When the sharp edge of the hard covered book slammed down on the small finger of his left hand, it snapped the old brittle bone, with a sound reminiscent of a dried twig breaking in two.
He awoke with a start…it was a bad dream, one of those dampened brow and cold sweat kind, that left him with racing palpitations.
Slight of stature, and bent with age, he sat up in bed, reached for his cane and padded his way to the bathroom, where he splashed cold water on his face. He then made his way into the tiny kitchen, to heat up yesterday’s left over coffee.
He passed the narrow hallway leading to the small parlour, and noticed that an envelope had been slipped under the front door. It was of greeting-card size.
Setting his coffee cup down on a small nest of tables by the door, with the assistance of his cane, he propped himself against the hallway wall, sliding his back down, until he could grasp the sealed object. He straightened himself up and tore the envelope open, retrieved his coffee and made his way to the worn settee, switching on the light that hung from a tattered lampshade.
Placing his reading glasses on the perch of his nose, he made out three embossed letters on the front cover of the card. W. S. C.
He could not associate the letters with anything in particular. He opened the card, and read the invitation.
A limousine would arrive, precisely at two PM the following Sunday, and take him cross town to the address inscribed. (There was no telephone number and an acknowledgement was not requested.) The address, however, was familiar, but he could not place it.
The W.S.C, he pondered again. Not anyone or anything he could associate those initials with. Perhaps a student that he had long ago taught.
The last two decades had left him in a drifting complacency, no longer finding comfort in the old Latin text books that lined the dusty bookshelves of his small efficiency apartment. With no family, and the very few friends that he had dying off, the telephone would rarely sound its ring, and he would often, in a somewhat compulsive manner, check to see that the receiver was not ‘off the hook’.
He started preparing for the Sunday afternoon event the night before. A black pin-striped suite, that had hung is in his closet, unworn for decades , still fit, although drooping somewhat loosely on his concave frame A white collared shirt, buttoned tightly around his throat , secured with a red dotted navy tie, completed his appearance.
Sunday afternoon, at one o’clock, found him sitting by the hallway door: one full hour ahead of the scheduled pick-up time. As he listened to the February winds that whistled through the cracks of the door frame, he went through a list of names in his head of former students: Walter, William, Wade, Wilbur. No, the W.S.C. initials still eluded him. His reverie was suddenly interrupted by the knock on the door that heralded the arrival of his transportation.
The car ride was quick, and there was little to see through the darkened window panes of the vehicle. Arriving at the destination, he was escorted from the back seat of the sedan by a heavy set man wearing a woollen cap and dark glasses. The wind whistled cold, and the old man held his thin scarf closer to his face.
The building, a late nineteenth century structure ,with it’s shuttered casement windows, had not changed much in appearance since he had taught there twenty-five years earlier. The Municipal School For Boys, with it’s presiding Rector and Vice-Rector.
He was surprised that he had not recognized the address on the invitation, and curious that the building was open on a Sunday.
The man took his arm and briskly walked him up five stone steps, knocking loudly on the iron framed oak door. It opened, and the driver departed quickly down the steps. A young man of about twenty-five, greeted him and ushered him into one of the classrooms, taking his coat, scarf and cane.
“This way, sir” he said, leading him gingerly to an empty desk.
Four men, ages forty to fifty, were sitting behind the large mahogany teacher’s desk at the head of the room, adjacent to the blackboard. They were all wearing dark suits and ties.
Each man acknowledged the old teacher’s presence with a bow of the head. He didn’t recognize any of them.
After about two minutes of silence one of the suited men stood up. He was tall and wiry. “I’m Goldman,” he said, “Do you recognize me?” He got up and walked towards the octogenarian.” You strapped me for being fat and giggly. I was only twelve! You made me part of the W.S.C.”
Another man stood and came forward. “I’m Vishtuba. When I joined your class, my family had just immigrated to this country. You labelled me a displaced person, a D.P. You ridiculed my accent and put me in the W.S.C.”
“What about me?” The third man stood. “I’m Robinson–the ‘little girlie-boy.’ Remember? You used to strap me and make me sit in a corner desk of the classroom with the other members of the W.S.C.”
The last man stood. He was the largest of the four, a hulking man with huge muscles. As he pushed his chair back, and began to walk towards the old man, he picked up a heavy book from the teacher’s desk.
“We were ‘the Weak Sister’s Club,’ he said, “A name you concocted, that followed us through high school, making each of our lives a living hell—do you remember?”
When the sharp edge of the hard covered book slammed down on the small finger of the old teacher's left hand, it snapped the brittle bone, with a sound reminiscent of a dried twig breaking in two…….
Lionel Walfish© 2015
© lionel walfish, 2019. All rights reserved.