Alan Yeager sat at the hotel bar nursing his beer as most of the men around him watched the ball game on the overhead television. The twenty-six year old really had no interest in the game, but had come to the bar with a few new friends in order to be sociable.
The dark haired young man was a history teacher from East Bedford. Five nine with a slim, muscular build; this was his first time at the State Teacher's Convention. It was an experience he had enjoyed immensely.
The funny thing was, it was only because of a unforeseeable series of events that he found himself here at all. Normally, only the most senior teacher at Dwight Eisenhower High got to attend the annual convention. Roger Parks, who was originally scheduled to go, had come down with appendicitis the day before he was to leave. Elizabeth Young, who was the runner up in seniority had already left with her family for a Disneyworld Vacation. After a frantic search by the school administration, there seemed to be very few people who hadn't already made plans for the three-day holiday weekend. It finally came down to Alan and Diane Yee, both of whom had started on the same day. A toss of the coin decided the issue, with Alan racing home to quickly pack a bag to catch the eight o'clock shuttle flight.
The three-day event had been quite interesting Alan had to say. Every school seemed to have a different way of picking delegates to the conference. Some went by seniority like his own school. Others used it as a merit award. Some even just held a raffle. Overall, the different systems made for an interesting mix and a chance to meet fellow educators from across the state and sort of compare notes. There was also the prospect of some really fine dining and the nightly parties that made attendance so highly coveted. Tonight was the last night of the conclave with nearly a third of the participants having already left for home.
Alan glanced down at his watch and decided that five more minutes and he was out of here. He really hadn't been that hungry when most of the delegates had gone to dinner, but he was starting to feel otherwise now. The hotel dinning room was still open for another hour so he should have no problem getting a table.
"Excuse me," a woman's voice said from behind Alan, "but by any chance would you happen to know the three major causes of the Civil War?"
The question took Alan by surprise. Even for a Teacher's Convention, that was a strange thing for someone to ask. Not so strange, however, that he didn't immediately know the answer. Back in high school, he had written his senior history paper on just that subject.
"That would've been..." he started to say as he turned around on the barstool. "Oh my God!" he suddenly said, cutting off his answer as he saw who had asked the question.
The owner of the question stood just a fraction of an inch shorter than Alan. She was wearing a modest blue dress that enhanced rather than concealed a still respectable figure.
"Hello Alan," the middle aged woman standing behind him smiled.
"Mrs. Clarke," an excited Alan said, unsure if he should hug the woman, shake her hand or something else. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I am still a teacher," the white haired woman smiled, "at least until the end of the month."
"You're quitting?" he asked, the tone of his question making it one of disbelief.
"Retiring actually," she smiled.
"No, you can't be retiring," Alan said, "you're only..."
"Fifty-two years old last month," Mrs. Clarke said, finishing his question for him.
"No," Alan replied, unable to believe that she was that old.
"I was forty-four when I had you in my honors class in history," she said. "And that was eight years ago."
Alan took a hard look at his former teacher. In his mind, Mrs. Clarke didn't look that much older than she did on his last day of class. There were a few more subtle lines in her face, but that seemed to be all. Even back then, except for her hair, she really hadn't looked her age. Her hair had turned prematurely white in her mid-thirties. Rather than dye it back to its original shade, she had decided to keep it natural.
In fact, Alan remembered quite well a discussion he and a number and his friends had one night after they'd misappropriated two six packs of beer from Jimmy Smith's garage cooler. The discussion had started off familiarly enough, a comparison of all the girls in school they knew. Who was the best looking; who had the best tits, which they most wanted to fuck, that sort of thing. Eventually, and Alan never really decided if it was the beer or they were all feeling a little bit daring, the discussion had grown to include teachers as well.
That aspect of their talk hadn't gone as far, but it had been almost universally agreed that Mrs. Clarke was the third best looking teacher in school. For an older woman, a few of his friends had quickly added. In Alan's case, he hadn't needed to add that condition to his opinion. The number one and two choices were all new teachers in their early twenties.
"This wasn't a pop quiz, Alan," his former teacher laughed. "You're not going to fail if you don't remember the answer."
Alan realized that his face had become flustered at the memory and was glad that she took it to be because he hadn't remembered the answer.
"Mrs. Clarke, I've totally forgotten my manners," Alan said, changing the subject and feeling like he was back in third period history. "Please have a seat."
"First of all, I think you're a little old to still be calling me Mrs. Clarke," she said. "My name is Maureen as I'm sure you remember. We are, after all, colleagues now."
It seemed strange to Alan to think of himself and Mrs. Clarke, no make that Maureen, as equals. Yet, that was exactly what they were. He might have moved away after college and was teaching in another town, but they were both doing the same thing.
"Can I get you a drink," Alan asked, still thinking it strange to be asking her a question like that.
"It's tempting," she replied, "but I was actually on my way for a late dinner. I'd gotten involved in an interesting panel discussion and lost all track of time."
"That's funny but I was just about to go in to eat myself. I'd be honored if you joined me."
"That would be nice," Maureen smiled. "It'll give us a chance to catch up."
As they ate, Alan quickly covered the eight years since he'd sat in Maureen Clarke's class. He'd gone, as she knew , to Fall River College on a full academic scholarship. It had been largely due to her recommendation to the scholarship board that he had managed to go to college at all. Alan was from a family that barely made ends meet and money for higher education was not to be found. It would be a terrible waste, she had written to the board, to let a mind so perfectly suited for teaching to lay fallow because of a lack of funds. The condition of the grant he had been awarded was that he spend at least ten years after getting his degree in the public school sytem somewhere in the state. It was a condition Alan had been more than happy to agree to.
Maureen Clarke had spent the last decade pretty much as she had the previous one, teaching honors history at Alexander Hamilton High School in Woodbridge. The only major change in her life had been the death of her husband, George, two years before. That was one of the reasons she had decided to take the early retirement that had been offered her. Her heart, she said, was no longer really in it.
"My mom had mentioned that the last time I was home for a visit," Alan offered. "I'm really sorry. I only met him a few times but I remember Mr. Clarke being a really nice guy."
"Thank you," Maureen said, then changed the subject as not to dwell too much on her greatly missed husband. "But what about you? Is there a Mrs. Yeager, or someone in your life?"
"I'm afraid not," Alan replied, "at least not right now. I did fall in love with someone in college. Her name was Yvonne and I really thought she was the one. But things didn't work out and we wound up going our separate ways. I date occasionally but there's no one really special. I guess I get so wrapped up in the kids sometimes that I forget to have much of a life."
"I can understand that," Maureen said, thinking of all the unimaginable hours she had devoted to her own kids.
"Sometimes, it is all worth it," Maureen assured her younger counterpart. "Every once in a while, there's one or two students who really capture your heart. It means so much to watch them strive to learn, and when they do, it gives your life a validation that few people get to have."
She paused a moment then added, "That's the feeling I got when I saw in the alumni notes that you had gotten your teaching certificate. I was so very proud when I read that."
"I think your class was the reason I first thought about becoming a teacher," Alan volunteered. "You made learning such an adventure. I'm not sure I should mention this or not, but I had such a crush on you as well."
Maureen smiled. She knew that many of her students over the years had developed similar infatuations. It wasn't something she would ever admit to anyone but her husband, but she sometimes got a secret thrill thinking that some of those good looking young men might be jerking off to a mental image of her.
"Well as I'm sure as you've learned by now, teachers aren't supposed to even admit that they might have a crush on one of their students," Maureen said. "But I'm sure you knew how special I thought you were."
.... There is more of this story ...