I wrote this short story in 2009 to retell an actual class incident. Request permission to reprint through the contact page.
As Will and Ian walked through the door of Mrs. Irnist’s classroom, she looked up from the attendance. “You’re late,” she stated sternly with an expressionless face. “You’re both going to have to stay after the bell into the break.” A couple students looked up, then turned back to their work. They were used to the antics of the two friends who had been inseparable since Kindergarten.
“Aw, Miss, we’re not that late,” begged Ian, loudly.
“Yeah, Miss, it’s a Monday morning. At least we’re here,” added Will begrudgingly as he sat down in his desk. Mrs. Irnist pursed her lips and squinted her eyes in their direction. Will opened his mouth to speak again, but she raised her hand in a stopping motion and tilted her head to the side. He closed his mouth and began reading his novel.
Ian went to the side shelf to get his binder, dragging each foot loudly on the tile floor as he made his way at a snail’s pace. He flicked Mary’s pen as he passed her.
“Get lost,” Mary spat, seemingly loud in the quiet room of students reading and writing. Mrs. Irnist glared at Ian.
“What?” Ian exclaimed, throwing his arms into a shrug, eyes wide and innocent.
“Enough,” Mrs. Irnist whispered through her perfectly spaced white teeth. “Just get your binder,” she sternly continued, low and staccato.
A sudden crash a moment later, startled everyone in the room. Ian was sprawled on the floor, not attempting to get up. “Uugh,” he groaned, as if in physical pain, grasping his right leg. “Steve why’d you do that?”
“Do what?” Steve tilted his hand, pen poised in the air.
“You’re such a knob, Ian.” Steve turned his head toward the teacher. “Who ya gonna believe? Him,” he seethed with disdain, “or me?” He finished with a condescending note in his voice, smirking in Ian’s direction. Giving Ian a little kick in the side, he turned back to his work.
“Did you see that?” Ian questioned indignantly.
“Stop attention seeking or you’ll owe me time,” the teacher stated, again distracted from completing the attendance.
Ian got up, muttering loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m telling the truth and you don’t even believe me.”
“Surprise! Surprise!” she stated with a hint of sarcasm.
He retrieved his binder and plopped down in the nearest empty desk. As he opened his binder, flipping through a mess of papers. He left his binder in class every day because he figured if he left it there, he’d never forget to bring it to class. Mrs. Irnist glanced at him as he got settled in his desk and turned to his assignment that he’d been working on for a couple of weeks. It should have taken a week, but he was still only half done. She smiled at him and asked, “So, Ian, do you still have your pen?”
He turned to the plastic page protector that she had given him to use as a place to keep his pen. “It’s gone,” he said.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” she responded with mild irritation. “Even with a place to keep it you lost it,” she said as if it was the most incredible thing she’d heard in her life. “Well, I guess you do have to carry the binder right side up, so that can be difficult,” she said sarcastically, with a smile. A few students snickered in amusement. “I guess we start over.” She opened her desk’s middle drawer and pulled out a cheap ball point pen. “Listen up everyone. I have an announcement,” she stated dramatically, with great importance. “Ian lost his pen.” She passed him the pen as she continued with an extremely formal, professional tone, “so, today, Ian has had the same pen for one day.”
“That’s not funny Miss,” Ian said with a smirk.
“Oh, yeah it is,” piped up Mary, who was giggling at his expense.
“You gotta admit it’s a little funny,” Mrs. Irnist responded with an amused expression. Several days earlier she had started this little scenario where she announced the status of Ian’s pen, like companies do for how many days they’ve been without an accident. He says he doesn’t like it, but she thinks he enjoys the attention. The way she figured it, he was good at dishing it out, so he must be capable of taking a little back. It was all in fun.
She finally completed the attendance and turned her attention to the students. All seemed to be working, but she walked around the room checking their actual progress. When she reached Will she asked, “You’re working on English.”
“Huh,” he said, taking his headphones out of his ears. She hadn’t known he had put them on, and they were so small you could barely notice them. This accounted for his quietness throughout the antics of his friend. He was oblivious to what had been transpiring in the room. “What?”
“You’re working on English,” she repeated. “Did you bring a binder today?” she asked, again with mild sarcasm. Daily, he had provided weak, but interesting and creative excuses for why he did not have his binder in class. They were two-and-a-half weeks into the course and he was still yet to produce a binder.
“Yes?” she repeated questioningly, not really believing him. “I don’t see a binder.”
Will reached into the shelf of the desk and pulled out a very nice navy Five Star binder that had a black high-quality zipper. Mrs. Irnist was visibly impressed, and it seemed that her mood suddenly improved. She had been trying to get Will better organized for a couple weeks and felt like she was finally making headway. Maybe there was still hope for Will, she thought.
“You finally brought a binder. Great. Bring it over here. We’re going to get you organized.”
“Whad’a ya mean?” he asked with reluctance. He kept glancing at Ian and then back at his teacher.
“We’re going to get you organized for all your classes. We already talked about this,” she said, her voice dropping low, with a bit of impatience surfacing. He walked over to the desk, still glancing at Ian periodically. Ian sat muffling his laughter. Will started to chuckle as well.
“What’s so funny?” she asked evenly.
“Nothing, miss. I’ll stop. I’ll stop.” Ian turned back to his notebook seriously, then collapsed into uncontrollable laughter again, snorting air out his nose and spraying spit out of his mouth that he was trying to keep closed.
He sat down on the stool next to the teacher who was getting something out of her desk. She pulled out a pack of dividers and began explaining. “I have dividers for you and a calendar to keep at the front for keeping track of your homework.”
He unzipped the binder and opened it up on the desk. “Do we have to do this now?”
“Are you serious,” stated the teacher. “You finally brought a binder – we’re going to do it now.”
Will looked over at Ian and shrugged his shoulders. He was trying to maintain composure but lost it and began to snicker. His snickering was contagious to Ian who was thoroughly enjoying the situation.
Mrs. Irnist was not amused with their silliness. “Guys, enough. You both have a job to do right now. Stop wasting time.” The boys erupted into more snickering, while Mrs. Irnist rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh.
She continued with the organizing, asking him about his classes and showing him the best way to organize his classes. Every so often she stopped and asked him if he was listening. He seemed to be very inattentive this morning and was constantly looking over at Ian. “Will, are you listening? Stop looking at Ian.”
“He’s bugging me,” said Will emphatically, with another snicker. “Hey, did you see this?” he asked suddenly, pointing out the build-in pencil case at the front of the binder. “There’s a calculator, some pens, some pencils…” he listed with a faked sincere smile. This set Ian into another outburst of laughter.
The girl behind him, who was trying to do her work, complained, “Ian, you’re so annoying.” She continued as she flicked her hair with the end of her pen, “Stop being so immature.”
Another guy piped up, “Yeah, we’re trying to work here.” He was amused with the situation he was observing and was merely taking his opportunity to be a part of it despite the fact he didn’t really know what was actually happening.
“Mind you’re business please.”
“These guys are trouble all the time and you’re telling me off,” the student added, feigning insult.
“Not right now, okay,” she responded wearily. He shrugged his shoulders and continued his work with a smile. The boys were still snickering on and off.
“What’s so funny, Ian?” questioned Mrs. Irnist.
“Nothing. Sorry,” he said, trying to regain composure.
“If this continues, you’ll have to go in the hall,” she said sternly. “This is not amusing.”
“Okay, okay. I’m doing my work,” he said as he returned his attention to his work.
Will did his best to act serious while his teacher talked to him about being organized in all his courses. He managed to steal a few glances at Ian who was still amused with the situation. When she was done, she smiled at Will and said, “There. You’re all organized. That binder is now your new best friend. I want it to go everywhere with you.”
“Everywhere?” he repeated questioningly. She can’t be serious, he was thinking.
“Everywhere,” she repeated emphatically. “You have to take it to every class. Since your homework will be recorded on the calendar and,” she emphasized, “your text books are in it, you need to bring it home too. Weren’t you listening?”
“Yeah, I was listening.”
“Because I can explain it all again – after class.”
“No, that won’t be necessary. I get it. I get it. Do your flowers need water?” he added abruptly. There really were potted plants on the side ledge that the teacher had brought in from home.
“Don’t change the subject,” she responded with annoyance. “I’m serious.”
“I know,” he said.
“They do need water, though,” said Ian. “You want me to get some water?” he asked.
“I’ll help him,” said Will.
“Go ahead,” she said with faint resignation in her voice.
There was only a few minutes left in class and the students packed up and stood at the front of the room chatting. Ian and Will were whispering and snickering to each other after they returned from getting water for the flowers.
Mrs. Irnist turned to them and said, “You guys are like a pair of giggling girls this morning. Care to share?”
“Ah, no,” Will said quickly. They began to snicker again.
“You guys are our very own Beavis and Butthead,” she added jokingly.
“Hey, that’s not funny,” said Ian with a laugh.
Another student added, “Oh, yeah. It’s funny.” He and others were laughing at their expense. Just then the bell rang, and the students quickly filed out of the room.
That morning, Will had a sudden realization as they were walking to class.
“Dude, I forgot my binder?” stated Will with a slightly horrified, but laissez faire expression.
“Like, in our locker? Just run back and get it dork,” answered Ian with his usual light sarcasm.
“No, man. I didn’t buy one yet.”
“Hah, you’re gonna be in trouble, “ laughed Ian. “Miss told you on Friday that you’d be in trouble if you didn’t have one by today.”
“Crap!” Will said a little too loudly under his breath just as a teacher passed them. She swung her head in their direction. “What? I didn’t say nothing. It was him,” he uttered quickly as he pointed to a student ahead of them and flashed a smile at the teacher.
She gave him a stern look and said, “A simple, ‘I’m sorry Miss and I won’t do it again’ will do. Get to class please.”
“Hah, that was funny,” Ian laughed again at Will’s misfortune. “Hey, I know. You can use my binder and pretend it’s yours,” he stated with excitement at his sudden brain fart.
“Ian, you’re a genius!” yelled Will, attracting attention all down the hall.
“Go to my locker and get it. You’ll just be a little late.”
“Come with me. You know I can’t get the locker open,” pleaded Will.
“You’re such a dork, man,” said Will with a smirk and a brief shake of his head. They ran down the main stairs to the common area and made it to the locker just as the second bell rang. Ian got the locker open as “O Canada” began over the school intercom. Ian stopped rummaging in the locker as one of the Vice-Principals, Ms. Cerius, was giving them the evil eye from the third level balcony. As soon as the anthem ended, he searched for the binder again under the mess of papers and books from last semester. He pulled out a very nice zippered binder and tossed it to Will.
“Great, man!” Will said enthusiastically as he was sure that this would at least get him through today’s class. Mrs. Irnist had told him to get a binder to keep all his work in for all his classes. He had never been organized before, so even remembering to get a binder proved to be a challenging task. Once he left the school each day, anything school related faded from his consciousness.
The next day Will was absent. Ian told Mrs. Irnist that Will was sick with the flu. She was a little disappointed since she felt like he was finally on track, getting a binder and getting organized for all his courses. It had taken a couple of weeks, but maybe he was going to do okay.
The class was very quiet that day, and each student seemed very focused on his or her work. The only amusement was in announcing the status of Ian’s pen. He had managed to keep the same pen for another day. Near the end of class the students packed up and stood around at the front as usual.
“Ian, that was good work today. Not like yesterday,” she stated pointedly.
“Yeah, yesterday,” he said with a laugh. “You want to know why we were laughing so much?” he asked with a hearty laugh.
“I’m not sure I do,” she responded warily, raising her eyebrows.
“It’s funny,” he started. “You know that binder Will brought to class yesterday?” he asked, visibly about to bust a gut.
“Yeah,” she responded, with a tone of mistrust.
“Well, it’s mine,” he said. “Will forgot to get a binder and didn’t want to get in trouble so he brought my binder to class. Isn’t that funny?”
The teacher looked somewhat annoyed as she shook her head and smirked at the same time. “It’s funny,” she acknowledged, “but it’s not funny if you know what I mean.”
“But now you know why we were laughing so much. You understand, right?” he continued.
Another student added lightly, “Why are ya telling on him? You’re supposed to be his friend.”
“Dude, I want my binder back,” Ian said with a laugh.
“Well, you might think it’s funny, but Will’s going to be using your binder all semester.”
“What? I need it for period four.”
“Well, he doesn’t. You can share it. I organized it and I’m not doing it again! Just wait until he come to class tomorrow!” she said with a devious glint in her eye. “Don’t tell him I know,” she added. As she sat back in her chair, her face developed a focused, serious expression as she planned for his return. After the bell rang and the students left, she smiled lightly and shook her head.