Sunday, April 10, 2016
"Have a seat, please, Amadeo, and let's talk." Cobrane said with a smile, gesturing toward the chair.
Amadeo looked at the chair as though it was covered with spikes rather than a pillow and glanced at his Vice Principal sheepishly.
Cobrane didn't need the boy to say aloud what was obviously on his mind. "Let's try the couch, Amadeo. It's considerably softer." He said, picking up the pillow and bringing it back toward the couch. He placed the pillow in the corner between the back and arm where it had been and gestured for the boy to sit. He then sat casually on the opposite side of the couch in much the same position as he had done on the desk.
Amadeo unconsciously rubbed his backside, took a breath and sat gingerly on the couch. It was indeed broken in and very soft, not to mention that the leather was cool and felt wonderful against his still hot bottom through his jeans.
"All right now?" Cobrane asked.
"I could use a block of ice to sit on, sir, but I'm OK." 'Deo joked, pleased that his voice was, little by little, returning to normal.
Cobrane smiled again. Amadeo was struck by the way the man's features softened when he smiled. Once again one of his genuine smiles, and not that dangerous one he used on the students that made them feel as though they'd been dunked in a freezing pond. He'd never noticed before the sparkle in the man's eyes, or the slight crinkling at the corners. But then, like most students, he had avoided looking directly into Cobranes eyes whenever possible.
"Now 'Deo," Cobrane said, testing the nickname out on his tongue and looking at the boy to see how he would react to the use of it, "I'd like you to tell me what has been eating at you for the past few days. It was as though there were suddenly two Amadeo's, and the one we know had disappeared. To the best of my knowledge you don't have an evil twin, nor had an inter-dimensional rift appeared through which your opposite had escaped. I was also unaware of any alien pods in the area so I was at a loss to come up with a plausible explanation as to what would cause you to behave the way you have been."
'Deo studied Cobrane's face. The man's features were serious, business like, but there was that sparkle in, and slight crinkling around his eyes that made him look much less severe. He couldn't believe that Cobrane had cracked a joke.
He licked his lips again and looked at his hands as he gathered his thoughts. Little by little he relayed to Cobrane the things that had been eating at him since the Friday before. Since the first day he'd seen Angelo and the resultant conversation with an unnamed friend. Since the altercation with Freddie and Brice. He tried to remain calm but the more he talked the more upset he became, and Cobrane had to remind him to stop and breathe a few times during his dissertation.
"I know they meant to make me feel better. I know they meant it as a compliment, not only telling me how impressed they'd been by what I'd done but also by trusting me enough to tell me that it had been them." Amadeo paused and began again, a little bitterly, "But then they wanted me to extend their apologies to Angelo, and explain things for them. I told them..." he stopped and looked sheepishly up at Cobrane, "Well, it doesn't matter what I said exactly, I guess, only that if they were brave enough to go to you and fess up then they should extend the same courtesy to Angelo and apologize in person." 'Deo said finally.
"Do you feel better now?" Cobrane asked quietly.
Amadeo gave a wry smile and replied, "Mostly, sir, yes. At least from the waist up." he said as he shifted slightly to find a cool section of couch.
Cobrane returned the smile. "Do you still feel guilty?"
Amadeo looked sharply at the older man. He was fairly certain he hadn't mentioned his feelings of guilt.
"I know, Amadeo, because the entire staff feels that way. We all try to keep an eye on the students and keep them safe, but there is no way that we can be in all places at all times. And if *we* can't be in all places at all times to provide protection to all of the students, than neither can you." Once again he held a hand up to forestall the boy's objections. "We adults are not perfect, no human being is. We are all flawed and we all make mistakes. As long as we learn from our mistakes and try to avoid them in future, then we're that much better than we were before. Not perfect. Never perfect. But better than we were." he said gently.
"Even as Vice Principal, I do not know every student by name. Some draw attention to themselves by excelling in academics, athletics, art or music. Some draw attention to themselves by being the class clown, or the school wit, the bully, the smart alec, the ones who are hailed as the prettiest or most handsome."
"Others are little more than shadows who go unnoticed even when someone else trips over them. Those are the shy ones, the misfits. The ones who want to remain unnoticed rather than fall prey to the class clown's jokes, which can sometimes be cruel, or to the bullies who nearly always are. Then there are the ones like Angelo. The kids who are new to the school, who are distinct, unfamiliar faces in a crowd of folks who know each other as well as they know themselves." he sighed.
"I dislike comparing human beings to animals but there is, as distasteful as it is, a pack mentality among close knit communities, and children, teenagers especially, can be territorial, driven by developing hormones, afraid or wary of anyone new or different. Sometimes the pack will accept the new member, sometimes it will ostracize him. Angelo fit into the second category. He wasn't allowed to blend in for one reason or another, and he had no way to hide."
"I'm not saying this to make you feel worse, 'Deo." Cobrane said as he noticed Amadeo's bowed head. "My point is that there is no way you can blame yourself. And that is exactly what you were doing. You were angry at everyone for their neglect or abuse of Angelo, but especially at yourself for not seeing it and stepping in sooner."
"You said yourself that you had no classes with him, the only common area between the two of you was the lunch room which is usually quite crowded and noisy. How do you expect you were going to see one boy out of hundreds? The people who teased and picked on him were certainly not going to brag about doing so, as it is against school code, and if they'd been discovered it would have resulted in their being disciplined or suspended."
Amadeo blushed a little at the memory of his best friend bragging about how he and some other students had 'convinced' Angelo to stop asking questions in class.
"So there is no logical way, Amadeo Rossi," Cobrane said sternly, "That you can blame yourself for what happened to your friend. Do you understand me?"
Amadeo nodded, unsure of where the Vice Principal was headed.
"Lately, however, I believe you've been suffering from what my father called the Avalanche Effect, and I'm afraid that my interference exacerbated it rather than helped."
Amadeo looked at the older man, confused.
"First there was the incident with Misters Crighton and Argus, your own injuries, your lengthy hospitalization and recovery which is still incomplete. Add to that, the enforced restrictions on your usual physical activies. I know that you were heavily involved in track and wrestling, as well as enjoying baseball and football, so not being allowed to do the things you enjoy, through no fault of your own, had to be frustrating at the very least. Am I correct?"
"Yes sir." the boy said quietly.
"I know that you are a good student, and that you've been exempt from having to make up the class work as a result of your hospital stay, however you still have to catch up on the book work. Your teachers have given you study guides, but there is a lot of material to cover in several subjects, which you have to get through in relatively little time. That is why I suggested limiting the amount of time you spend with your friends, at least until you've completed your finals." He waited to see if the boy had anything to say, but the child remained silent and attentive, so Cobrane continued.
"I know that your parents have been making sure you eat, that you close your books at nine and are in bed by ten every night. However, I suspect that you've been studying under the covers once they've gone. Am I correct?" Cobrane asked. Once again that knowing glint appeared in his eyes, making Amadeo blush at being seen through so easily.
"You show many of the symptoms of someone who has been getting inadequate sleep," Cobrane explained, "You've been stressed and angry, at everyone around you, at yourself, feeling guilty over things you had no control over. All of these things started as, for example, a stone kicked from the top of a mountain. The one little stone knocks loose several others, which then dislodge more. Eventually what began as a single stone falling had turned into an avalanche, thus your uncharacteristic behaviour over the past few days."
Cobrane wanted very badly to reach out and put a reassuring hand on the boy's shoulder when he saw the look of embarrassment and shame on his face.
"Amadeo Rossi," Cobrane said gently, tilting his head down to see the boy's face better. "You have nothing to be ashamed of, do you understand me? Everyone has limits, and you merely reached yours today. I know that we've only touched the surface of all of the things that are bothering you,"
'Deo glanced up quickly to look at the man. Was Cobrane somehow psychic? He'd heard of people claiming to have the ability, but he'd never met any, nor had he really believed in it. However, this man seemed to know so much even though nothing specific had been said.
"And there is much more beneath the surface." he continued. "I would like it, if in the future you feel the need to talk, to release some of the pressure that's building up inside you, you would come to me and let me help rather than let it build until it explodes. Understood?"
"Yes sir." 'Deo said softly.
"Do you have any questions or anything else you'd like to say before you go home for the day?"
Amadeo looked searchingly at the older man. "Sir, what do you do to relieve pressure, if I can ask?"
Cobrane smiled slightly. "I go for a walk in the woods, as far as I can to get away from whatever is stressing or upsetting me. Sometimes I'll bring an axe and a hand wagon and chop up fallen trees for fire wood. That particular method has the added benefit of providing me with ample firewood during the winter."
"Sometimes? What do you do the other times?"
Cobrane glanced toward the still closed door, leaned confidentially toward Amadeo and said with that same mischievous glimmer, and whispered, "I yell. At the top of my lungs." he grinned wider and lowered his voice even more until 'Deo could barely hear him despite the relatively small distance between them, "Sometimes I curse blue blazes."
Amadeo stifled a laugh and grinned at his Vice Principal.
"Now, Mr. Rossi," Cobrane said, straightening up and assuming a more business like air. "I'm not condoning foul language mind you, but what I am saying is that there are things you can do to feel better when you feel overwhelmed, rather than keeping it bottled up inside. Understand?"
"Yes sir." 'Deo said with a smile.
"Do you have any other questions, young man?"
Amadeo sobered up quickly and asked, abashedly, "Well, sir... I... well I wonder how you deal with it... being DOD. I mean, you... you come off all... forgive me... but you come off really frightening at times, and the kids are mostly afraid of you."
"But you're a really nice guy. I'd never have believed that I'd be sitting with you, talking like this, like... forgive the presumption, like friends, kinda." he said, blushing a little. "I mean, I know we're not friends," he amended quickly, “but... you know what I mean? You... how can you be so nice in private and... I'm sorry, sir, I know I'm not saying this right."
"I understand what you mean, Amadeo,” Cobrane responded with a rueful smile, "Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes I would very much like to be one of those teachers that the kids admire and talk to voluntarily. But someone has to maintain discipline in the school, and unfortunately, other than staff members, I can't show my real self. Think of it as a trip to the doctor's office. When a baby goes in for vaccinations it's usually the nurse that gives them, otherwise the child learns to become frightened of the doctor who then can't do his job. Does that make sense?"
"Yes sir. I guess so." Amadeo replied thoughtfully.
Cobrane smiled again, a little sadly. "I am, for all extents and purposes, the school's nurse to Mr. Barne's doctor. I do not, in any way, shape or form enjoy administering punishments, but it's a necessity, and it is one of my less popular roles as Vice Principal." he cleared his throat and became business like again, "Now, I believe that was the last bell of the day and you should be going home. I do hope you'll take me up on my offer some day. Have a good day, Mr. Rossi."
Amadeo stood up and extended his hand to shake. Cobrane took it, somewhat surprised, and the two shook. "Thank you, sir." 'Deo said as he left the office.
Two weeks later Elias walked out of their back door and nearly tripped. "Shan! *Shan!* Why'd you leave the cart full of wood by the back door? I nearly went heels over head!"
Cobrane joined his partner, confused. He always added the wood to the pile in the back yard and put the cart in the shed. He couldn't for the life of him figure out how he could have left a cart full of wood on the back porch.
The wood was inexpertly cut but had been stacked neatly. Tucked in between some of the kindling was a piece of paper. Cobrane took the paper out gently so as not to tear it and unfolded it. On the paper were written the words, 'Thank You'. It was unsigned, but it didn't need to be. He knew who had written it. He smiled, took his partner around the waist and brought him back into the kitchen.
Reference to alien pods:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Release date: February 5, 1956
Based on The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by Walter Wanger
Screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring
Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones
Music by Carmen Dragon
Cinematography Ellsworth Fredericks
Editing by Robert S. Eisen
Information by Wikipedia