Rory’s Story Cubes Challenge – Week 4

This week’s entry was more about getting into the head of a character than anything else, figuring out how some backstory fit together. It’s not one I anticipate trying to polish for publication.

Prompts: airplane, magnifying glass, fish, lightbulb, eye, question mark, scales (of justice), magnet, bumblebee

Hitting A Wall

Liz checked the old clock by the classroom door. She hadn’t expected Joe to be on time, but if he didn’t hurry, she wouldn’t have time to meet with him and still pick Kayla up from her Daisy meeting.

She walked around the overstuffed classroom, straightening up the disorder from earlier in the day. The science fair unit was a lot of fun for the kids because they got to explore their own topic, not one she picked. But the room always seemed messier than normal during those two weeks.

She picked up the magnet Joey had left on the scales and returned it to the box. The magnifying glass Kara had used to examine the fish and lizard scales went into her pocket for now. The girl had wanted to look at flight, inspired by the poster showing an airplane, a bird, a bumblebee and a fish on the wall, explaining how lift and aerodynamics worked. She had to thank Becca for that one. The art professor had picked it up at the Air and Space Museum in Washington the last time she was down to visit her niece.

The kids loved the poster’s colorful art and simple explanation, but none of them had been able to find a science fair project that tested the concepts on the poster. She’d thought Kara might if Tim helped her. He’d been interested in science even back when she had him, and he’d won the middle school science fair the past two years. But then, Joe probably would have discouraged his daughter. Not for the first time, Liz wished things had gone differently a few years ago.

“OK, Liz. I’m here. Now what’s so damn important that I had to leave work to come down here. Got enough of this place when I was a kid.” Joe stood in the doorway, khakis crisply pressed and shirt starched enough to look fresh well into the afternoon.

“Come on in.” Liz motioned to a chair beside her desk she had confiscated from the teacher’s room just for this. “I’m hoping we can make this quick.”

“Didn’t have to do it all, far as I can see. Kara’s doing fine; she’s not in trouble. Checked with Yardley at Lions Club last night — he said she’s never been down to his office.” Joe crossed his arms, leaned back in the chair.

Liz took a deep breath, careful to keep her tone even. “No, Kara’s not in trouble. But she isn’t living up to her potential.” She paused to select the right words. “She’s one of the brightest students I’ve ever had, and since Tim was one of mine, that’s saying quite a bit. She’s got more curiosity than any other two students combined, and she channels it into her classwork rather than making mischief.”

“So why did you drag me down here in the middle of the day?” Joe scowled.

Liz folded her hands, fingertips pressing hard. “I’ve suggested she try some of the clubs we have, or look at the gifted program. And she just shuts down. She says no, but she won’t say why. All she’ll say is ‘I can’t.'” She narrowed her gaze. “Care to explain?”

“She’s got better things to do than be an egghead.” Joe started to stand. “I let the boy do that, and I’m not making that mistake again.”

Liz shook her head. “I’m not buying it. You were in honors classes in high school — and you did better than I did in most of them.”

“And you’re here, aren’t you? Three kids, making dinner for Evan when he gets home.” Joe didn’t sit back, just looked at her. “Annabelle did all those clubs, those activities when she was a kid. I saw the awards at her parents’ house. She left. Just packed up and walked out. My boy’s going to end up like Dan — I can tell. Not a word about the cute girls flirting with him — not one. My little girl’s not going to get screwed up, too. Good grades are fine, but she’s not doing any of this super-smart stuff.” He turned and walked out.

“Joe-“

He looked over his shoulder. “You don’t want me to tell Yardley — and the school committee — what you’re up to, you’ll let it drop.” He didn’t wait for a response, just left.

Liz clenched her hands in fists, muttered some of the words she never allowed herself to use at school. She shook her head, then grabbed her grade book and the worksheets the kids had finished today. Daisies first, then dinner and grading. At least today was one of Evan’s days off — he could supervise homework. After all that, maybe she could figure out what to do. If there was anything.

She looked around her classroom, remembering to take the magnifying glass from her pocket. She set it on the bookcase inside the door and flipped off the lights. If only she could turn off her concerns about Kara and Tim that easily.

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