The first day of school they assigned me and Cassius with the new seventh-grade teacher, Mr. Broderick, for fifth period, and all I had to do was look him up and down once to tell he was gonna be a mess. White boy with no hair on his chin, smilin at his books.
Walked in his classroom with the kids and he didn’t have no icebreakers, no Imma get to know you. Only suttin written on the board: Steinbeck and Society. No Lesson AIM, no Do Now or nothin. So I push Cassius in his seat and go up to him.
Excuse me, Mister—?
Excuse Mr. Brother Rick, what’s the lesson for—
Sorry—Ms. Battles. I was wonderin what your lesson was so I can get little Cassius situated.
It’s on the board.
Oh. What do they have to do?
Nothing. It’s a talk.
It’ll be fun.
The bell rang and he chopped up his papers. The kids come kinda quiet, kinda loud.
Good morning class, he say.
One kid go, Waddup! and the rest of them is like, Good morning, like they in front of an open casket.
Now that’s a lukewarm greeting. Let’s try that again. Good morning, class.
Then they all wanna climb up on each other and scream.
That’s better, he say.
Then he dive right in, talkin suttin about Depression-era-this and migrant-that. He in a full corduroy suit, his sweat heatin up the whole damn room nearly. The kids is quiet, even Lyeshawn who they call Kowboy cuz of his sideburns, and Mr. Broderick crane his head and catch my eye to make sure I see that. He don’t know his words is goin straight thru they foreheads and hittin nothin on the way out.