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Strike Fiction #1



 

A quick note:


Strike Fiction #1 "A Message to You Guady" was written in response to the Strike, and submitted to The Sinister Scoop anonymously. It is being posted by administrator Cat Voleur, out of solidarity for the strikers, but she does not claim credit to the story. Please enjoy.



 


Strike Fiction #1 A Message to You Guady


Day twelve of the strike, a third week in the heart of November. Clouds float across the sky, gray, shriveled. Raindrops fall like frozen needles upon the skin. Hands open and close, the flesh cold and tight, knuckles stiff with ache.


With his dog Rufus at the end of a leash, Randy walks along the cold pavement, absent the laugh of children, the "he hit me" tattles, the crunch of chips as growing kids acquiesce to their needs the only way they know how, a handful of processed, red-powdered Takis at a time.


He forgot his gloves, and his hand is cold on the leash. A shudder racks Randy, and he pulls his coat tighter. One lap around the schoolyard, and they'll be inside, letting the heat thaw their bones. Not so for the teachers. Twelve days without students. For twelve days, they've lined up out front, chanting and waving their signs, pooling their money together to provide food and snacks, hot coffee to keep the chill out of their bones.


Randy sees the first one appear, dressed in blue, thinks about turning around and going home. The teacher trudges slowly, her head down, hat pulled around her ears. His face is solemn, weary. Bags hang under her eyes. She looks abused.


Rufus chooses this moment to do his business, and Randy plucks a green, biodegradable garbage bag from his pocket, ready to do his part to keep the city clean. It's easy to do when you care—and Randy cares.


"Morning," he says to the teacher.


"Morning," she says, her voice trembling, and not from the cold


Randy senses something wrong, resists the urge to head back home, to put his feet up on his coffee table and sip his morning coffee, Rufus curled on the floor underneath his legs. "You alright?" he asks.


She nods her head, but she can't get the 'yes' out, can't make the lie reality. Then her nod morphs into a shake. Tears coalesce in the corners of her eyes, big and green. Bloodshot veins like lightning bolts swim through the whites of her eyes.


His heart beats in his chest, angry, sad, all sorts of emotions he wishes he could turn away from. It's easy to do, you know, turn a blind eye to the suffering.


"Anything I can do?"


She shakes her head, meaning it. "I just wish they could see us out here. We just want to be heard, you know? I'm out here, losing money, Christmas is coming up. What am I supposed to tell my kid? There's not going to be a Christmas? I can't even pay my rent, and where is Guerrero? Why did they let this happen?"


Randy nods his head, knows there's nothing he can do to help… well, maybe one thing.


"It'll be alright," he says. She nods her head, but he knows she doesn't believe him. Why would she? Teachers are always given empty promises.


Randy cleans up Rufus' mess, heads back home, does some research.


****


Day thirteen of the strike—it's even colder, wetter. The longer the strike goes, the more miserable it becomes. But they're out there, marching down the streets, waving their signs with smiles on their faces—for the most part—hoping beyond hope a settlement will be reached, that the untenable situation of their lives, of their students' lives, will see some relief, and that when they come back, school will be a better place.


While people and lawyers lounge around tables, hashing out agreements, nitpicking over this word and that word, cutting items that will make the lives of students better because of the cost, they march. Despite the comments plastered underneath news articles, filled with vitriol for a group of people who only want to help, they march. Despite the fact that most of them have never seen their boss, the man who claims the title Superintendent—not so super in all reality—they march. Despite the middle fingers from people who see only greed, they march.


When Randy appears, shoving the man down the street before him, he can't help but smile at the teachers.


The teachers, substitutes, counselors, librarians, support staff, everyone with a hand in the school turns to stare at Randy, their mouths falling open.


A teacher, tall and strong, is the first to speak. "What are you doing? Who is that?"


That a teacher wouldn't recognize their own Superintendent is no surprise. This man, the man who called the shots from the top floor of the administration building, sitting in comfy chairs, new furniture, sending his lackeys about the district to spread his ineffectual philosophies, distributing them like smallpox among high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, handcuffing teachers with policy, preventing them from deciding what was right for their students… this man… he doesn't even live in the city, hasn't been seen by some teachers in the entirety of their lives.

So no, the teachers don't recognize him.


"This is Guadalupe Guerrero," Randy says.


They at least know the name, if not the man. The teachers are shocked at first, terrified for the man, upset that Randy would upend this man's life on a whim, and for what?


"Why are you doing this?"


"Let him go."


Randy smiles good-naturedly. "I seen this in a movie once. A guy got enrolled in a Jelly-of-the-Month club instead of getting his usual Christmas bonus, and his cousin kidnapped his boss, allowed the man to tell the boss how he really felt, how big a piece of garbage he was."


The teachers fall silent, looking back and forth. Here, standing before them, is the reason for both their misery and their wrath, the man who misappropriated funds to bloat his bureaucracy, filling the administration with unnecessary positions, hiring people to write his emails and control messaging at six-figure salaries, lining the pockets of his friends by buying curriculum that doesn't work, all while negotiating bonuses on the backs of students of color, bonuses for raising reading scores among historically underserved populations. You shouldn't need a bonus to want to help improve reading. You shouldn't get a bonus for doing your damn job, and you certainly shouldn't get one when your teachers can't afford to live in the city where they work.


One teacher, short, the muscles in her jaw clenching, steps up to the man, her voice rising, trembling with emotion, a quaver normally reserved for mourning parents. "How dare you use health insurance, the media, and pay to strongarm us into insufficient schools for our students. We have nothing but time; we're gonna win. Maybe if you lived in Portland, you'd understand the problems we face."


"This is Guadalupe?" a man in a puffy vest asks. "I thought you were a lady until a month ago. You know, because all the other Guadalupe's I've known have been women."


Guadalupe stands with his hands zip-tied behind his back as the onslaught continues. This isn't the board room; his silence is not appreciated.


A teacher with brown skin, Latinx, stands before Guadalupe, staring him deep in his soulless eyes. "You're a disappointment to our community. I'm ashamed to know you're a part of it."


A blonde-haired teacher, with burning blue eyes adds, "Where is your leadership? The only message we ever receive from you is when you throw us under the bus. You're like the Wizard of Oz, handing out ticking clocks instead of hearts, diplomas instead of an education. You need to get your butt back to Kansas, or wherever the hell you come from."


"You suck!" a man yells from the back of the group.


Two teachers, anger etched on their faces, approach. "Teaching is not a photo op," the first says.

"Only time you come around is when there's a camera, but we see you, see the things you do, see how you steal from us and give to your friends. You're not fooling anyone," the other says.


A man in glasses, his face intelligent, the lines around his mouth belying his usual good nature says, "Do you want to be the next Blanchard? Not famous for your work, but infamous? The students in our school, the students in the city deserve better than what you're giving them. We deserve better."


The teachers fall silent, and Guerrero, as he has done throughout his career, failing upward, out of touch with reality, seems to understand he needs to move on, that he's lost it all, needs to go onto the next place to ruin the futures of another city's kids. The votes of no confidence, the failing literacy scores due to his policies—it's time for him to go.


Randy reaches into his pocket, pulls out a knife, slices through the zip ties.


The teachers turn their back on Guerrero as he rubs at his wrists, sliding his gold watch upward. As the teachers huddle together, putting their arms around each other, lending each other their strength, Guerrero turns and leaves. He will not be missed.


One of the teachers announces, "Hey, I thought up a song!" He leads them through the words until people catch on. It's a simple song, set to an old Specials ditty everyone knows, whether they're aware of it or not.


It goes like this:


Stop your messing around;

Better think about our future,

Time to quit your job,

Creating problems in schools.


Guady,

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you.


Stop your fooling around,

Time to quit your job.

Better think about our future,

Else our schools will fail.


Guady,

A message to you, Guady,

A message to you.


Stop your messing around,

Better think about our future.

Time to quit your job,

Creating problems in schools.


Guady,

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you, Guady.

A message to you, Guady.



 


A note:


The things the teachers say, more or less, are actual quotes from Portland teachers when posed the question, "What would you say if Guadalupe Guerrero was standing in front of you?" Some people will focus on the kidnapping aspect of this story, cling to it as a way to ignore the message. Don't. Radical fiction, or in this case fictiony-non-fiction, is about the message—only the message. If you can't see past the kidnapping, you are further proof of a need for better education, as we don't need the next generation to be so reactionary and unwilling to appreciate the various perspectives of the world around us. This story is not endorsed by PAT, no one with a brain should read this and realistically think someone is calling for the kidnapping of the Rubbish-intendent. This piece was born out of the frustration with the powers that be, something we can all relate to. Relate to it. It is satire.


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