A strange smelling mist pervaded the nostrils of the students in room 303.
Frightened by the noxious odor, the students stopped talking for 30 seconds and
sniffed the air carefully. Of course one boy accused his neighbor of farting.
Another girl immediately pointed across the room to another student. Soon the
smell became overpowering and the students became quiet. The girl who had
met 200 percent of her reading goal wondered aloud if the smell could be
nefarious in nature, a plot, a scam, some gas that would make the entire class pay
attention for once the entire year. Just in case she consulted the poster posted on
the wall in the back of the room that outlined the procedures in case of an
emergency. As time passed, the relevance of the poster became more significant.
Since the class was generally never concerned about anything significant,
that moment passed and they descended into normalcy which means little
pockets of conversation reappeared throughout the room and the students in the
front seats refocused on the lesson at hand.
Although the lesson was profoundly interesting combining vocabulary sills
with symbol recognition, students continued to laugh and giggle and pay slap and
tickle; therefore, it was not long before the mist in the room began to change
colors. One section of the room was blue, another violet, another green, another
orange, another pink. One section stayed white where all the perfect kids sit; the
ones who never cause a disturbance, the students who always turn in their
essays, daily work and meet their reading goals, who always know the significance
of symbols. And then in the far right back corner, the room was black and the
window in the door was most profoundly red.
Sandra or Noelyn or Jose or Sergio, or Luis , the students who had paid
attention to" The Masque of the Red Death", became alarmed when they noticed
the similarity of the colors in the classroom to the rooms in the story. Most
interesting where Justin sat, the room was very dark. Noelyn said she would not
go near that section of the room even if Justin wasn't sitting there. Jose, Sergio,
Sandra, Luis and even Juan Carlos,Nancy, Diana, Yesenia and Cesar agreed. Ryan
was drawing and Javier was twirling on the stool trying to get dizzy so they didn't
even know what day it was. Yoeli was absent
Finally Pina and the other Juan woke up and sprang to action. "This is real,
you guys. Even if Justin is sitting in the black section of the room with the red
window , we've got to get out of this trailer. Now."
Their calm, dignified, patient, caring, teacher was pleased to see some sign
of interest in her most reluctant students; however, she did not move from her
chair in the front of the room nor did she turn off the CD nor did she warn the
students that the Exit Exam was day after tomorrow. She just smiled her most
beautiful smile that seemed now more like a bruja than usual.
The fire drill sounded. Now the classes knew something was up for certain
or Kenny had escaped again and pulled the fire drill.
However, as soon as any student reached the "black Justin" area, an
invisible wall seemed to black her path. Understand, the girls were the first in line
while the boys sat on the floor crying.
The teacher unlocked the filing cabinet, took out her grade book and asked
the students to wait, while she led them to safety.
Just then a hooded and masked figure resembling the Bechinni entered the
classroom through the black section of the room. First the students thought the
hooded figure was Justin's hommie who always skips sixth, but the figure seemed
a little short and his accent was less Oklahoma and more south of the border.
"I've come to check for understanding," he said. "If you persist in ignoring
the information you teacher has to share with you, this noxious smell will enter
the classroom every day. Do you understand what I said? Are you paying
attention?" He raised a sickle in his left hand. Across the front of his robe he wore
a belt studded with pencils. "
Do you understand me?"the robed figure said again. "I have come to give
you two options: graduate from high school or." He held the sickle high. The
symbolism was obvious.
Justin asked to go to his locker so could have a smoke er, get his text
book."Textbook" he said, "Everyday I will bring my textbook to class so I can be
the star student. I promise I will exceed my reading goal."
The robed figure held the sickle aloft again. The class knew the significance
of the gesture because they has just studied symbolism.
Then just as he appeared, the figure was gone. All that was left was blank
work detail an incomplete referral.
"Oh my goodness," Juan said,"I am so glad I now am a school boy because I
know that dude meant business. Did you see those bullets? Was that Poncho
Villa or Emiliano Zapata."
Luis also known as Beto, a code name he uses to confuse his teacher said,
"That masked man was Mr. Bravo and those bullets you saw were number 2
pencils used on the Exit Exam. You need to pay attention to the details like I do."
Marina disagreed."I've been to see him often enough. Mr. Bravo is short. That
dude was tall."
Justin appeared in the doorway with his Literature book in hand."I am a
new man." he said and although all the bad girls in the back of the room and Julie
tired to distract him, he sat in his desk like a little angel."I'm ready to learn, "he
With those magic words, the colors of the room vanished, the flies
reappeared, Javier finally stopped spinning and a new sense of calm pervaded
the minds of the students.
The voice of wisdom came from the front of the room, a voice like that of a
higher power. "Now are you ready to compare and contrast this story with" the
Mask of the Red Death" or am going to have to use this again?" And she held up
a can of Fabreeze air freshener.