IMPERMANENT RECORD, Part 4

Last episode on IMPERMANENT RECORD: At Theodore Roosevelt High School in Patrick’s Vale, South Dakota, all of the students have lost all memory of who they are… and so has everyone else. Teachers are currently taking down temporary identities to keep track of the kids… but what is going to happen when the school day is over?

memoryTHE BLACKOUT

4 (of 9)

Katarina Borlo hated this.

There were a lot of reasons to go into education as a career, but Kat’s had never been in question. She loved teenagers. She loved watching a hesitant child discover the shape he or she wanted to grow into, the awkward pruning to achieve it, even the drama of being the only one who understands in a forest of only ones.

She liked to know the kids who came to the school where she had first gotten a job as a teacher, then three years ago as the assistant principal. Other administrators in her position tended to keep the kids at arm’s length… discipline being the main job of the assistant principal. Fortunately for Kat, her superior, principal Michael Raines liked that part of the job too much, so she had the rare opportunity to get to be good cop to his gleefully bad one. She loved getting to be the administrator kid’s came to with their problems, the person they confided their lives to.

And in one afternoon, she forgot all of them.

Tonight, when the crisis was over–well, not over, but when it had gotten so late no one could keep panicking over it until morning–and she was alone in her apartment, then she’d break down a little and cry about it. Right now, though, four hundred and eighty kids she didn’t remember needed her.

“Oh god, I can’t think of a name,” the frizzy-haired blonde at the front of the registration line whined. “What if we never get our real names back? I can’t think of something that important this quickly!”

“Relax,” Ms. Borlo said. “This doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s only for a few days so we have something to call you. What’s your favorite smell?”

“My what?”

“Favorite smell… food or flower or anything. What comes to mind.”

“I like spiced cider.”

“Okay,” Ms. Borlo said in a calming voice, “imagine a nice warm mug of spiced cider. Imagine holding it in your hands. Breathe in the smell. Can you remember what it smells like?”

“Sure… like apples… and nutmeg…”

“So for a few days, how about you go by Meg?”

The girl wiped away a burgeoning tear and smiled. “I like that, Ms. Borlo… Meg would be great.”

Kat smiled back at the girl and wrote “MEG” in thick black marker on the name tag and handed it to the girl. To Meg, she reminded herself.

“Okay, put that on and let me get a picture.”

The girl proudly rubbed the name tag onto her yellow jacket and stood still long enough for Ms. Borlo to hold up one of the school’s digital cameras and take two photos.

“Okay, Meg, you’re all set. For the rest of the day, you can go hang out on the bleachers while we try to figure out who to send you home with.”

“Oh my god, I didn’t even think of that…” gasped Meg, already slipping back into panic mode.

“Don’t worry. Everyone’s got a parent, and even if it takes a few days to figure out whose are whose, nobody’s going to get left out. Think of it like being an exchange student, but without the language barrier.”

“Oh, Ms. Borlo, I don’t know how I would get through this without you…”

Kat smiled at the compliment despite the overarching drama of it. “Just watching out for you guys, same as always.”

“Well, I won’t forget that!” Meg said, and backed away slowly before turning and jogging over to the large mass of students congregating around the bleachers.

“I hear they’re going to be holding them here until a big town meeting tonight,” Mr. Dixon, a math teacher sitting at the registration table next to Ms. Borlo’s said to her. “I don’t see anyone getting out of here anytime soon.”

Kat shrugged. Mr. Dixon always found the least positive way to frame any situation.

“Well,” she said, “it’s not like we had a red notebook for this one.” There were twelve red notebook “emergency plans” in Mr. Raines’ office, ranging from “EARTHQUAKE” to “RED DAWN.” “MASS STUDENT AMNESIA” was sadly not covered.

“I think this time we’re going to have to play it by ear,” she added as the next student came up to her registration station.

“Chaos,” muttered Mr. Dixon. “They don’t pay me enough for this.”

Kat almost mentioned that they didn’t pay them enough for the jobs they usually did, but that was teacher’s lounge talk, and not appropriate in front of students, amnesiac or not.

“Have you picked a temporary name?” she asked, turning to the black haired boy in the Death-To-Murray metalcore concert tee and the jeans that didn’t fit in this year’s preferred style of not fitting.

“I was thinkin’ I could go by Chernobyl Baby?” he neither said nor asked but something in between.

“Let’s maybe think of something a little more, ah, user friendly,” Ms. Borlo said somehow without wincing. “For instance, what’s your favorite smell?”

“Burning dog.” The boy’s face brightened. “Hey, yeah, that’s way better!”

This time the wince couldn’t be stopped. Maybe Dixon was right… this was going to be a longer day than she thought.

To be continued…

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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