Stories by Crazy

A little crazy never hurt anyone…

Category: Mr. Belvidere

Just Sayin’

“Mr. B, this is kind of whack.”

Sean fidgets on the stool in the middle of the class, balancing an apple in one hand and a pencil in the other. The other students watch intently, a couple of them cracking a smile at Sean’s balancing act.

“Sean, you volunteered for this position so that you wouldn’t have to do the writing assignment.”

Mr. Belvidere sits perched on his own stool towards the rear of the classroom, scribbling in his notebook, focused but a little adrift from his class.

“I’m just sayin’, Mr. B…”

“Stop! Everyone!”

The entire class looks up, all eyes on Mr. Belvidere. They heard his voice, but the tone was different. Something popped in his pronunciation of “stop.”

Mr. Belvidere walks up to Sean and takes the apple and pencil from his hands. He continues forward to the white board and knocks both items on the marker tray, but he does not turn back to his students. His hands rest upon the tray, head gazing down and against the board. Quizzical, confused, his pupils start to exchange glances, and glances turn to whispers.

“Quiet!” demands Mr. Belvidere, and the whole class returns to silence. He lifts up his head and speaks into the white board.

“Why do we write?”

No one responds. Something in Mr. Belvidere’s deep tone scares his class into mutes.

Why do we write? Why do we say things?”

One brave soul decides to answer, “To express our feelings?”

Mr. Belvidere smacks the white board and spins to face the class, armed with an extended index finger.

“Ex-actly!” He stares down his students with a fiery gaze. “We do not… We do not ever say or write things merely to state them, to be objective.

“We are not going to be bureaucrats, politicians, void of all emotion. We are not going to be bland, heartless robots that spit out facts. We are NOT going to be…”

Mr. Belvidere ganders the classroom, but his eyes fall on an open seat. Jennilee’s seat. His heart pounds from his chest and pumps his tear ducts into full stream.

“…we are not going to be heartless,” simmers Mr. Belvidere. “We’re better than that, my friends. We’re better than hiding behind objectivity and snide, empty comments, to be irresponsible with our words. We are artists who feel, who express.”

He takes a moment to compose himself, sniveling back his tears. He turns back to the white board and paces forward, and retrieves a ruby red marker.

“I want everyone to write one page for tomorrow. One page of what it means to be.” In the largest font possible, Mr. Belvidere scrawls “BE” on the white board.

The students look at each other, shaken and confused. “Single- or double-spaced?” a girl asks.

“I will leave that to your discretion. Class dismissed.”

Mr. Belvidere throws the marker onto the tray and storms out of the classroom. The students remain seated, unsure if they should leave a full 20 minutes early while the entire school is still in period. Not a soul dares to murmur, and all that is heard is the slow click of the door latch echoing the hollow room.

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Lost for Words

BRRRIIING! rings the bell for the end of the period.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure to have your short stories ready for presentation next week! We will be reciting them in fashion and passion!”

Mr. Belvidere ushers the students out the door one by one, but holds his hand up when a young Jennilee tries to exit.

“Ms. Farrow, would you stay a few minutes to speak with me?”

The students empty the classroom, until it is only Jennilee and Mr. Belvidere. A slight chill replaces the warm stirring of minds.

“Please, sit.” Mr. Belvidere takes his chair behind his hand-me-down desk, while Jennilee pulls a seat from a nearby table. She folds her hands into her lap, and her eyes are drawn to her feet.

“Ms. Farrow, I trust you know why I’ve asked you to have this dialogue with me.”

No response, not even a flinch.

“Jennilee, I have not seen a single document with your name on it. Now, I don’t know why you are holding back your work for grading. Perhaps you think that this class is graded via portfolio, which you would be assuming correctly, but I do ask that I see some effort.”

It’s as if Mr. Belvidere is looking upon a sculpture or statue, lifeless and still. Her grey shawl hanging over her slumped shoulders adds even more to the immovable and unresponsive nature of Jennilee.

“Is everything alright, Jennilee?”

For a split second, Jennilee twitches her finger ever so slightly – an easy miss for the layperson, but not for Mr. Belvidere.

“Is something wrong at home or between you and your friends?”

The twitch relapses, but grows into a fully metastasized tapping against her lap.

“Jennilee, you can tell me if something is troubling you. Though I am just your teacher, you can trust me to help you through your problems-”

She jumps to attention and glares into Mr. Belvidere’s eyes. Her cheeks are paved with streams of tears, and a look of despair and anger screams from her visage. A swing of her arm, and her chair flies into Mr. Belvidere’s aging desk.

“Poetry can’t help me through my problems, Mr. B! And neither can you!”

Jennilee grabs her bag and storms out of the classroom, vacuuming all the joy from Mr. Belvidere’s spirit. He sits in awe and bewilderment, unable to deduce anything from the last few minutes. Bereft, he stares into the work on his desk, hoping that the words from his students will jumble and form a semblance of a clue.

But nothing comes to him. Nothing. Only silence.

The Writer’s Dilemma

“My friends!”

The class turns to Mr. Belvidere standing on a chair in front of the white board.

“Words flow by and through our lives, but for a moment, we capture them in song, in writing, in poetry. Today is the day that we shall trap a few moments for ourselves.

“Take out a sheet of paper, or a notebook, or perhaps that syllabus from that dreaded math class next door.” A few chuckles for good measure. “Use the tools that we have learned. Iambic pentameter, free verse. Refer to the greats that we’ve perused. Write to your heart’s content!”

Mr. Belvidere steps down from his impromptu podium to return to the students. He slides around the tables, witnessing the creative process burst forth from imagination to ink. Yet, one mind seems to be fixated on the paper rather than the poetry.

“My dear Mr. Williams, what seems to be troubling you?” Mr. Belvidere kneels to meet Quince face-to-face.

“I don’t have anything to write about, Mr. Belvidere.” He looks forlornly upon his page, stroking his pencil along the paper in hopes that something would appear on it other than indistinguishable scribbles.

“Well, why do you say that?”

“I’m not very interesting.”

A look of inquisition comes over Mr. Belvidere. “How did you come to this conclusion, Quince?”

“I don’t know…” Quince fiddles with his pencil between his fingers.

Mr. Belvidere looks deeply into the blank page and turns back to Quince. “What do you see here, Quince?”

“Paper.”

“A canvas.” Quince angles his gaze to Mr. Belvidere. “A canvas waiting for the artist rich with ideas and emotions.”

Quince returns to his sadness and his blank piece of paper. Mr. Belvidere, however, is not so easily defeated.

“How do you feel right now, Quince?”

“Pretty sad.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t think of anything to write about.”

“Then write about your sadness.”

Confused, Quince turns again to Mr. Belvidere. “What?”

“Write how you feel, about not being able to write about anything. Write how it saddens you to feel empty or without purpose. It can be short and succinct, or you can embellish it until it lights the very corners of your heart. But write what you feel here,” Mr. Belvidere says as he puts his hand over his own heart, “onto here.”

Mr. Belvidere rests his same rough hand onto the blank page. Quince feels the heaviness of his teacher’s words, the depth of his passion and empathy. A light of encouragement clicks in his head as he finally breaks a smile to Mr. Belvidere. The teacher responds in kind.

Mr. Belvidere rises to his feet, arms raised, overflowing with happiness. A rush of excitement emanates from his voice. “Let the words flow from the very core of your being. Unleash the emotions of your hearts onto the pages ready to receive. Feel and breathe these things into life!”

And in the quiet scribbling of the classroom, the hearts and minds of its visitors connect as one melodious song, one full chorus, one chord at full volume for the school to hearken to and behold.

Mr. Belvidere

BRRRING!

Second period has started. The class of juniors seat themselves at the classroom tables and carry their conversations through the bell, what with this being the first day of the new school year. Who is dating whom? Who passed driver’s ed? Perhaps one question about the SAT passes through, but one can hardly tell through the cacophony of socializing.

A minute passes and still no teacher. A few minds start to grow inquisitive about the absence. But as soon as a majority starts to form…

WHAM!

“GOOD MORNING, YOUNG MINDS!”

A rather vibrant young man stands at the front of the white board, his arms in the air in welcome. He looks normal, but that sudden outburst of a greeting speaks otherwise. Perhaps that is why the students appear stunned.

“Welcome… to… British… LITERATURE!”

A mass of confusion spills. What is going on? Who is this dark-skinned Gap-model, and why is he speaking with a baritone of a British accent?

An elocutive British accent, one that would put Gielgud to shame.

“I am your guide, Mr. Belvidere, and we are about to embark on a journey through time!”

He prances and dances around the tables, with an exceptional mark of gracefulness. Some of the females giggle their laughter into their hands. The boys-who-would-be-men nudge around some sarcasm.

Mr. Belvidere glides his way back to the white board and draws forth a fresh blue dry-erase pen.

“But who can tell me… what is British literature?” His question scrawls onto the board with such precision and intricacy. He turns to a nearby student at the closest table.

“You. What is your name?”

“Jeff.”

“Come now, your full name.”

“Jeff McCarty.”

“Ah! Jeffrey McCarty! Young Master Jeffrey! Welcome”

Mr. Belvidere gives a bow to his student. More giggles and more smirks, none from Jeff.

“What is British literature, Mr. McCarty?” asks Mr. Belvidere.

Jeff searches for the answer with his eyes, but sees none plastered on the classroom walls. In fact, the walls are largely blank, aside from mandatory notices about emergency procedures. Pressured by the lack of a gimme, he digs deep inside the recesses of his memory to produce an answer:

“Uh… Shakespeare?”

“YES!” Mr. Belvidere scribbles ‘Shakspeare’ below his original script. “One of the greatest! ‘To be or not to be? That is the question!’ ‘O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?’ And ‘We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.'”

For a moment, Mr. Belvidere holds his thoughts, but he quickly points to a cheerleader near the rear of the classroom. “What say you, miss?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you there! What shall I call you?”

“My name is Cyndi Jennings.”

“Ah, Cyndi, as in the musician!” He welcomes Cyndi with a flair of his wrist.

“Uhm, yeah.”

Mr. Belvidere breaks out into “Time After Time” at full volume and vibrato, overtaking the silence of the room. More bewilderment, more smirks and giggles, although this time, the girls are impressed by his bravado.

“Miss Cyndi, what is British literature?”

“Poetry.”

“Yes!” Another scribble. “Some of the most beautiful poetry you’ll ever hear, from great hearts of England, no less!”

And with as much passion as he can muster, he orates, “‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… I love thee freely, as men strive for right. / I love thee purely, as they turn from praise… I love thee with the breadth, / Smiles, tears of all my life; and, if God choose, / I shall but love thee better after death.'”

Mr. Belvidere is lost in the warm stillness of the lyrics. And it seems that his same sentiment has rolled into his radius of students. Captivated by the passion, sinking in the heat of the words. Charmed by the magic.

Mr. Belvidere raises his gaze, and he sees it all: eyes fixated in wonder, mouths hanging in awe, ears eager for more, and hearts beating in unison. And a smile graces his lips.

“That, my friends,” he says ever so gently, “is the power of words. Words are indeed weighty, and they carry more punch than any weapon on earth. Words are the yellow bricks with which your heart forms the road, and the world is waiting… waiting to hear your story.

“This year, we are each going to tell a story, using tools created by master craftsmen and craftswomen of old. We will learn to use those tools, and make art that echoes the beatings of our hearts. We are unique, each and every one of us; no two stories will be exactly the same. That’s what makes our stories special. But we have come here, at this time and place, to share this part of the story together, and we shall experience… extraordinary.

“My friends, welcome… to British Literature.”