An eighth-grader was frozen, looking up at me. The water she’d previously intended for her mouth was now flowing out of the fountain and down onto the floor.
I slowly removed my hand from the fire alarm.
The water fountain was broken and drained slowly. Everybody knew that. The water was now pooling at her feet.
“You going to get that?” I said pointing at her now wet shoes.
She opened her mouth to talk. It looked like it might have been to sound her own alarm.
I stepped in close and fast.
In the monotone I was born with and, probably, destined to die with, I gave her my best Bogart. I grabbed her by the collar. Her neck retracted and her eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her head. It was kind of funny.
Straight-faced: “Listen,” I told her. “You ever heard of a shank?”
She did nothing.
“Hey,” I said, not raising my voice. “Can you hear me right now?”
She opened her mouth and closed it again.
I took that as a sign that she meant to say something.
I let her go. And now, looking down at her, I wondered if water wasn’t the only thing wetting her feet.
“Okay,” I said. “What’s your name? Doesn’t matter. You tell anyone what you just saw — anyone — and I’m coming back for you.”
She didn’t respond.
“Stand there and don’t say anything if you understand.”
Threats notwithstanding, I didn’t think that one would hold up to much of anyone’s scrutiny. So I decided for a different tactic.
But… it would require me to do something new. Even for me.