“Okay, class,” Doc. Armbruiser says, “regarding this week’s writing prompt – ‘Three to six hundred words on how America, today, might regard the country’s 16th President, if, instead of a Lincoln, he’d been a Bicycle.’ Are there volunteers?”
It’s a Friday in early April, 6th period, “Senior English as a Creative Field of Dreams” at Oliver Wendell Holmes High in West Ft. Totten, Illinois. Charles “Chuck” “Chuckles” “Chuck-it” “D.A.” “Doc. Armbruiser” – aka “Charles Armbruster,” a self-proclaimed “uncertifiable doctor of nothing, with an interest in philology” – has been a fill-in teacher since last Thanksgiving break, when Clarice Frances Whitherall’s head fell face forward into the mashed potatoes at her granddaughter’s house in Topeka.
Emily Clark raises her hand.
“I see a hand,” D.A. says, now, leaned against the front edge of his desk and wearing his standard costume of an ancient polo shirt tucked into a pair of faded jeans, above undyed wool sweat socks and ratty loafers. He moves his right hand up, covering his eyes. “I’m guessing it belongs to … I can’t … see it … clearly. What head might claim, this lofty mitt?”
“Fortenbra,” Emily answers in the low, husky voice of someone who has spent decades fighting pirates in the Caribbean. The class laughs.
D.A., smiling broadly, moves his hand back down to the desk. “Fortenbra? As in …?”
“As in a girl wearing a fortress of a bra, lined with parapets and gun emplacements.”
“And you’re going to read the whole story in this voice?”
“No,” she says, her voice cracking back to Emily, “I can’t do it longer than 10 seconds.”
“Hail, the mighty Fortenbra!” Andy Simms then shouts from the back row, his arm and fist raised high. Andy is the designated cheer driver each Friday for “read it and weep.”
D.A. then raises his arm, along with the rest of class, saying “For-ten-bra” in chorus.
It’s how things go on Fridays. Which is something everyone looks forward to, and a way of doing “school business” that the “Parsons of Our Better Judgment,” aka Principal Richard Hertel, and Vice-Principal Phyllis Dracula, have come to leave alone.
“So?” D.A. says to Emily.
“So,” Emily responds, leaning back and stretching out her legs beneath the desk, while resting the two-page printout against the desktop edge.
“Born in a log cabin near the Sinking Spring bike trail, just outside of Hodgenville, Kentucky, Alexander “Two-Door” Lincoln, and his bride Luella, raised their son, Abraham, in the customs of the day. Which meant that after finishing his homework, each evening by the fire, he was free to let his head play amongst the stories of the 19th century’s version of video games, also known as books. A few of Young Abe’s favorites being ‘Grand Theft Horse and Buggy,’ ‘Super Mario Bros. Buy a Farm,’ and ‘Call of Duty: Modern Musket Warfare.’
“He was a pretty normal kid, except for the fact that by age 14 he was 6-feet 9-inches tall, a power-forward born before his time, since the game of basketball would not be invented for another 70 years. If handling an ax had been an official NCAA sport, Young Abe, then living in Indiana, would certainly have received a scholarship to a big-ten school. But, in the dark years before Pell Grants, and without tuition money of his own, the boy was left to find his own way through the wilderness of 19th century, higher education.
“Which was cool, since it would pretty much form the genome of his character, along lines that were in-sync with the national customs of the time, producing a strong sense of individual accomplishment as people, doing their own thing, made their own way through the wilderness of an unsettled life upon this still, as yet definitely unAmerican continent.
“‘Dad,’ Young Abe would say one day, ‘I think I have the stuff to be the country’s President.’
“‘Uh-huh,’ Two-Door Lincoln answered. ‘Have you fed the hogs?’
“This short scene outside the family barn, turned out to be a defining moment for the boy. He realized that, in the spirit of the pioneers still swimming in his blood, in order to achieve the full potential of his promise he would need to leave his family life behind, and venture off into the wilderness of a future that only he could settle.
“Which, a few years later, would become the venture that he made, traveling further west into Illinois where, as a tribute to his early years in the log cabin near the Sinking Creek bike trail, he would change his last name from Lincoln to Bicycle. Which was certainly a forward-looking thing to do in the sparsely settled wilderness of 1830 North America. Though not really all that strange since, in point of fact, both then and now, we are all born ahead of our time, as our lives consist of what comes after the great and glorious, slip-and-slide of birth.”
Emily drops the pages back onto the desktop, and looks up. “That’s it, Doc.”
“Very cool,” D.A. says, then raises his arm, with the class following in a chorus of “For-ten-bra.”
2017-04-08 01:10:23 (886 words)
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