Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Investigator

"Yo, Miss Baader," Anthony came crashing into my classroom. "Anderson wants you."

Anderson is head of security. He has feet. I've got about a million kids in my classroom. I said I couldn't leave.

Anthony ran out. He was back two minutes later. "Anderson says he really really needs you."

Again, can't leave. Tell him to find someone to stay with you guys.

Five minutes go by and one of the security guards walks in. "Anderson needs you. He's got a parent in there."

It finally occurred to me why Anderson wanted me. Shemekia's mother must be here.

And indeed, when I walked into his office, Shemekia was standing in front of me, her mother on one side, and her father on the other. Her mother smiled at me. "Miss Baader," she said. "You remember our phone conversation yesterday? I just wanted to clear up a few details with you, because Shemekia's story still doesn't match yours."

I looked at Shemekia. She met my eyes, didn't look down at all. She was good. She was going to brazen this out.

"Now Miss Baader, Shemekia said she made a mistake yesterday. She said she was with you, but she hadn't spent the whole time with you, she'd spent how long?" She glared at her daughter.

"Half an hour," Shemekia supplied.

I'm pretty sure I would have remembered half an hour, I said. I didn't see her at all yesterday.

"But we were there," said Shemekia. "Brittany and I, but then we went to another room."

I looked at her. She sent me a pleading look, but I just couldn't back up her story. She's one of my favorite students, too. Wherever she was, it wasn't with me.

"One more thing," said Shemekia's mother. She settled deeper into her seat. "Did you notice I'm an investigator? Shemekia doesn't know her mother is an investigator. Did you make a phone call to Mr. Clarke for Shemekia? Because she says that the reason she was so late was because Mr. Clarke had left for lunch and you had to call him on his cell phone so he could give her cell phone back to her."

I don't even have Mr. Clarke's phone number, I said. We'd covered this ground on the phone yesterday, but it apparently needed to be done in person to prove something to Shemekia. I looked at her again. Shemekia's mother was a mountain of a woman, and in this mood? I'd have confessed everything she wanted to know. I have to say, in the face of the investigator, the fact that Shemekia didn't change her story said a lot for that girl's backbone.

"See?" said her mother. "One more question from the investigator. Shemekia, what was Miss Baader wearing yesterday?"

"I don't know," she said. "I never pay attention to what teachers are wearing."

Now this was the biggest lie I'd heard come out of her mouth. If there's anything kids pay attention to, it's what I'm wearing. They're always telling me when I should take an outfit, put it away, and never take it out again. Shemekia is no exception. In fact, she likes to pay special attention to my shoes.

Shemekia's mother stood, opened her arms wide, and enveloped me in a hug. "I thank you for your time, Miss Baader. We'll take care of this."

"Oh yes we will," said Shemekia's father. It was the first time he'd spoken, and to tell you the truth, I'd forgotten he was there, but I looked at him then, and he was hot. His temper was about to boil over.

I looked at Shemekia. See you next fall, I said.

The next part of this story I had to get later from Anderson.

After I left the office, Anderson asked, "Now, do you mind if I just ask four questions?" Her parents agreed. "One," said Anderson. "Did you come to school yesterday?"

"I said I did!" She said this with the voice of someone who wasn't lying.

"Okay," said Anderson. "Question two: when you came to school yesterday, were you actually in the building or were you just around the building?" Shemekia looked like she was about to answer when Anderson stopped her. "Now before you go any further, I have to tell you that you weren't two blocks away from this school when a little girl came up to me diming on you. So you better tell the truth or I'll tell it for you."

"I was outside the building," she said. "I never came inside. I met Brittany outside and we left."

"Question three: where did you go?"

She mumbled something at this point. "What?" said her father. "I didn't hear you."

"The mall."

"The mall," said Anderson. "And who else was with you? Let me remind you that I already know the answer to this question."

"Brittany and Chris."

"Hell, no," said her father. "Please tell me that this Chris is a girl."

"I can't tell you that," said Anderson. "Chris is a boy."

"Please," said Shemekia's father, "Please tell me that this Chris is a ho-mo-sexual."

"I can't tell you that either," said Anderson. "I see that boy in the hallway chasing girls all the time."

"Where did you go after the mall?" asked her father.

"Let me remind you that I already know the answer to this question," said Anderson.

"Nowhere. I went home," she said. At this point, she got smart and shut her mouth. No matter what they did, they couldn't get her to change this part of the story. Anderson told her to step outside.

"You've got to tell us now. Where was she?" asked her father.

Anderson laughed. "I've got no idea. I made that little girl up."

"A full day goes by and she sticks to her story and you get her to give up the truth in five minutes?" said her mother.

Anderson grinned. "I should hope so. That's my job."

Now, while they were having this conversation, I found Shemekia in the hallway and asked her why she'd lied.

"Because I didn't want my mother to know where I'd gone."

Where did you go?

"To the mall. I was running away."

That didn't make any sense. You were running away to the mall? Where were you going to sleep?

"I don't know. And anyway, I changed my mind. That's when I came home."

I sighed. Shemekia, maybe instead of telling this story, you could just tell your mother what's really going on. Because when I stood in there, I saw a parent who cared what happened to you.

"Yeah," she said. She looked down.

The door opened and her parents came out. "Oh," said her mother. "There's your teacher. Have you apologized for putting her name in your mouth?"

"I apologize," said Shemekia.

"Now let's get on home."

Shemekia nodded glumly and followed her out. Her little brothers and sisters were jumping around and laughing like this little family drama had never occurred.

I was a little sad to watch her go. She'd put up a valiant fight, but the treachery of a teenager is nothing compared to that of a security guard.


bevjackson said...

ha! You are SO great at blogging this stuff. I LOVE this story. Good that I'm NOT a teacher...I'd have LIED to save that kid and gotten myself in SO much trouble! ha, you did abso the right thing, good teach that you are.

A fun read!!

Mary said...

Wow - she does have some backbone, but you can see where she gets it. Reminds me of Kimber's mom in some ways.