Bumpy Flight

by Filiz F


Filiz F.
Rude Awakening
The sun rose languidly as Alex wrestled out of his bedsheets, the gravity of his predicament slowly dawning on him. Shimmying into a wrinkled pair of blue jeans, he began to calculate exactly how late he would be to school that morning, his first day of classes that year no less. He threw his backpack haphazardly over his left shoulder and tumbled down the stairs to where his mother was awaiting him.

As she shot a knowing glare toward him and wrangled him into the passenger seat of their old Subaru, he could sense an oncoming lecture. Wistfully, Alex stared out the sodden window and watched the raindrops that had just begun falling from the ominous sky. Living in Chicago, a city infamous for its poor weather, he frowned upon realizing that he would not be able to birdwatch that afternoon. He knew his father, another avid birdwatcher, would have shared in this dismay, but he had passed away three years ago. In the middle of this depressive thought, the car screeched to a bumpy halt, and he finally set off to begin his last year at Arlington High School. 
Emotional Dissection
Alex went about the day with more tenacity than he had ever committed to academics, wholly due to the fact that his chances of attending the Chicago Aviary Society’s annual bird-watching retreat next semester relied upon him earning an A in both his science and math classes. As the bell rang for the third period of the day, he and several other 17-year-olds shuffled laboriously into the dimly lit science classroom.

Sitting down in the front row of desks and taking out his laptop, Alex glanced over to the board where the teacher, a grumpy woman with gray streaks in her hair and thick glasses, had written her name. His stomach dropped what seemed like ten stories as he glanced at the board, reading the name “Ms. Heller” in thick, black marker. Staring at her now, he noticed her eyes gloss over with fury as she saw his name on the attendance sheet. His face struck a painful chord in her mind as she recounted one of the worst nights in both his and her life: the car crash.

He knew that bitter images of Alex swerving ineffectively on the icy road and of her daughter Casey Heller passing away flooded her mind in that instant.
Though other students were not yet seated, Ms. Heller walked over to him and announced in a gruff voice that he would never receive above a C in the class.

Before returning to the front of the classroom and leaving a stunned Alex in her wake, she grabbed his computer from its resting position and remarked loudly that he would not be permitted to use a device in her class. He didn’t know what to do but nod compliantly. 
Another Fail
Alex placed his phone on the table, concealing the failing science grade displayed on the screen along with his mother’s text message reminding him of his science tutoring session after school. With ten minutes until the end of school, Alex strode into Ms. Heller’s classroom assuredly.

Determined to make peace, he apologized for his past mistakes and did his best to evince his commitment to excellence. Ms. Heller’s face displayed no distinct expression, leaving Alex standing awkwardly for several moments.
As a teacher, she admired his continued diligence, but the sound of his voice only prompted more reminders of Casey’s funeral. She stood to address him at last. In lieu of the resolution Alex had hoped for, Ms. Heller proceeded to inform him that his efforts displayed a blatant disregard for common courtesy.

Unlike when she scolded her other students, her heart stung with guilt while she denounced Alex as his existence had been tied irrevocably to the memories of her daughter.  Resisting the impetuous inclination to inform her of her unwarranted behavior, Alex noticed the glistening residue of a tear in the corner of Ms. Heller’s right eye. His heart softened for a mere second since she soon resumed her tyranny and escorted him to the principal’s office for an hour of detention.

As her calloused hands urged him forward, Alex pleaded desperately. He could already imagine his mother berating him that evening for missing his tutoring session, or, as she put it, “his last chance.”
Parent Teacher Conference
Alex arrived home that day and sluggishly pulled out the key to unlock his front door. Setting his backpack aside in the foyer, he was startled by the errant sound of conversation.
With a pang of curiosity, he turned the corner only to meet the deeply horrifying sight of Ms. Heller talking emphatically with his mother about his recent behavior. She met his astonished gaze and let her words trail off into a punctuating silence. Though she had only ever viewed Alex as a careless, culpable teen, seeing him in his own house and about to have his dreams thwarted evoked a strange sense of compunction.

She turned to him coldly, nonetheless. Alex understood the implications of Ms. Heller’s visit, and, realizing that he could no longer sit quietly in his rage, began shouting annoyedly in response to this outrageous affront. In the midst of his rantings, his mother shouted for him to put an end to his absurd behavior, and, looking over at Ms. Heller, informed Alex that her unsavory report meant he would not be allowed to attend the retreat. 
Unexcused Absence
Trudging into school the next day, Alex resolved to not let his vindictive teacher hinder him from connecting with his father through their shared activity.