The Last First Day

The Last First Day by Carrie Brown Page B

Book: The Last First Day by Carrie Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carrie Brown
at Yale, he’d been farmed out to the least hospitable sorts of locales, tiny towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin near the Canadian border, places that might have taxed older, less vigorous men. During those cold, dark days spent observing from the back of one-room schoolhouses, his knees jutting up above the tops of the low desks, he had discovered in himself, alongside a love of God, an instinct for how to teach and a rambunctious style. In the classrooms at Derry, though he wasn’t in them so much anymore, Peter behaved as if every answer, no matter how lackluster or hesitant, was a revelation. He loved to see the boys’ eyes light up at his pleasure.
    He disliked formality. He wanted the boys to call him Peter. He insisted on that. Everyone at Derry, in fact, whetherthey worked in the kitchen or drove one of the big mowers that roved over the playing fields or taught Shakespeare or physics or Greek, called him Peter. He hated standing on ceremony.
    From the open doors came a blissful rush of cool air toward him, as if the grass outside, the trees with their drooping, fragrant burden of summer leaves, had given up the last of the day’s warmth. The knee that troubled him the most, his right knee, sent out a sudden throb of pain. The discomfort rose, flared and then ran up his leg, touching a finger to the base of his spine. He felt sweat on his forehead. He shifted, tightening his calves, releasing them. The pain dimmed a little, wandered off. Peter realized that he’d been holding his breath. His chest felt sore and tight, as if he might have broken a rib.
    But it was not his heart; he thought it was not his heart. He felt it thudding along uninvolved, uninterested in the strange tumult of feelings he was experiencing. This sorrow. This bewilderment. This anger.
    He had given his first day speech to the boys at Derry for years—the same talk, more or less, about responsibility and opportunity—and he’d long ago done away with notes for it. The point of the evening was less what he said anyway, though he’d been proud of his words at one time, the sentences carefully crafted. Ruth had helped him; she had always been the better writer. He’d never thought much of that play or that novel she’d worked on, though—too depressing, though he never would have told her so. He had tried to be enthusiastic.
    It was the experience of this moment, when the school community gathered under one roof in the darkness and the silence that Peter wanted to give the boys. It worked like aninoculation, he thought, protecting them against the worst of what might happen to them over the year, the various crimes perpetrated both by and against them. Right now, the new boys were at the fragile peak of their bravado, having made it through the parting from their families, the confusing business of the first day, without public tears. But some of them were precariously close to breaking down, Peter knew. He searched the audience and tried to fix his attention on them, the new boys, fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds not yet free of their childhood selves, required to sit in the first rows. He counted on their faces to restore his equanimity, his sense of purpose.
    A few days ago, just out of the shower one morning, Ruth had stood on tiptoe beside him, a towel knotted under her arms. She had kissed him as he’d straightened his tie in front of the mirror. Outside the window, a bird had been warbling, a long stream of entreaties, of fulsome nonsense.
    Peter had made a goofy face at her in the mirror. He had not wanted to tell her how strange he’d felt lately, how uninvolved, somehow, in what was happening. He’d felt it powerfully the moment he’d opened his eyes this morning, as if he were watching the world through wavering old glass.
    He was depressed, perhaps. They said it just came on people sometimes, like any sickness. Perhaps it was an inevitable part of the syndrome.
    It had nothing to do with Ruth. He was sure about that.
    It was

Similar Books

A Game of Hide and Seek

Elizabeth Taylor, Caleb Crain

Dee's Hard Limits

Trinity Blacio

A Summer Life

Gary Soto

Dead in the Water

Carola Dunn

Finding Hope

K Broas

2 The Judas Kiss

Angella Graff

Minerva's Ghost

Danielle Elise Girard