Dragons Be Gone

 In Dragon Slayer

He had known his job description long before he was two years old. His big sister Susan had taught him well. Before Barry was three he was a veteran dragon-slayer and reviver of languishing princesses with a single kiss.

He had never veered from his life’s calling. He just had never pictured that his dragons would be books and his princesses would be jaded kids who knew more than they ever wanted to long before they crossed his classroom door. His driving force planted him in front of a white board, a computer and typically, in these tough economic times, 40 plus teenagers every hour.

It sometimes felt a long way from his early work as a rescuer, but the signs were still the same. A special person had been overcome by an awful monster and would die without his intervention. At least that is the gist of his thoughts as he battled the silent, elusive giants in his present world. In his world, Barry couldn’t even count on the victims wanting to be set free.

To say today was a typical day would be a joke, because the days never settled down to enough of a degree of predictability that normal or typical was a fair descriptive term. But today the distressed youngster was a tall, roundish, bespectacled young man huddled in the farthest corner of the room with his nose stuck inside a science fiction novel. And he had no idea he needed rescuing. Why the alarms went off in the teacher’s mind on that particular day was more a cumulative insight than the result of any thing that happened, because nothing new seemingly ever happened to Michael.

Young Michael’s behavior, nay his position, had not altered from day to day for the several months school had been in session. Barry never actually had witnessed Michael’s entering the classroom. Following the quiet trickle of the timid early arrivers, and the last minute burgeoning of the mostly boisterous, chatty adolescents, once the dust had settled, so to speak, Michael was ensconced in the back corner. It wouldn’t have mattered if Barry had assigned seats. He was not sure that this silent lad would even notice, and definitely not seem to care. His chair had selected him, and he occupied it in every one of his classrooms, every year of school since at least fifth grade.

It might take a good bit of imagination to see this kid as a Princess in distress, but there was something in the heaviness of the space about him that triggered the long-standing quest in Barry’s heart. Today Barry only saw the distress and got a glimpse of the royalty of the languishing victim. Untypically as well was the monster. The books that had long been Barry’s swords, freeing young minds, this time appeared to be the dragon itself. This would prove to be one of his toughest cases and he wasn’t even sure of where to start.

Barry knew how to be a parent. In some ways that is infinitely easier. Your own kids you have with you every day. You can impact them with nuances, teaching them as you walk by the way, as you eat breakfast, as you put them to bed at night.

Teaching other people’s children for one hour a day took much more. How to impact young lives in the 10-month year? Since Barry primarily taught only seniors, he couldn’t even count on seeing the kids beyond this year. Whatever he was able to accomplish, whatever chains were to fall off must be in this tiny window of time. He had long since reconciled himself to planting seeds and perhaps watering those planted by earlier dragon-slayers.

To be continued…

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