I'll tell you what today so far has been a real prize winner. First Miriam calls us into her office for a meeting, to tell us our new goals for the semester: a five percent increase in attendance, a ten percent decrease in student discipline. I'll be sure to let the kids know I need a one-hundred-fifty percent reduction in BS. That my job depends on it.
Someone forgot to send the memo to the Mopother kid. I'm beside the water fountains in A Wing, looking for stragglers, when I hear McDuffy's voice in between static emitted from the radio I wear clipped to my belt. He tells me Ms. Dunlap has a non-compliant kid that needs babysitting.
By the time I get to room 245 there's ten minutes left in the period. I open the door and everyone is looking at Mopother. He's sitting there with a satisfied grin on his face, like he just thought up an invention for horizontal bungee jumping. Over his jeans and tee shirt he's got a pullover sweatshirt that's black except for a white oval that spans from navel to collar line. On his head is a mask that leaves his face exposed. Above his own smug face is a yellow beak that flops when he turns his head. On either side of the beak, some google eyes are sewn into the fabric.
I know better than to ask the problem, plus I already know the problem. I tell him to come with me. He protests, and I clarify that I'm not asking him, I'm telling him. Which shuts him up, for a minute anyway. Walking to my office we encounter some of the special needs students who leave class a few minutes early. They all look at the Mopother kid like he's some alien life form. To me that about sums up the situation.
* * * *
Whenever I'm faced with adversity, I think of something Nietzsche once said: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.” Unfortunately that is as true now as it was then. So much has changed, yet nothing has changed. Nietzsche thought his ideas would usher in a better world, then Hitler came along and Nietzsche looked like a fool. But a wise man learns from his predecessors' mistakes.
I'm sitting in Mr. Fitzpatrick's office. On his desk there are pictures of his family, a slightly overweight wife and two cherubic toddlers. Behind him are his diplomas in History and Educational Leadership. He looks at me, eyes smoldering under the greying stripe of hair on his balding head. It's clear he wants to punch me. Conventional minds are always tempted by violence when faced with something beyond their comprehension.
“You have to take off the hat,” he says. “The costume, I could care less. But the hat violates the dress code.”
“First off, it's not a hat,” I correct him. “It's my beak. And in the agenda book it clearly states that you cannot discriminate based on gender, race, religion, or disability.”
“Son, are you saying you have a mental disability, because I'm inclined to agree with you.”
I smile, because he thinks he's ahead when really he's light years behind.
“This is my identity. In every aspect except my physical form, I'm a penguin.And for you to deny me the right to express my identity through my attire, well that's discrimination. And I know my rights. I will contact the ACLU. And I will file a lawsuit because my father's lawyer is not cheap and he's not a joke.”
He looks at me for a minute, judging how seriously he should take my threats.
“Penguins don't talk. They don't go to school, and they definitely don't know when they're being discriminated against.”
“A wise feminist once said: 'A majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority.' And I believe that by taking a stand against trans-species discrimination, I am acting as spokesman for the others like me, who are as yet too afraid to raise their voices.”
“You can believe whatever you like. This conversation is over. Either you take off the hat, or I'm calling your mother to come pick you up.”
* * * *
I ask the secretary to get Mopother's mom on the phone. My secretary is new, and she's too jittery, flitting around like a sparrow. Maybe we should monitor her coffee intake.
A minute later she informs me that the mother is in a meeting, that she'll have to call us back. I tell her to call again and inform the mother that her son was sent home for refusal to comply with the dress code. Because I already know how this is going to end.
It's too soon to return to my office. I have to at least give the kid a chance to reflect on his actions, realize what a little turd he is. So I pull up the internet on my phone and google 'Other Species Human Body.' There's nothing relevant, just “Top Ten Way Humans Are Unique.” Turns out we use language, wear clothes, and survive long after we've passed our reproductive peak. God, that's a hideous thought. This kid reproducing.
* * * *
I keep remembering that nauseating display of political correctness, i.e. lying with noble intent. Mrs. Stallworth introducing a new “transgender” student named “Josephine.” Of course she didn’t announce that the student was transgender. Because that would have been inconsiderate. Instead she said: “Class, this is Josephine. She moved here from Chenowith, and I would appreciate it if someone volunteered to help her find her classes today.” It turns out that this “girl” used to be known as Joseph, and is on hormone therapy. Other than the Adam’s apple, he passed pretty well.
People can’t seem to comprehend how dangerous that is. It’s a slip-and-slide straight to perdition. First, someone is entitled to identify as a woman because they don’t “feel” masculine. Next, people won’t have to vote or pay their taxes because they don’t “feel” integrated into society. Before you know it, right and wrong are arbitrary, and the world functions based on opinion rather than empirical evidence.
I couldn’t just sit around playing Call of Duty, and acquiesce to that lunacy. People who do nothing are as culpable as those who actively do harm. So I decided to personify an elaborate analogy, and in so doing, call attention to the absurdity of claiming to be something you are obviously not, based on no evidence other than “that’s how I feel.” First, they’ll suspend me, then they’ll expel me, and my lawsuit will be adjudicated by the Supreme Court, which will of course rule that I have no webbed feet to stand on. It will be a landmark case, and I will be remembered alongside Dred Scott and Homer Plessy.
* * * *
Well to be honest I can’t say I’m too distraught about it. The kid brought it on himself. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down, and the boy in the penguin costume gets ground-and-pounded.
He was waiting on the front steps for his mother to come pick him up, after he refused to take off the penguin hood. Suddenly, like an avenging angel, some kid runs by and clocks this joker right in the face. I haven’t heard for sure, but word is they had to wire his jaw shut.
Obviously I did my diligence to find out the culprit. It happened between classes, so there were a few kids walking by. But funnily enough none of them got a good look at the assailant. Apparently it’s a hard life, living as a penguin. Maybe in the future, a less barbaric age will be more accommodating.
Arthur Whitaker is a former EFL teacher who now studies science. His writing has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Daily Dose of Lit, The Stray Branch, and Word Gathering.