because I can’t speak French in this city. Fifteen years of being called the China Man.”
I regretted having brought it up. I sometimes forgot I belonged to a Chinese family. Sometimes. Dad picked up his lunchbox and went into the kitchen, past the cream-coloured curtains.
“Being Asian puts you at a disadvantage from the start,” he said. “Being at the same level as everybody else actually means being below them. There’s no respect there. That’s why you need to do better in school, to rise to the top. You have to rise, or be stuck at the bottom.”
I couldn’t see him past the curtain, past his stern outlook on life. I wanted him to be wrong. I wanted to believe that my generation was tolerant and accepting, unlike what my dad thought, but who was I to know?
Linda Nguyen earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and her B.A. in Psychology from McGill University. She is working on her first novel. Born in Winnipeg, she lives in Montréal where her mind wanders and her fingers type.
editorial by Camille Gooderham Campbell
From the Editors
Happy 7th Birthday, EDF! We’ve seen a lot of changes in the world of publishing and online magazines in the seven years since our first story went live. When we started out, we were the only daily online flash fiction magazine that paid authors anything at all and didn’t publish our own editors’ work. It feels good to be able to look around and say, “Well, we’re still here; isn’t that something?” Seven years.
We couldn’t do this without our community — our amazing volunteer staff, from the most senior editor through to the newest slush reader, who make EDF happen for you every day without any compensation but the occasional word of thanks — our fabulous authors, from award-winners and bestsellers to brand-new writers who trust us with their first-ever submissions — and our wonderful readers and commenters and fans and friends, all of you. Thank you.
(Please don’t forget that we need support to keep going; every little bit counts. There’s a donation button just under the search box on your right. Much appreciated.)
Do stop by our Facebook Roundtable today for virtual cake and balloons. Year EIGHT, here we come…
Since the first of the month falls right on Labour Day, we’re starting off our year with “‘A’ as in Math” by Linda Nguyen, followed on September 2nd by Martin Chandler‘s “The First Day of Class” for all those returning to educational pursuits this month.
We also have a special story for 9/11 this year, “Falling Up” by Jennifer Ripley.
We’re very happy to welcome our newest slush reader, Edward Beach — you can check out his bio and photo on our staff page.
There’s still time to get your stories in for October (such as harvest, fall season, Canadian Thanksgiving, Samhain, Halloween, etc.) — the deadline is September 26th, and please remember to fill in the Targeted field so we don’t miss them. We’re also ready to start looking at November pieces (especially Remembrance Day / Veterans’ Day).
But here’s the important information you’ve been waiting for…
September’s Table of Contents
|Sep 1||Linda Nguyen||“A” Like in Math|
|Sep 2||Martin Chandler||The First Day of Class|
|Sep 3||Scott James||Little Fish|
|Sep 4||Frederick K. Foote||Beauty|
|Sep 5||Henry McFarland||The Saddest Song|
|Sep 6||Nick Bevan||Extremely Satisfied|
|Sep 7||Joanna Bressler||The Throwback Girl|
|Sep 8||Aidan Doyle||The Sweet Life|
|Sep 9||Lucy Gregg Muir||The Tractor and the Plough|
|Sep 10||Wilma Bernard||The Action Hero|
|Sep 11||Jennifer Ripley||Falling Up|
|Sep 12||Katrina S. Forest||In Line With a Prize|
|Sep 13||Glenn Mori||What She Saw|
|Sep 14||Amy R. Biddle||Overexposed|
|Sep 15||Laura J. Henson||Trust Issues|
|Sep 16||Lou Antonelli||Back Own My Stab|
|Sep 17||Alaina Ewing||Barn Swallow and Master Owl|
|Sep 18||M. E. Garber||Backstitches In Time|
|Sep 19||Cathy S. Ulrich||That Night, In Your Room|
|Sep 20||Sarah Crysl Akhtar||What You Ask For|
|Sep 21||Joschua Beres||The Lottery|
|Sep 22||David Macpherson||The Cabinets of Doctor Cal and Gary|
|Sep 23||Lori Schafer||State of Micronesia, 2016|
|Sep 24||Paul Celmer||Windfall|
|Sep 25||Rohini Gupta||Accidental Encounter|
|Sep 26||Michael Haynes||Searching for a Dishonest Man|
|Sep 27||Sarah Rachel Egelman||Fabulaception|
|Sep 28||Hally Cohen||Mick and Loretta|
|Sep 29||Matthew Harrison||A Scent of Lavender|
|Sep 30||Milo James Fowler||Future Tense / Present Perfect|
Sarah hopped on her bike with her gardening supplies secured in the sturdy wicker basket. The morning had a slight chill, a welcome relief from the midsummer heat, but she didn’t feel relieved. Her morning trips to the community garden were the highlight of her busy days, a calming infusion of nature before heading to the office. The change in temperature foretold the coming autumn and the end of the gardening season.
She suspected that this would be the last of the tomato harvest. Sure, there were still squash and carrots, but they pretty much took care of themselves. The tomatoes had been coddled like children. The seedlings, started indoors while the ground outside was still white with snow, were pampered until they were strong enough to survive the outdoors. In early spring, the soil was turned and improved with compost, laying a rich foundation for the seedlings to thrive. Once planted in the earth they were faithfully pruned and watered until finally, nearly 4 months later, the first tomatoes ripened. The months of waiting had paid off with a summer of tomato bliss filled with fresh salsa, gazpacho, and homemade tomato sauce. It was all coming to a quick end.
She slipped through the garden gate and pulled her bike up next to her designated plot. Her heart sank when she saw the lone ripe tomato. It was a perfect heirloom specimen — the size of a softball, yellow and orange with red hues around the bottom. The other remaining fruits were still hard and green. It was clear that they would never ripen in the cool evenings. She snipped the stem of the ripe tomato and felt the hefty weight of it in her hand.
I could eat it right now, she thought, fresh from the vine and still moist with dew.
She pushed the temptation aside. This was the last summer tomato and she had to make the most of it. She wrapped it in a towel and delicately placed it in the basket. “There you go, beautiful. No bruises for you,” she said. She pedaled out of the garden, careful not to damage her treasure, and thought about her last tomato meal.
Bruschetta with fresh herbs? Under the broiler sprinkled with Parmesan?
Sarah took a quick survey of her surroundings: a crowded bus stop on the corner, a group of kids kicking a soccer ball, damp leaves on the sidewalk. She decided to pull out onto the street. A typical urban street, it presented a minefield of potholes, steel plates, and debris; but at least it was predictable. She was so focused on maneuvering between the obstacles in her path that she didn’t see the squirrels until it was almost too late. She slammed on her brakes and came to an abrupt stop. The pair continued their game of tag across the street unfazed, while the tomato jostled back and forth in the basket. So much for the predictable route!
Shaken, she turned back up onto the smooth sidewalk and glided the remaining block to her building. Once inside the elevator, she started to relax as the doors closed together.
Sliced thick over spicy arugula? Drizzled with aged balsamic?
A hand slid between the closing doors, followed by a man squeezing his way through the gap. “Down, Daisy,” the man said to the large dog by his side, but Daisy was eager to greet her new friend. Tail wagging, she backed Sarah into the corner and buried her curious nose deep into the basket. Sarah grabbed the tomato and held it high over her head, sacrificing herself to the flurry of wet kisses. When the elevator finally chimed at her floor, she bolted through the doors.
At home safely at last, she carefully unwrapped the towel, dreading the mess that she knew she would find inside. But the tomato was still flawless, its ripe fragrance filling the air.
Simply prepared with fresh mozzarella, olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt… perfection!
Waiting until dinner would be unbearable. She pulled the cheese from the refrigerator to warm up and then rinsed the tomato, leaving it on the counter to dry while she changed into clean clothes.
Her jaw dropped when she walked back into the kitchen. There stood her husband, a huge grin across his face, with the remnants of the tomato in his hand. Traces of fresh juice rolled down his forearm and stained his sleeve.
“Oh, babe! This was the best tomato!” he said. “Where are the rest?”
Eyes wide, she lurched forward for the last glistening chunk left in his hand.
Jill Coursen currently lives in Maryland. A biologist by day, she writes fiction for fun and to prepare for a second life as a writer. Until she finds her voice, all genres are fair game.
George sat in his chair, having already pushed the lever, and didn’t really look at anything. The bright lights and throngs of people registered in his brain like a TV movie that played only for the purpose of background noise.
He glanced over at the kid who worked the gate of his ride, who was probably nineteen or twenty years old, and saw that he was surrounded by several girls, all of whom were giggling and paying him the sort of attention he probably didn’t get very often.
He thinks he’s the man, George thought as he glanced away again and remembered what it had been like to work carnivals as a young man.
The weather was always warm, there were lots of people around, and it was just a summer job before he moved on to bigger and better things. He had hung out, met girls, and made friends with whoever was around. He remembered thinking to himself at the time that he should enjoy it now, because it wouldn’t last forever.
George pulled the lever.
For the umpteenth time that night the ride stopped spinning. The kids ran off screaming, and the adults, wobbly-kneed, followed behind them. A few teenagers on the ride did their best to look like nothing had happened. That the ride was no more exciting to them than taking a walk. George thought they were full of shit.
He looked over again toward the gate — at Mike or Matt, or something — and watched him take tickets from eager people who couldn’t wait to get tossed and turned and spun around on the ride. There was a time when George used to feel the same way.
But that was a long time ago now, back when his father used to operate carnivals and way before he had ever worked a carnival himself. Back when he saw carnies as benevolent older brothers who would give him pieces of funnel cake and joke around with him because he was their boss’s kid, who was always hanging around.
George turned to see a boy, maybe seven years old, right in front of his chair, speaking directly to him. He hated when people spoke to him.
“What?” George asked, and made sure to put a menacing expression on his face.
“I want to get on this ride!”
“So get on.”
“He says I can’t!” The little boy pointed at the young man taking tickets at the gate of the ride.
George didn’t bother to hide his disgust. He knew the little kid in front of him was referring to the fact that he was, according to the sign out front, too small to get on the ride, which George knew was bullshit.
“Kid, if you want to get on the ride, get on the ride. I don’t care.”
The little boy smiled in delight and ran off to get into one of the cars.
George wasn’t sure how the kid had gotten past the gate or if he had even handed over any tickets, but he wasn’t going to ask. This time when he pushed the lever, George had just the smallest smile on his face. To everyone else it looked like a small scowl.
The young man at the gate turned around to watch the ride, since he didn’t have to take tickets for a few minutes. George watched his facial expression in anticipation, seeing if he would recognize the kid who had gotten past him.
A minute and a half had gone by; the little boy was spun, swung and tilted by the ride and looked like he loved it. George looked over at Matt or Mike or whoever he was, but it didn’t look like he had spotted the little boy.
Finally, George pulled the lever and the ride slowed down. People began filing off and Matt or Mike, or maybe it was Mark, got ready to start taking tickets again.
George saw the boy get out of his car with a huge smile on his face, even as he was unsteady on his feet. He glanced over at Mark (he felt pretty sure now that his name was Mark) one last time, and got his pay-off.
Mark saw the boy and started to protest. George laughed the best laugh he had laughed in a while, and the little boy wobbled his way over to George.
“Hey mister! Thanks,” the boy said.
And George, who finally felt friendly, started to say, “No problem, kid, you’re we—,” before he saw Mark leave his post by the gate and march up onto the ride platform like he was king of the carnival.
“Hey man, that kid’s too small. I told him he couldn’t get on the ride.”
“Not my job, kid. He got by you, so I assumed he was good to go.”
Mark gave him a dirty look, but George didn’t care. The little boy bounced away with a wave to George, and George smiled for the second time that night, as his eyes fell on the ride behind where Mark stood.
“I could get in trouble for that,” Mark said, giving George another angry look, while turning around to go back to his post. George just waited.
The ride was now completely full. Kids and adults, all without handing over their tickets, had filled the ride while Mark had his back turned.
Mark started waving his arms and yelling at people to get out of the cars and off of the platform, herding them back outside the gate. George watched with glee.
But his greatest triumph came when the little boy who had taken a wild, unauthorized ride stopped just outside the gate and vomited in the exact place where Mark had stood all night.