by Martin Zeigler
Mr. Nielsen sat in his cubbyhole
of an office, just off his classroom. It was late. The hallway outside was dead quiet.
He was at his desk, grading homework. Checkmarks
for the right answers, X’s for the wrongs. There were far more checkmarks, which
was a good sign, but still too many X’s.
A man appeared at his office door. An
older guy, not a student.
"Help you?" Nielsen said.
"1967," the guy said.
"This'll be the year. Meadows High will make state for sure."
"Gary Seltin's my son."
"Ah, okay. Come in.
Have a seat."
Seltin stayed where he was. "Coach
Aden says Gary is one hell of a player. But he'll need good grades to make the team."
"His other teachers
will do their part," Seltin said. "And he could sure use a B from you."
at D level right now, I'm afraid."
Seltin stepped into
the office, stood at the side of the desk, close to Nielsen. "Doing what? Making circles
"There's more to geometry than that."
much more," Seltin said. "I flipped through Gary's textbook. It's all useless, you ask
"Learning can often be its own reward."
teach you that in teacher school?"
again. "As I told Gary, I can recommend a tutor who'll give him the one-on-one attention
Seltin snickered. "And I recommend
you listen to Coach Aden about what it means to have school spirit."
"It's a matter of
being fair to my students."
"So you won't budge? Not even this
once?" Seltin said.
Seltin swung his fist, slammed
it into Nielsen's face. Nielsen's head lurched sideways, and he grunted. He whisked a
hand to his stricken cheekbone and held it there. "What on earth?" he muttered.
"I'll press charges, do you hear?"
that so?" Seltin said. "I belong to the Chamber of Commerce. I'm active in Kiwanis, Rotary.
The Boosters. I own and run the best trophy shop in the area. I sponsor more games
and competitions than you can count with your tiny teaching degree. Good luck trying to
make me look bad. And I'll expect that B by tomorrow."
Nielsen, at his office door, called out
to Seltin, at the classroom door, "Wait. Don't leave. Please come back in and have a seat.
This time Seltin sat.
Nielsen stood by
the chair. "We use a straightedge for the lines," he said.
"And this for the circles."
With an aim straight,
true, and swift, Nielsen rammed a leg of a drawing compass up Seltin's right nostril until
the sharp end pierced solid tissue and stuck.
Nielsen held tight
until Seltin's scream settled into a whimper, then let go of the compass.
didn't move. It hung sturdily from Seltin's nose, the one leg still lodged in the nostril,
the other leg visible and pointing upward, the handle hovering motionless over Seltin's
"Here's the deal," Nielsen
said. "I'll give Gary a B on one condition."
Seltin pawed at the hanging instrument,
wincing with each touch. "What," he said finally. "What condition?"
Nielsen rested his
hands on the chair arm and leaned forward. "That he do B work. Deal?"
"Really?" Nielsen said. He reached out
toward the compass.
"Okay! Okay!" Seltin said. "Deal! Now
get this thing out!"
"I'm going to have to yank it. Really
Sweat streamed down from Seltin's hairline.
"Do what you have to do."
"Will do," Nielsen said.
"And, oh, one more thing. As one good person to another, can I give you some
tapped his finger on the tip of Seltin's nose. "On your way out, try not to bloody the
Martin Zeigler writes short fiction,
primarily mystery, science fiction, and horror. His stories have appeared in Yellow
Mama, Mystery Magazine (formerly Mystery Weekly Magazine),
the anthology Crimeucopia―As In Funny Ha-Ha or Just Peculiar, and
the anthology Die Laughing: An Anthology of Humorous Mysteries.
Besides writing, Marty enjoys watching movies, playing the piano, and going for
long walks. He makes his home in the Pacific Northwest.