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Book continued

The absent-minded science teacher, an old woman long past her usefulness that we are unable to be rid of due to the influence of the teacher’s union, shuffles up to me, begging for my key for the third time this week. Once again I graciously open her door for her and as I stand there with a frozen smile waiting for her to realize that she can go in now, I look around me. Above my head broken or missing ceiling tiles make a checkerboard pattern, and I mentally plug the face of the kid who broke each tile into the proper hole. Diagonally across from me is an empty space where Male, pronounced Mal-A, Jones ripped out the long broken water fountain that once taunted thirsty kids from that spot. Since I only count three scurrying roaches, I decide the floor has been recently swept.

I hear the whistling before I see him. Like a mother sparrow singing to its young, he is calling out to his fellow gang members and aurally marking his territory. Three short bursts of something just to the right of a middle C note followed by a longer bleat of something approximating a D flat, the tune is always the same and the repetition grates on my nerves, but my slow steady breathing and casual unfocused stare betray none of it as he passes. “Good morning Andy,” I say with a forced smile that does not quite reach my eyes.

The whistling stops for a few breaths. “Morning Mister,” says Andy. The whistling starts again.