Four Fifteen


The Man was foaming at the mouth at her vibrating along with him, from his electric toothbrush, in his dirty mouth. Her picture, fitted in the wall mounts of his reflection, showed the cement community park, chained in by a wraparound fence. In it, were five-year-olds nagged two Septembers ago, to kneel on the recess mulch, hiding the leather trim of Miss Sindy’s sear-sucker skirt. Behind her was his high-rise, with the pale-lozenge molding covering the second and third floor brick work. His apartment could magnify easily the black elementary name plate, stained from split rain gutters tarnishing its intentions, with run-off.

Seven fifteen.

The eraser backing on his Oxfords made it manageable for The Man to skulk along the floor remarbling without hearing the echo of shuffling, that his leather wingtips would have made. He studied soccer bulletins taped to cluttered cinderblock, announcing parents wanted for the varsity soccer committee. Now at Ms. Sindy’s diamond wired door, he saw reminders for lacrosse practice, with stipulations. When he looked passed these he saw Friday’s agenda in chalk scrawl. Next to the “April,” was a period separating the fifteen from the “2004.”

Miss Sindy was repeating rudimentary arithmetic from a friendly printable. And her pen was capped on a Weekly Planner pad, filling up the second week’s Tuesday with Plural Worksheets. This was before the children came, asking at once, about Shape Recognitions, torn too fast from the perforated Easy Readers. When she was still, before them, he could see her brows perk at the staff bulletin, before squaring at the sound of the 7:45 homeroom bell.


Mr. Terry, the principal, misspelled “acommodating” to parents in his awkward letter of explanation. He e-mailed the mistakes to the school secretary, who on the phone when receiving it for proofing, handed two teachers back their tallied attendance sheets. She sighed at the collapsings of the biology one and the other, earth science, against the office’s high back chairs. They vented:

“I just don’t get it. Their helixes don’t look remotely spiral.”The biology teacher said. “I showed em a video of how to model it, and everything.”

“Try using what Mr. Sekress does. Different kinds of gum. His class always wins for DNA models.”

“Mr. Sekress?”

“Yeah. Four years in a row now- highest MSA scores. Man works wonders with riboflavin.”

To Vice Principal Atkins, Mr. Terry continued, “The girls locker room? The girls saw a man? In a skull mask? A black shirt. Urinating. Outside the window?”

Vice Principal Atkins confirmed: “Yes, Mr. Terry. That’s what they said.”

Principal Terry was using the search bar, typing in “schools” plus “neighborhood watch.” “And outside?”

“The only one I saw was Mr. Sekress. And he was doing his check-ups off the Petri planters alongside the hose ground.”

From the results, he clicked on a link. He studied the outcome of school filed complaints. “Well he must have seen the guy.”

“He did. But he caught just the back of him; tall man. Blond hair. Running towards 35th.”

Principal Terry suffocated the radio. The principal of an elementary school, West Gate, had been granted an industrial fence. Mr. Terry wanted to know how and why.


At three thirty-five The Man stood behind a supply loader, stacked up to its pulley with commercial paper, and under cabinets holding $50 EICO bulbs. Mr. Kordman, the Algebra 1 teacher needed packs of pencils for his distributive properties test given on scantrons. From behind glasses, he saw the supply door- open. After walking in it he eyed someone unrecognizable, taking out Casio calculators from the second shelf.

“How’d you get in here?” Mr. Kordman asked.

“I got a key,” The Unrecognizable Man said.

“Oh. Mr. Sekress, I just recognized you. How’d you get one?”

“They gave ’em out yesterday,” said Mr. Sekress. Apparently Terry was sick of lending his key back and forth at lunch. Use mine for now if you want.” He tossed it to Mr. Kordman who dropped it on the floor. Mr. Sekress said, “I got two students waiting for me in coach class.”

“Let me know about the soccer fundraiser.” Mr. Kordman yelled. Mr. Sekress was walking away. “I’ll have that check for you on Tuesday. You find an assistant?”

“Working on it. The kids are waiting. See ya Tuesday.”

Ten after four.

She had switched out the lights nearest the overhead, and chose from four piles that needed grading. When she’d switched the light, the level A and B course aid workbooks, double flapped, were in her arms. Outside her room now, she jangled keys to find the skinny one for the top bolt. Before exiting, Miss Sindy stopped, staring at a picture tacked to a locker, of her former second grader’s name, in loose spaghetti wands.

Fifteen after four.

Miss Sindy turned up Broadway and held her skirt at the exhaust of an accelerating bus’s pass. At their necks, she studied collars of commuters, whose hair the tired, behind her, stretched to estimate above, the metro line’s distance. First, a backstage hand with a cool-wave outlined her costume on Miss Sindy’s blue sweater back. Then an old man, scratching at hair regrowth chemicals, did the same. She passed men fanning vinyl covers and walked through alleys in between cold pizza displays and the humidity from a Hoover vacuum demonstration.

A third person shadowed. Ms. Sindy’s heels walked on wet napkins, so she watched the ground for polluters instead of ahead, and next, focused her attention to avoid a box of Kikklerand straws. He was close now and his hand closed her mouth. She did scream, but it was time for the U-Haul dumpster to haul down 56th Street. Maybe if the Laundromat had called for the linen van to do a night drop-off instead of a morning pick-up. Then someone could have seen Ms. Sindy’s heart stationed bracelet, abandoned.

In the end, only an elderly women, crooked with Parkinson’s, commented on Mr. Sekress carrying Miss Sindy up the street. When she offered to call, he’d said the paramedics had been phoned. His wife was given to fainting spells come the break from spring to summer. Maybe if the lady had made one anyway, then Miss Sindy would have taught her granddaughter the next year. But as it was it would be another one, trim and fit, hired to replace her. Set to handle future conferences beyond the pasts’ tragic one, from the lady who would forever teach, “before.”