Snow Day

The door creaks open again, light streaming in. I squint, expecting Bill.

“No use trying to head home in this weather,” Jeffers says to me, a Marlboro already at his fingertips. He is disheveled, his tie loose again, his pants not quite right. He tips his cigarette case toward me. I take one and light up. “You do anything about the cheating?” he asks.

“Not really,” I say. “I called their parents but no one answered. And Merk’s phone was disconnected.” Jeffers shuts the door and stands not against it, but in the middle of the closet. Our cigarettes could almost touch if I let them.

“That kid,” he says, and takes a drag. “That kid is all kinds of messed up.” He shakes his head and blows out a cloud of smoke. It has nowhere to go and so it lingers about his face. He has a habit of letting this happen. “Absent parents. Deadbeat dad. No one watches that kid.”


“Yeah, feel like I need to mentor the poor bastard. You know, show him the ropes and shit.”

“Hmm,” I say, wondering what he means—wondering, too, if this shouldn’t have been my job. I remember that Jeffers hasn’t ever taught Merk, that he wouldn’t until the next year, and that Merk doesn’t live in Jeffers’s dorm. “How do you know?”

“Oh, you know. Reputation,” he says, and winks. I don’t know what the winking is for. It’s some esoteric joke I’m not privy to because I go home at night. Jeffers knows things I don’t about these walls. These kids. I can see how easily he might slip into that friend role with them. Maybe even provide tests and answers. Excused tardies. I watch Jeffers as he smokes, noticing the confidence he has now that he never had in high school, and I realize that I don’t know this guy, at all. I don’t know this world, at all.

“Hey,” he says, “did you happen to find anything in here earlier? Something left here?”

I glance around, past Jeffers, at the broom closet, its cramped space we both stand too closely in. We are surrounded by smoke—no, drowning in it, so that I’m sure it’s all my students can smell—harsh bleach products for cleaning up piss and puke and God knows what else, dirty mops and rags and filth, and I visually cringe. Cringe. So that Jeffers stops smoking, and our eyes meet.

“Like what?” I say, but I think to say, Like a tie? A student’s tie? The impulse almost startles me. The realization of it inhibits me.  There is nothing to do but to smoke.

“Oh, nothing,” he says and shrugs. “Don’t worry about it.”


Outside is quiet and still, the boys now off to their activities and study groups, the commuter busses absent for the day. A wash of white covers everything. It seems fresh. I stop by the front door to linger in the scene a while and find myself fingering the uniform tie now folded into a neat circle in my pocket. I pull it out, letting it unravel before me. On its tag is black writing, small enough I’d not seen it before, in a mother’s scrawl, a boy’s name written in careful letters, as a mother does before her child leaves for camp, or boarding school, not knowing what will happen to him there, only trying to guarantee that he doesn’t lose his belongings, if not his innocence.

I spread the tag flat and squint at it, staring at the smeared, fading script, at the ink that has survived years of daily wear, nose rubs, locker funk, food stains, maybe even beer spills. And as I read the name there, the simple, capital letters, the snow falling on them so gently—so unwittingly—I think about the attic room in the upstairs of my grandmother’s house, how young I was then, how small and insignificant to have fit into that hovel. I remember how, when I’d played alien with that little girl, my grandmother had caught us naked, both standing so close that my penis had almost touched her leg. My grandmother had shrieked and grabbed me by the arm so tightly that her burgundy fingernails left indentations in my pink skin. She’d looked away, as we’d dressed. I remember that now. I hadn’t before. Not before today. That event turned my stomach in such knots that I never went back to the attic with my brother.

M-E-R-K,” I read on the tie’s tag, the falling snow my only audience. How easily those black-inked letters change things. How quickly I learn to despise the snow.


Jody GerbigJody Gerbig is a high-school English teacher, living with her husband, triplet daughters, and dog, in Columbus, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Scapegoat, Mason’s Road, and Burrow Press.