The guidance counselor is a prisoner of conscience, his sentence—self-imposed and open-ended—began last Sunday, hours after Father S- admonished him during mass for trying to put the Body of Christ in the back pocket of his corduroys.
The counselor’s wife was at home in bed with a fever, and he wanted to give her the sacrament, so why not take a communion wafer home with him? The priest wasn’t having it, and in the days since their very public argument, the counselor has refused to leave his office at the regional high school.
Seated at his desk (a utilitarian rectangle comprised of particle board encased in a laminate surface designed to resemble the smooth grain of a deciduous tree), he is compiling a list of advice for his favorite students (item three: if your skin is breaking out, take a swim in saltwater; item six: never listen to anyone who says that crocheting and knitting are similar; item eleven: don’t try chewing wintergreen tobacco, not even once, because it’s delicious and you’ll be instantly addicted).
He is doodling, mainly pictures of housecats, most of which are wearing pince-nez; all are clutching garden shears.
He is thinking about the shelf in the home where he grew up, which held his late father’s three books—life-advice titles purportedly written by professional football coaches—and several dozen jars of his mother’s homemade blackberry jam, each with a red-and-white plaid skirt, three-eighths of an inch in width, affixed to its lid.
His recent actions notwithstanding, he does not consider himself rash or melodramatic.
He has not told anyone yet, but he’s going home soon. He has a plan. He will arrive after dusk and fetch a shovel from the tool shed.
Kevin Canfield is a writer in New York City. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Cineaste, Bookforum and other publications.
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