I’m writing this in the hope of finding somebody who may already be dead. Someone who I haven’t seen for a few days, he’s only a minor.
The problem with going to the police is that he’s not technically “missing”. I know this sounds crazy but please hear me out. If I tell my side of the story maybe someone will come forward and give me a new lead.
It started when I was hired for my first real job. During a cashier shift at Subway, the principal of my old elementary school came in for an Italian sub on flat bread. She was my 7th grade teacher back in the day and somehow remembered me.
We began talking about the past and what we were each doing now. She mentioned that one of the new teachers had an unfortunate surfing accident and was missing an extended amount of time. A last second replacement was needed before the school year began and a teaching opportunity was at my front door.
“Call me if you are interested,” she said, taking her “food” with her.
You don’t need to know much about me and no I’m not giving any personal information. Just know that I made some “mistakes” like any other human being and when I graduated college I couldn’t get a teaching job right away.
If I were offered this job out of college I would have declined. I am fine with children in general but being a grade school teacher meant teaching other subjects I didn’t care for: science, social studies, etc. It also wasn’t the highest paying job and having my college loans looming over my head didn’t exactly help.
However, I was desperate enough to take a grunt job at Subway, so a teaching job would be a huge step up. I was desperate to get out of the shithole I called my apartment and desperate to prove to my old man that I could be successful without his help.
If someone were to ask me what I did for a living, I could honestly say “I am a teacher”. No more cashier work nor anymore toilet scrubbing. I now wanted to teach and seized the opportunity. An interview was set up for me and I got the job.
Aside from cramming 4th grade material in two weeks, my first official job as the new teacher was to attend the school’s orientation. I had the chance to meet some of the substitute teachers and they didn’t seem to care for me. Perhaps they were hoping for a promotion and the newly open teaching job. Now that I think about it, I never found out why they needed a new teacher at all.
The other two 4th grade teachers had each been doing their jobs for more than 20 years. They had classrooms of thirty 4th graders each while mine only had sixteen. I didn’t mind though, I was new and less students meant less paperwork, right? I walked into my classroom on an early Monday morning, Room 206, and was greeted by the sound of laughing children.
“Kane?” I called out.
“Margret? Is there a Margret in here?”
“Oh sorry, I’m here! Everyone always calls me Maggie.”
“Thank you, I’ll call you as Maggie then.”
“Ok, Mark? Is there a Mark in here?”
“I guess Mark is missing the MARK for day one. Haha.”
No one laughed at that brilliant ice-breaker but a small hand from the back of the room started waving back and forth. The owner of the hand stood up and pointed to himself.
He was a large kid, much wider than his peers but also taller. He had an unsure look on his face and a large ketchup stain on his white t-shirt. However, his bald head was the most notable feature.
The top of his head had red marks and small cuts on it, not the cuts from a knife but the same kind as one would get from shaving. It looked like someone had run a razor over the top of his head without using shaving cream. And they weren’t gentle either.
“Are you Mark?” I asked, still taken aback from his appearance.
The kid smiled and nodded at me. That smile quickly dissipated into an agitated frown when the rest of the class began to smirk at him. I told him to sit down and finished the rest of the attendance.
I would start the day with English class. The principal had specifically asked me to grade each student based on how well they could read and to hand her a report by the end of the day. It had something to do with the New York State IOWA exams.
The class’ first story was a classic: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”. I asked around to see if anyone had ever read this book and was answered with a room filled with blank stares. A few students even said they didn’t have to read the book because they had already seen the movie. This was going to be a long year.
When we started reading the book, I couldn’t believe what was happening. The children started to laugh and have fun! I was doing it, I was being a great teacher on my first day!
It all started when this kid named Derek accidently said the word “Pooper” instead of “Popper” and the class had broken out into laughter, even I was laughing. It was Derek that unintentionally broke the ice and he was laughing at his own mistake. The class was laughing in unison, not at him but with him.
My class also read very well. A few mistakes came up, thanks to Derek, most of them were intentional mispronunciations of the word “Popper”, but kids will be kids. However, they surpassed my expectations and I found them to be very intelligent. They made jokes, corrected each other’s mistakes but there was never any animosity towards any of the readers. When I was in grade school, the first day always felt like a funeral for the passing of a summer. Times have changed.
After a full period of hearing giggling students, it was almost 2nd period. I realized that the entire class had volunteered to read except for one student, Mark. He had been hiding in the back of the classroom with his head face-down on his desk. The red bruises of his shaved scalp were still visible and now I could see yellowish skin surrounding each mark. I couldn’t wait to meet this kid’s parents.
However, the period was almost over and he still needed to read something for me.
“Ok class!” I said, “Mark will read this last paragraph and then we will take out our Math books!”
The class went silent.
One second there was the sound of innocent laughter and it all stopped on a dime. The smiles, the happy attitude of the children turned into cold expressionless faces. Mark’s head continued to lie face-down on his desk as if he didn’t hear me. Every other pair of young judgmental eyes were on him as if he had done something wrong. I was dumbfounded. The moment was very surreal, it was like a dream or a trance.
“Mark! I want you to read this passage from the story. I haven’t heard you read yet…”
Mark stood up. Violently knocking his desk over as he broke into a sprint. Heading for the door with tears forming in his bright blue eyes, his shorts were wet and were dripping on the floor as he ran out. One of the kids, screamed out:
“Oh my God! Mark peed his pants!”
The room than erupted into laughter once more but it was not the same. This was the kind that aims to hurt. I ran toward the door after him and tried to think of something “tough” to say to the class to get them to stop their aggressive laughter. It sounded better in my head:
“Stop laughing and take out your math books!” I had yelled.
I could still hear my class laughing even as I ran down the west hallway. It was the voices of both boys and girls alike, I had to assume that all fifteen students were shouting and laughing. However, the strangest thing wasn’t their reactions. It was the reactions from the neighboring classrooms or the lack of any reaction.
None of the teachers poked their heads out of their classrooms. They had to have heard something, even when I caught up to Mark I could still hear the faint sound of howling laughter. Every facility member knew that I was new and if my class was acting up, someone would eventually intervene or complain. Even the few idle students near the water fountain acted like they couldn’t hear it.
I remember not even trying to strike up a conversation with Mark or make him feel better in any way. I just wanted to drop him off at the nurse’s office and get back to my classroom. I placed my hand on his shoulder as we walked, hastily pushing him along while avoiding pee droplets on the way.
When we arrived, I explained what had happened to the school nurse. I’m no mind reader but from her reaction, I could tell this wasn’t Mark’s first visit.
“You can go now, I’ll take care of it,” she had told me.
I also had the pleasure of meeting the school’s lone janitor, Gary. A nice old man whose happy demeanor quickly changed when I had to explain why my room and the west hallway smelt of piss.
Until recess, my first day resumed as normal. The kids were behaving again and even looked sorry for what they had done. Perhaps I could’ve reported their behavior but I thought better of it. It sounds silly in hindsight but it was my first day teaching. I didn’t want my new boss to think I couldn’t handle my class. If none of the other facility was going to complain then neither was I.
I taught math second period and then for third period taught 4th grade “rock science”. Half my students were falling asleep by 3rd period and I couldn’t blame them. Finally 4th period came around, which was my lunch break and time for my class to attend “Music” class with Mrs. Fielder. And throughout all of it, Mark never came back.
My classroom was empty during recess and I decided to complete those reading reports so that I could go home early. It was simple enough, I just had to fill out a questionnaire for each student.
I specially remember doing a questionnaire for Justin. I was recalling how he needed extra help with his R’s and S’s when I began to smell a strong stench that could only be urine. I turned to the door, and saw Mark staring at me with the same expressionless look. He still had his shorts on which were dry but still smelt terrible. How long was he standing there?
“Hey there, Mark!” I said with a smile. “Do you feel any better?”
He continued to stare at me. It was like I was speaking another language. Hell, maybe I was.
“Um…. why don’t you go outside and play with the other kids?”
In response, he walked up to my desk and punched me on my right arm.
Yes, I know that sounds crazy. I couldn’t believe it at first either and I was on the receiving end of that punch! Literally, one moment I was talking to a 4th grader about recess and the next moment he hits me! How could I have known his intentions as he was walking up to me? His face was completely expressionless.
It hurt too. This 4th grader was easily around 130 lbs. and only a head shorter than me. There was sudden jolt of pain that ran up to my shoulder and I was shocked by what had just happened. Did this kid seriously just punch me? My mind was racing but I tried to remain calm and polite.
“Mark?” I asked, trying to hide my shock, “Why did you do that?”
He continued to look up at me with the same look but he was getting red in the face. He began shaking as if he was holding his breath and his fingers were fidgeting. Another fist flew at me and this one connected with my jaw.
I felt the sensation of blood trickling out of my mouth as I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the principal’s office. He was yanking at my arm, viciously trying to free himself. I wasn’t supposed to grab a kid like this and knew for sure that I would get chewed out at the very least when the principal found out. But I was furious. Furious that this stupid kid was ruining my first day.
My mind was racing, trying to think of the right words to explain myself to the principal. It was a familiar feeling of dread, one that I hadn’t felt since high school. Maybe Mark had punched me because I had asked him to read? Maybe he thought I was the reason he peed his pants in front of everyone. It was the only rational explanation I could think of.
I dragged him into the office and explained to the principal that Mark had struck me. What was she going to think? My first day and already it looked like I couldn’t control my class.
I remember that Mark was in complete silence. He had been silent this whole time even when struggling to free himself. He was also quiet as I was practically shouting at my boss about what he had done. Most kids would at least try to explain themselves if a teacher had clearly caught them doing something wrong. Mark had nothing to say for himself.
The principal eventually stood up at her desk and I thought I was going to get fired right there. All she did was thank me for bringing his actions to her attention.
“You can go now, I’ll take care of it,” she said.
Nothing else happened. She didn’t look concerned for my actions nor Mark’s actions. She raised her voice and asked me to leave her alone with Mark. I complied.
The rest of the week went by quickly and Mark was never in class. He was probably suspended, although the principal would not confirm this. I didn’t press her for the information though. I was already walking on egg shells with her and must have gotten really red in the face when I had dragged Mark into her office. I needed to lay low for a while and focus on my work. Luckily, I was beginning to connect with the rest of my students.
They were happy, cheerful and best of all there was a really strong union with this class. Everyone was friends with each other. When I was on recess duty I saw all of my students play together and I overheard a few of them talking about their weekend plans to hang out. Their happiness was very intoxicating.
Another week went by and they even began to take a liking to me. I walked into my classroom in the middle of my second week and found all of my students standing in front of my desk. They had made a colorful poster and taped it to the front. It had my name in giant block letters with all of their names and drawings orbiting around it.
However, this innocent cheer began to bother me as my second week was ending. It occurred to me that none of my students had seen Mark since he had peed his pants. Getting past the hilarity of that fact that was almost two weeks ago, during 1st period of the first day.
At some point, we were all kids. We all have been in a class that had the not-so-popular student. Perhaps you were that student but even if the most unpopular kid in school went missing for two weeks you would at least notice.
I did not hear my class even mention Mark. Even smartass remarks and jokes about him peeing his pants hadn’t been mentioned since the first day of school. Could this class, where everyone was close friends with each other, be targeting Mark? No. Even bullies have to remember the ones they torment. My class had completely forgotten about him.
It was the beginning of my third week and I was taking attendance as usual. I noticed that my class was being quiet. The cheery nature of my class that I had grown accustomed to was silent with every head face-down on their desks.
“Perhaps they have a bad case of the Mondays,” I thought.
“I guess Mark isn’t here…. What a surprise.”
Then I heard the soft moan.
I looked up and saw a hand from the back of the room. There he was, slumped over in his chair. I could tell he wasn’t slumping over out of laziness. He had been badly beaten.
Both of his eyes were swollen half shut. He had an open cut above his left eyebrow that had not healed properly. I couldn’t tell if this was a recent injury or an old one that he re-opened because it was slowly oozing a yellowish reddish mixture of puss. He also had a small slash mark on his right cheek and new marks on his bald scalp, the same kind as his older ones. These new marks left deeper dents though none of them broke the skin.
“Mark? Your head, it’s… I’m taking you to the nurse.”
I remember I slowly approached him and tried to control the situation without causing a scene in front of my class. However, I saw his eyes begin to close and panic kicked in. I grabbed him by the hand, almost yanking his arm out of his socket, and ran for the door. None of the kids even reacted.
When I arrived, I could barely enter the nurse’s office. The small office crowded with at least 20 adults. There was the sounds of yelling, crying, and moaning all coming from different sources in the large crowd. I thought the worst, maybe Mark wasn’t the only victim.
I dragged Mark by the arm through the crowd, I still needed the nurse’s help. I saw a red-faced man in an expensive-looking suit shouting into his phone. I heard the words “sue” being used a few times and thought his swelling cranium would burst if any more liquid rushed to his head. Next to him was a crying blonde-haired lady using a purple handkerchief, probably the man’s wife? Gold, pearls, jewelry you name it and this woman was wearing it from head to toe.
Some of the people I knew, namely the facility. I could clearly hear the principal and the nurse asking for the crowd to give them some space. Mark could barely stand and I had to get to the nurse.
Now I was pushing my way through the crowd towards where I thought the nurse was. The crying was getting louder, the screaming became even more ear-piercing, and I dreaded the scene that I would soon come upon. I saw the clearing where the nurse’s beds were and made a final push to get through.
There, using one of the three beds was a little girl. She had a slash mark on her right cheek but otherwise she was completely fine. I don’t even think she was bleeding when I got there, yet there was the nurse, the principal, two EMTs, and an older kid all huddling around her. They seemed panicked, none of them even heard me when I spoke up.
“Hey! I need some fuckin help here! I have a student that needs serious medical attention! He’s been attacked!”
The group of people surrounding the girl turned to see who I was. A glass shattering scream came from the blonde-haired little girl. In that moment, everyone turned back towards the girl with concern but I could have sworn that the older boy had turned towards her and glared.
Without hesitation, she screamed out that “It was him! He’s the one that did this to me!” all while pointing at... Mark. She began pulling something wrapped in a bloodied piece of paper towel out of her jean shorts pocket. A pair of scissors.
Mark began to violently shake as the room’s attention turned to him. I swear I tried to do something for him, he seemed so helpless. I tried to reason with everyone by saying that Mark was a victim too but they wouldn’t hear it. The red-faced man I saw earlier began walking towards me and politely asked me to get out of his way.
The rest is a blur of emotions echoing throughout the room. Thankfully there was enough facility to keep the man at bay. There were way too many people in that small room, but in those moments the adults were the ones acting like children.
Mark is definitely expelled now, although to this day I have not been officially informed of anything. It has been a few days since I last saw him. I am no longer a 4th grade teacher and am working as a substitute until the end of September.
It wouldn’t have worked anyway. The young woman from the surfing accident came into work last week for a “surprise visit”. Everyone was impressed and happy to see her, she’s coming back by Halloween, and I’m shit out of luck. I guess they thought I couldn’t control the classroom and to be honest I’m relieved.
If you have read this far, then you are wondering why I even wrote this. Why would I try to find somebody who ultimately ruined my potential teaching career? Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m concerned about Mark’s safety.
The last time I saw him, I was in my classroom during recess – alone. In the window, I saw Mark being led by the hand of an adult male. They were walking towards a real junk car that was a rusted green color. As the man is fiddling with his keys, Mark saw me looking at him through the window. He stared at me with that same expressionless face one last time before making a finger gun with his right hand. He pointed it at his right temple and he pulled the trigger.
Written by Skill Flea