A Star Tribune serialized novel by Richard Horberg
Chapter 6 continues
The story so far: Allen outlines the books his class will undertake.
Allen hesitated. "I don't know whether or not you can play fullback for the Gophers, but you can certainly do the other two," he told Bruce Dunne. "If you go to college and major in something like agricultural economics or agricultural extension, you might make a career out of visiting impoverished countries in Europe and Africa and the Near East and bringing agricultural improvements to them. Why don't you talk to your extension agent about the possibilities?"
Bruce drew back a little bit. "I meant it as a joke," he said, "but it sounds like a good idea."
"I think it is."
Hannah Strom, another of his good students, raised her hand. "That's all well and good," she said, "but what about us? Do we just stay home and have kids?"
"Don't have kids," he said, "at least until you're 25. If you choose to stay here, I'm sure you'll be a great mother. If you want to venture out into the world — like New York and Paris — marry someone who'll stay home and take care of the kids."
They laughed again.
Afterward, Allen felt very good, convinced once more that he had chosen the right occupation. His students might not learn that there were 14 lines in a sonnet. But they might learn something about America — and themselves.
"Rae M has been flashing around the halls in a bright yellow corduroy skirt with big side pockets. She looks very sharp in it too."
"JoAnne W has a new red and blue plaid two-piece dress. It has a peplum which is trimmed in blue velvet."
"Lois W has a darling pink cap-sleeved blouse, with a keyhole neckline and quilted shoulders."
"Betty Lou D has been sporting around a flashy cotton dress. It's a maroon and light-green plaid with black buttons and belt and a Peter Pan collar."
"Many girls are wearing pique dresses. For example, Janice M and Ione R have yellow dresses. And Vera O and Lorraine H have darling blue skirts which they wear with white blouses."
So ran the comments in the fashion column of the student newspaper, which Allen read whenever it came out, once a month.
No mention was made of Helen Vorgt, or her clothes.
In spite of the fashion column and the gossip column and other such trivia, Allen found the newspaper surprisingly good. Lois Knight, the editor, was one of the best students in his senior class. Some of the other students were contributors. Although almost all were unsigned, he thought he recognized the fine hand of Leo March in one.
He got another idea. To liven up his two senior sections, why not let them publish a little mimeographed paper of their own? Perhaps a satire.
One evening he was out for a walk when a car full of kids stopped beside him. In the back seat, a girl rolled down the window. It was Iris Arneson from his second hour class, a very nice girl and good student, with long blonde hair. Behind the wheel, Royal Knudson, the left halfback, opened his door.
"Where you going, Mr. Post?" he called.
The night was clear and sharp, house windows firmly closed now, stars even brighter than before. He wore a jacket, hands in pockets. "Just out for a walk," he said.
The others in the car, some of whom he recognized, were all smiling at him.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Just out for a ride."
Iris leaned out the window. "Why don't you come with us, Mr. Post?" She smiled and appeared to pat the seat next to her. "Come sit with me. I don't have a boyfriend."
Good Lord, Allen thought. Had any of his education professors ever told him what to do at a moment like this? Was it OK for a teacher to fraternize with students — especially female students? If word got around, as it certainly would, might he not lose all respect in the classroom? Hesitating, he took the safe way out. "I'd really like to," he said. "Thanks. But I'd better not."
A little pout. "Why not?"
Why not, indeed. "I've got work to do," he said.
"What kind of work?"
"I'm making up a test for you."
They all laughed and groaned at the same time. Then the car roared off.
A few days later on the same street — another marvelous October evening with a harvest moon hanging just above the horizon — he encountered them again. "Come and help us work on our homecoming float, Mr. Post," Royal called from the car window. He was an engaging young man, confidence and charm shining in his eyes. "We need all the help we can get. You are the senior adviser, you know."
He was the senior adviser. Which certainly meant that he was not only allowed but expected to participate in extracurricular activities with his students, even away from the school building. A little skeptical, he got in the car beside Iris, who withdrew no more than half an inch. Inevitably they were pressed against each other. She was wearing jeans and a blue jacket, over which her hair flowed luxuriously.
"So where's the float?" he asked, wondering if there really was such a thing.
Lois Knight, in the front seat between Royal and Bill Erickson, the right halfback, turned to face him. "It's in my father's barn at the back of our lot," she said. "It's just the place to build a float."
He was relieved. There really was a float. Nevertheless, his leg pressed close against Iris' knee. Was that any position for an official adviser to be in?
"Don't let anybody in the junior class know where it is," Bill said, turning around. "We don't want them stealing our ideas."
"Would they do that?" he asked.
"They sure would."
Bill, Royal's running mate on the football team, had very blond hair and pale blue eyes, the latter not quite perfectly aligned. His face looked entirely disingenuous, but also appeared to conceal more than it revealed.
At the edge of town the car went down a rutted lane lined with a thin growth of trees on one side, then turned to face the open doors of a large barn. They all piled out. "Look who's here," Royal called to several young people working in the barn. A cheer went up when they saw Allen.
Tomorrow: Chapter 6 continues.