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Chapter 4 January 2, 1995

Not sure if it was because he understood that being cool mattered or because the damn thing reminded him so much of his brother Mikey’s, at first Mark decided to allow Philly to stay at the bike rack with his new Stingray to his heart’s content. Unfortunately, Philly’s heart had not reached contentment by the time the first bell rang at 8:00 AM, and part of Mark’s (and Julie’s) Early Duty assignment tasked him with making sure the playground (and in this particular case the bike rack was clear of all students).

As Mark walked towards Philly at the rack he called his name several times. But instead of making his way towards class, Philly sat down on the concrete while still looking at his bike. To Mark, it appeared as if the bike had cast a spell on Philly, and Philly was consumed by its aura. Mark continued to call Philly’s name until he was nearly on top of him. No matter how many times he yelled and no matter how close Mark got nothing broke the magnetism. When Mark finally reached Philly from the far side of the playground, he was upset with himself for showing Philly the earlier favoritism, and was upset with Philly for taking advantage of his favor.

“Philly. C’mon, that was the bell. It’s time for class,” Mark said almost directly in the boy’s ear. However, it was not enough to break the spell.

“Beep… Beep…Beep…,” Philly said to himself just above a whisper.

“Phillip. Come. On,” Mark stressed each word. Still nothing. “Do you want me to get Mr. Jackson? If not, you better get your butt in class.”

Standing right behind him now, Mark noticed that Philly was sitting on the cement with his shoes off and still staring at the bike. Again barely above a whisper, Philly said to himself, “Beep… Beep…Beep…”

Other than perhaps shaking the boy to break the spell, Mark didn’t know what else to do. Where the Hell is Ms. Green?

At 8:15 AM, Julie Green still had not made it to classroom. Around this same time, Mark Nelson managed his first real smile of the morning. It was a smile all his own, and one brought upon by some quick thinking by a fellow teacher and an inside joke based on an obscure John Wayne reference.

Mark was able to complete the additional work necessitated with the wrinkle Phillip Suchie put in his Early Duty assignment by 08:15 AM. This meant that his students had 15 minutes to themselves, 15 minutes to go crazy. And though they had the time to do so, to Mark’s surprise upon entering his classroom, his students had not yet torn his classroom apart.

Standing at the chalkboard in front of the room was Gertie “GW” McLintock. Prior to Mark’s arrival, GW had drawn two faces on the chalkboard. One of the faces wore a smile while the other had a frown. Underneath the smiling face three names were listed. Mark understood immediately this list meant to evidence the students little GW believed were being good in that short time. One name, it was GW’s, had three check marks by it. Perhaps this was to evidence GW was triple, no make that quadruple good. Underneath the frown, no names were listed. Figures, he thought, For No Student Dared Be Bad When The Duke Stood Watch.

Seeing this Mark knew Mrs. Sampson from the classroom across from his, had noticed he was running late, and with some quick thinking put Gertie (for Mrs. Sampson could not have possibly known her nickname or the significance of choosing her) at the front of the room to watch for students misbehaving. Who would think that a student with no authority other than the piece of chalk in her hand would work to quiet a classroom? Mrs. Sampson did. She knew all the tricks. Mrs. Sampson was in-comp-ra-bull. Somebody, give that woman tenure. Mark thought to himself.

“Thank ya kindly, GW, but I’ll take it from here, part-ner.” Mark said in his best John Wayne accent and without trying to hide his smile. He was smiling because he had been calling her GW since the first time he called roll back in August, and now several months later in January 1995 – it was still funny, at least it was funny to him. He was smiling because though she was given the whole lot to choose from, Ms. Sampson picked the one kid to be in charge who Mark had named after a John Wayne character. He was smiling because the students were well behaved for GW McLintock! He was smiling because, No Student Dared Be Bad When The Duke Stood Watch.

Most of all, Mark knew he was smiling because he needed to in order to get his mind off of what had happened that morning. He was smiling because it was the only way to rid his mind of Philly Suchie and the blue Stingray.

Before taking her seat, GW picked up the eraser and turned towards the blackboard to clear it of the smiley faces she had drawn and names she had listed. Before she was able to do this, Mark told her to not to worry about it for he knew leaving it on the board would serve as the perfect thing to remind him to thank Mrs. Sampson, the perfect thing to remind him to keep wearing his smile.

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