Johnny America


Hall Du­ty


The door to the Eng­lish hall bursts open and three stu­dents run to­ward me.
This is not a race. They are not se­niors sprint­ing out for a Big Mac. They’re
not rush­ing to a fight be­tween the jocks and the ston­ers. This is a pan­ic run,
a run of ter­ror. They’re run­ning to escape.

The door bursts open again and oth­ers stream out.

“Guns!” Nate David’s eyes are wild; his face is pale; he’s trembling.
“They’re killing peo­ple!” he screams be­fore he rush­es on.

I hear shots in the dis­tance, and I, too, want to run. I want to join the
herd. In­stead, I do my job. I check my class­room. Emp­ty. My stu­dents aren’t due
back from lunch for an­oth­er ten min­utes. I shut off the lights and close the
door. I want to lock the door and shut my­self in­side. The temp­ta­tion passes.

I re­turn to the hall and move against the flow, to­ward the cafeteria.

“What can I do?” I ask my­self. I’m un­armed. I’m a fifty-two-year-old,
two-hun­dred-pound weak­ling. This isn’t like the food fight I broke up last

Pan­ic sends stu­dents stam­ped­ing down the hall, un­like any fire drill. I’m
safe as long as the stream con­tin­ues. The dan­ger is at the end of the flood.
That is where the shoot­er will be.

I see the wound­ed. Lib­by, an hon­or stu­dent from fresh­man Eng­lish, clutches
her right arm, her yel­low blouse soaked with blood. Two bas­ket­ball players
car­ry Ja­son Rich­mond, their team cap­tain, bleed­ing from the ab­domen. His eyes
glaze over. Bob Jensen, the physics teacher, hur­ries down the hall, his arm
around the waist of his daugh­ter, Jill. She is drag­ging her left leg.

I see stu­dents from my Writ­ing Foun­da­tions class: Melis­sa Volmer, Seth
Turik, Rick Hard­ing. They are the rebels, the out­casts of the school. They look
up with fear-filled eyes, inar­tic­u­late. I want to stop to com­fort them, but
in­stead I keep mov­ing. I know I’m go­ing the wrong di­rec­tion, and so do they.

I reach the door out­side D‑Locker Bay. Beth Wil­son, from First Period
Con­tem­po­rary Lit, stum­bles in­to me. She’s sob­bing. Her sweat­shirt and jeans are
cov­ered with mashed pota­toes and gravy, as though a tray has been spilled on
her. There are flecks of brain mat­ter on her face. “Don’t go in there, Mr.

Melissa’s best friend, Jen­nifer Shertz, grabs her arm and helps her down the
hall, try­ing to keep her mov­ing as she sobs. I open the door to the lock bay.
The stream of vic­tims has dried up. Care­ful­ly, I step in­to the bay. It’s empty.

I walk pur­pose­ful­ly to the long nar­row win­dow on one side of the doors and
glance in­to the cafe­te­ria. No one is left stand­ing. Cau­tious­ly, I open the
door. “Why am I do­ing this?” I won­der as I step through. “Who do I hope to

Filed under Fiction on April 5th, 2010

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