Novel: Excerpt from Novel Edge

(The teacher in the morning; excerpt from book one, chapter four)

These subjects had not been on the teacher’s mind when she went through her morning routine and intermittently pondered her class. Scanning over some Soviet drama on the front page, her eye caught a title that she would have to read that evening: Thousands of Pupils Living in Hotels Skip School. Twelve kids were reading below grade level; Anya couldn’t keep up in math. She skimmed over the first sentences of each paragraph, smiling at a sharply critical article. These are poor kids that no one cares about, but even with those who didn’t live in run-down midtown hotels, both parents worked ten to thirteen hours a day, came home exhausted, popped dinner in the microwave and sat down to television. She knew that: Look at Damien.

Part of the routine involved watering the plants, and she took a few quick steps that way, her gaze resting on the homemade bookcase with its series on the Civil War, Gulag lit, Nazi Germany and studies in Christianity. And then there was Anya’s mother! She wanted her kid placed in another class after the fight. She had no idea, has no idea, doesn’t even know what her daughter is doing. Hyperventilates to the principal and says she wants her removed immediately. She’s frantic. Involved. It’s her daughter!

“Five minutes, okay, chicklets.”

The livingroom plants stood on the radiators and hung from the ceiling in front of the window, the mini forest supplanting a view of the wall, attempting to recreate the former sea of maple leaves outside the dormer of her childhood sanctuary. She flicked a switch to bask them in artificial sun and bent over to thumb the terrarium tubelight on the floor. Potted nature now let her forget screens and guardrails and the view of the wall and dingy shaft that the cramped city forced on her. It could all just as easily be surrounded by greenery, ginkgos, a lawn, hill, gravel road running along the brook in the valley, a culvert gurgling below, a lily later blooming in the flowerbed at their first house. That house had to be on the island, because the thought of all this concrete and asphalt frightened her, made her dodder and so she told her husband directly: we can go, but you have to take the ferry to work so we can live outside the city.

“Mom, did you pack my lunchbox?”

“Yes, honey. It’s by the fridge. Are you almost ready?”

“You said we have five minutes.”
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