The Warning Signs

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I bolted out of bed, my body drenched in sweat, tears in my eyes. It was five AM; no way in hell would I sleep again after that. A young teacher in China refuses to admit he's not where he wants to be in life. Every night he dreams of losing everything he's worked for, waking him in a sweat. Will he fight for his job, or for his dream?

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Chapter 1

It was six fifty five in the morning, and it’s been twenty five minutes since my alarm clock blared out and scared the soul right out of me. Work was in an hour. I got up, but my mind was still asleep.

Every day the same thing; I get up, go to work, come home. What’s my job? I teach. Specifically I teach English as a Second Language to young Chinese children. It’s been a year since I left for China, seeking a better life for myself. I’m actually good at it, I think. I mean the kids have fun, they learn, and I’ve not had complaints so far!

“Morning,” I greeted the head teacher, Miss Wang. “I hope I’m not too late.”

She proceeded to pick up a plate and show it to me; a ten Yuan charge for being late. I sighed, dug into my pocket, and put the money on the plate. Ten Yuan is like a buck fifty American. The clock read 8:04 AM; four minutes late, though class is in fifty six minutes. I walked to my desk, turned on my laptop, and proceeded to check my lesson plans. As the Chinese teachers spoke to each other in Chinese (a language I can’t speak) I decided to listen to a little music before class, to get my spirits pumped.

The day proceeded as normal. I gave the kids new vocabulary words to learn, they practiced the words by using them in sentences, and then we played a game of “Hangman”. They LOVE Hangman; it’s always their favorite part of class.

After school I like going back to my apartment and draw. I enjoy drawing comics for myself, maybe show them to my online friends or shit, but I don’t think I could make it as a published artist. There’s no money in that, competition is fierce enough as it is, and I’ve got student loans to pay off. So, like my friend Alex always says, rip-rop.

And THIS, my friends, was why I’m always so groggy in the morning! I looked at my clock; 12 AM. I should have been in bed 2 hours ago, but I lost track of time drawing. I put my pen down and plopped myself on my bed. One hour later, I’m asleep.

Arthur!” Yelled Miss Wang. “You’re late again!”

But the clock says it’s...” I meekly said before looking at the clock on the office wall. The hour hand goes from 7 to 12 in an instant.

You’re always late!” Cried out Miss Wang. “And you do nothing but watch videos!”

That’s not true,” I said, tears in my eyes.

You fired!”

I bolted out of bed, my heart racing, my body drenched in sweat. I looked at my clock; it was 6:15 AM. I could go back to bed for the extra fifteen minutes of sleep, or I could get up now. I decided on the latter. I showered, ate my noodles, got dressed, then went to work.

“You late again?” Asked Miss Wang.

“No,” I said, pointing at the clock. It read 7:50 AM.

“Always late,” said Miss Wang. That was bull; I may be late now and then, but only for office hours; NEVER for class!

Nine in the morning and time for my first class. I stood in front of the classroom teaching adjectives. I had some kids distracted; some were playing with tops, others were reading comic books. I had no choice but to confiscate their toys and comics. And my Teacher’s Assistant? In the corner on that damned WeChat again. My class had forty two kids, and I was just ONE man!

Four thirty in the afternoon; quitting time. I rushed back to my apartment, picked up my pen and paper, and began to draw. I drew a cartoon of a teacher standing in front of the classroom, stone faced, a distant look in his eyes as his class acted rambunctiously.

“You need to change your lesson,” my agent wrote to me on WeChat.

“What do you mean?” I typed back on my phone. I waited an hour; no response. I shrugged and got back to drawing.

It was almost eleven when I stopped drawing. I put my pen and paper away, took a shower, and got ready for bed. I plugged my phone in its charger, then saw my agent wrote me back while I was showering.

“School says the kids aren’t learning from you,” he wrote to me. That gave me pause. Like what the hell? How are they not learning from me? I went to bed; sleep didn’t come for another three hours.

I arrived at the office at precisely 7 AM. They can’t get mad at me if I arrive an hour early, right? I tried opening the door, but it was jammed. The door would not open. I turned around and saw Miss Wang and the Chinese teachers fuming at me, their eyes full of hate.

What’s going on?” I asked.

You’re a terrible teacher!” Miss Wang roared. “We don’t need you here! You’re FIRED!”

I bolted out of bed, my body drenched in sweat, tears in my eyes. It was five AM; no way in hell would I sleep again after that.

I arrived at the office at seven fifty AM. Miss Wang again glared at me.

“You late,” she said.

“No,” I meekly said, pointing at the clock.

“New teacher arrive in afternoon,” she said. “You help him out, OK?”

“Sure,” I said, getting to my desk.

Getting a new teacher at this time of year was nothing new; in fact, I started a week after the semester was supposed to start. Some of the other foreign teachers also got their starts late, MUCH later than I did!

After my classes I walked back to the office. I saw the new guy there; I knew it was him because security in this school is pretty tight. I greeted him warmly and told him everything he needed to know.

“So they give you the classes you’ll teach?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said handing me a paper. My heart froze; his schedule was MY schedule. A knot formed in my throat. I went to Miss Wang about this, asked her what was up.

“I not know,” she harshly said. “School decide, not me.”

“But if he has my classes,” I said. “What’s gonna happen to me?”

“I not know,” Miss Wang said. “You ask school, not me.”

I took out my phone, opened WeChat, and went to the school’s WeChat group to ask about my schedule. One of the teachers, Jian Yu Li, replied- “I don’t know what to tell you, but you can ask the principal on Monday, she’ll know.”

Defeated, I went back to my apartment. It was Friday, thankfully. I took to my pen and paper, but nothing came to me. I couldn’t draw. I felt like I was losing my job, like I was being tossed aside like nothing. I tried watching TV instead, but all there was to watch was Chinese shows I couldn’t understand. I could have watched that cartoon about the big headed kid and his dorky dad (“New Happy Dad and Son” it was called) but I decided to simply listen to music on Xiami, a Chinese app where you can listen to music.

I was in the office. I was putting my bag on my desk when I heard a chair move. Miss Wang glared at me from her chair, then got up and walked to me.

Arthur,” she said. “Take that TV to the other office.”

OK,” I said, taking the TV. “Wait, what other office?”

But she didn’t respond. I took the TV and tried going to the office at the other side of the building, but the teachers there all glared at me.

Get out, get out!” One shouted at me. I got out as quickly as I could. I scoured the whole school, looking for the office I was supposed to put the TV in, but nothing. I sighed, put the TV down, and sat on the ground.

I looked around me. I was suddenly back home; specifically, I was in the college town I lived in before moving to China.

Hey!” A girl cried out. “You’re that guy!”

She ran to me, a comic book in hand. She gave it to me; the pages were all in blank, but the cover had my name on it.

I woke up. I checked my clock; nine in the morning. Thank God it was Saturday. I checked my WeChat. No messages. I got up; I knew what I needed to do.

That Monday I arrived at the office at exactly eight AM. I glanced at Miss Wang.

“Your agent should have sent you a message,” she said to me. I picked up my phone; sure enough, he did send me a message three minutes ago.

“School said they don’t want you to teach there anymore,” he wrote to me. I sighed, feeling both relief and regret. This was not how I wanted to end my tenure here.

“Hey dude,” the new guy, getting up from what used to be my desk, said to me as he held my shoulders. “I’m so sorry.”

“Not your fault,” I smiled reassuringly. “I was going to quit today anyway.”

“Good,” said Miss Wang. “You were bad teacher.”

“Not nearly as bad as your English,” I said with a smirk. And with that I walked out, reveling in Miss Wang’s inability to do anything to me. She wasn’t my head teacher anymore!

“What will you do now?” My agent texted me. “Want me to send you to new school?”

“Nope,” I wrote back. “Terminate my contract. I’m going back home. I’m gonna try becoming a comic book artist.”

And so I hurried back to my apartment where my suitcases were already packed. I breathed in once more, regretting the dishonorable end to my teaching career, but feeling thankful for the chance to start the career my heart wanted.

The End.

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