Lukie sends me to make copies of a test right before class. A fistfight in the science classroom erupts out into the hall. Kids are screaming, there is blood, I push through the crowd and start barking at kids to make way. The smoke clears, I continue down the hall. There are flares in the distance, shouts, another fight spills out of the special ed resource room. Several seventh graders pummel each other. I don't even bother stopping. I need to copy the tests ASAP.
In the office is Miss H, one of the Filipina teachers. "Mainit today, eh?" I ask. She nods, but says "I speak Vassaya, not Tagalog."
"Cebu?" She nods. A seventh grader--bloodied in the face and with his pants down--collapses in the doorway. Mr S. was trying to restrain him and flung him to the floor. "Fucking bitch hit me! I'll show her!" the student shouts. Mr. S. pushes him into another office and shuts the door.
"One of your students next year," Miss H tells me, and laughs. The fluorescents flicker. On the desk behind her is an old Tandy tape recorder, playing a cassette tape of distorted feedback guitar. A Hendrix bootleg?
"I'll worry about that next year," I say. "Right now I have to make copies. Lukie sent me down here on urgent business."
"You are an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill," she says. The lights blink twice and then go dark in the office. We hear wailing in the still-lit hallway. I think of mangoes and tigers.
Mr. S. is a community volunteer. He works with the Male Minds Moving, and is not supposed to break up fights. His hands are bloody from pulling seventh graders apart. From each other, not literally pulling them apart. At least I hope so.
"Who is in charge here?" he asks, putting his head in the doorway.
"Ain't you?" Miss H. and I respond in unison. The lights pulse again and resume flickering. I put my test on the copy machine but the toner light, the service light, and all the paperjam lights are flashing lurid red.