An Early Spring for Alex

By Jevon Allen

In this world of uncertainty that we live in, there are worlds of possibilities.  I don’t think that Alexandra E. Dumas could have ever imagined her day, or life for that matter turning out the way it did.  And I don’t think that she would have changed any of it even if such an impossible option was on the table.

Alex arrived at her English school about an hour before the students were supposed to, so she had a little time to eat her lunch and digest a little while she reviewed her lesson plans.  She was always proactive that way and worked by the book.  It was the school that she went to every Tuesday.  A satellite school a little far away from the main office but she enjoyed going there because she had the place to herself.  She felt lucky to have landed an English teaching job in Japan at a school that had all of the lesson plans made up for her. 

Alex unlocked the door and let herself in.  After putting down her bags, she opened the windows to air the place out.  That school had a particularly bad sewer smell when the traps dried up. After twenty minutes, she couldn’t take it anymore.  It was one of the first warm days of spring so she decided to have her bento along the river bank instead of the cigarette-stenched, sewage-smelling office.  The cherry blossom buds were about to emerge and she wanted to catch the first changes of spring even though the little pink buds still looked brown juxtaposed with the gray branches. 

She locked up the school and went over to her car to get her fleece.  It was buried in the back seat so she emptied her hands in the front seat, leaned through the middle, grabbed her jacket, pulled it out, locked the door and slammed it shut… locking her keys and lunch inside.

Pulling the handles acheived nothing. She let out a little scream and looked at the school wondering what to do.  She tried the front door again.  The car had no back door.  She even tried the trunk.  That was no good either.  She couldn’t even call for help since her phone was also in the car.  She tried the doors again anyway.

“Hey Alex. What’s up?”  The ubiquitous Crazy Dave was right on cue, languidly cruising down the sidewalk.  She wasn’t sure if he taught anymore but she always saw him around this time of day.  He looked like he had just woken up.  They had been coworkers until he got involved with some comings and goings on the internet.  Now, he took to wearing a loose fitting Amani suit and combat boots with the laces open and dragging behind him.  Under the dust, Dave held himself as a rather tall, composed gentleman.  Well, he did look distinguished with his widow’s peak in a William Burroughs sort of fashion.  He always seemed to have a cigarette permanently glued to his bottom lip and the hazy film of his glasses perched on his beak was a mere reflection of what his lungs looked like. 

“Oh, my god.” Alex exclaimed.  “I just locked my keys in the car and the school is locked.”  She already sounded panicked.  She stopped herself and looked up at his lanky form.  “Have you been drinking beer?”  She inquired.

“Ah,” he smiled sheepishly. “The can was still open from when I went to bed, so I killed it.”  He looked down at her little car and tried the handle.  “Bummer.  Where do you keep the spare?  I always keep a spare in the wheel well.”

“I thought you didn’t drive?”

“Yeah.”  He smiled slowly.  “I’ve never gotten around to getting a license.  I’m a walkin’ man.”

Alex let it slide. “My kids are coming in half an hour and…”

“Easy, Tiger, Dave is on the case. No worries, no hurries. You are in good hands.” 

She looked up at him warily but then an idea dawned on her.  “Oh, I know – the windows! They're still open.” She began to return to her usual chipper self. “Come with me.”

She led him back behind the school a classroom window.  “Okay, reach up and open the screen.”

Dave could reach it easily since the sill was only head-high but he couldn’t open it.  The glass window was ajar on the other side but the screen was jammed and wouldn’t slide open.  “Maybe it’s caught on something up top.”  Using the sill for balance he began to climb up onto the aluminum railing that was cemented into the concrete block wall that divided the property.  It was meant more as a property marker than a retaining wall.  The thin fencing started to wobble under his weight. He was quite a sight. As his legs straightened on his lofty perch, he looked down at Alex with a glorious smile.

Maybe it was the morning beer, lack of sleep or just years of partying in general but that’s when he tried to show off for the cute girl.  “Look at me!  I’m a bird!” And with that, he started to flap his arms and laugh. His cigarette lost adhesion, he grabbed down for it as it dropped, thus moving his center of gravity forward. The aluminum railing responded by buckling which sent our frivolous friend twisting backwards through the air and through the screen into the classroom. A lone black boot remained, dangling by a lace out the window.

“Are you okay?!” Alex yelled up into the window.

“I dropped my cigarette.” 

“I know that! Are you physically okay? I’m concerned about your wellbeing!”  She was concerned about his wellbeing all right, with his physical wellbeing coming in a distant second. 

“I’m in.”

“He’s fine.” She thought and tossed his boot in the window. 

“Doh!” Apparently he wasn’t expecting that. 

She met him at the front and he unlocked the door. 

“This place stinks!  Don’t you know the trick to fix the sewage smell?” He looked disheveled but no more than usual. “Just pour a bucket of water down the drain in the bathroom floor and it fills the trap back up. That way the fumes don’t escape.”

“I need my keys!” She reminded him. Alex knew herself well enough to know that she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on work if she thought that she might be trapped out of her car. She was very good at prioritizing. 

“Oh, I can open that window with a coat hanger in two seconds. I learned the trick from some aborigine mates. There’s a coat rack in the office, right?” And off he went hunting for a hanger.

In less than a minute the lanky lord reappeared, bending and twisting a wire hanger into a long hook. He stopped and picked up the door jam on his way out. “This'll do the trick. I just have to wedge this in the top crack of the window and I get full access to the lock with this thing. It’s amazing what you can learn in a pub in the outback.” And he started whipping the hanger around like a foil.

Alex backed away. 

Dave sidled up beside the car, eyeing the situation. He looked back over his shoulder and declared, “Watch and learn, Missy.”

He took the door jam and slid it down the window hard, under the rubber and into the crack. However, he couldn’t quite see well enough so he gave it another nudge and… crash! He pushed it in too far and shattered the glass into a thousand little pieces all over the ground and inside her car.

“Well, I think I set a record for opening a locked car.” He said optimistically as he reached in and undid the lock. 

“Not funny. My window!” She spoke slowly and clearly.

“Hey, at least you can drive home now." 

He smiled and pointed over her shoulder. 

“Look, delivery guy is here.” 

Alex just watched as the delivery van pulled into the parking lot. She was still a little dazed from what had just happened. 

“I’ll go inside and take care of the smell, you sign for the package. That delivery guy refuses to come to my place anymore.” And he disappeared.

The delivery man got out of his truck holding a large cardboard box. Alex signed it and looked at him admiringly for his normalcy. He smiled. He didn’t talk much but she thought that he was cute nonetheless. What he did say was in regular Japanese and he didn’t seem to be phased that she was a foreigner. Alex took this as a sign of intelligence. She signed and asked him to put the box in the office. 

As he was taking off his shoes in the entrance, a pool of water was beginning to form by the door. He tried to step over the stream that was feeding the pool as he neared the office but apparently couldn’t see well because of the box, stepped into the stream and wet his sock. Impulsively, he stepped back but his now wet sock slipped on the linoleum floor.  Up went the box and down went the delivery man. “Conk!” The sound of his head hitting the floor was sickening. “Crash!” The box split open and kids snacks and candies came spilling out.

Alex ran over to his side and touched him gently on the face. 

“Oh, Mr. Nice Delivery Man, please be okay.” 

He was now lying in the river of water.

Alex stomped to the source of the problem in the bathroom. “Dave! What have you done?!” She was livid.

“I’m dropping the kids off at the pool. I’ll be out in a few minutes.” He said through the puff of the first inhale of a ciggy.

“Can’t you see the water backing up?!” Alex was at a loss.

“Yeah? I got my boots on. I’m alright thanks.”

“I’m not worried about YOU!” Alex screamed. 

She reached in, turned off the hose connected to the wash tub and used the mop to clear the drain of the rag that had been blocking it. 

“You killed the delivery guy by the way!” She said. Then added, “And you’re making it smell worse!” 

Now she was really steamed. She slammed the door behind her but turned back and added.

“And there's no smoking in the bathroom! This is a school! With children!” she added, forgetting that she was in Japan and such things were usually overlooked.  Even still, it felt good to give a good cathartic yell with her fists flailing.

The delivery man was starting to rouse. 

“Oh…” He looked around. “What happened?” He spoke in Japanese. 

“Your package! I’m so sorry.” And he tried to stand up so he could bow, which only made him woozier. 

“I’m calling an ambulance. You don’t look so good.” She said. “Lie down. You might have a concussion.” She stroked his head and tried to get him to as prone a position as possible but he wouldn’t let her.

“I have to work.” His sense of duty was kicking in.

“No, you don’t. Day off!” She said simply and went into the office to call her boss. Luckily she got him. Holding back some details, she informed him of her need of an ambulance. 

When she came out of the office, the kids were coming in the door. They were changing into their indoor slippers just as Dave was walking across the floor in his wet boots, about to make his exit.

“I gotta go. See ya.” And he headed towards the door.

“Oh, no you don’t buddy! The LEAST that you could do is mop up this water!”  She pointed at the floor as five nine year old boys ran past.

“Boys! Help me put this box into the office.” The boys helped her move the cracked box, but what she didn’t see was that they also helped themselves to the candy and snacks, filling their blue gym shorts. They then tore out of the office and into the classroom.

The delivery man made it to his feet and was heading towards the door.  “I’m so sorry for any inconvenience that I caused you.” He said, and stumbled out to his truck.

Dave quietly and dutifully mopped up his mess, leaving a trail of cigarette ash behind, then slipped out the door and on his way.

Meanwhile Alex tried to persuade the wobbly delivery man to stay as he tried to make his way to his van. “Look, you are in no state to do anything except go to the hospital. Are you sure you’re alright to drive? An ambulance is coming.” 

She tried to stop him but he was determined. He made it to the driver’s seat, buckled up and gave Alex a little smile. 

“Oh, you poor thing. This is all my fault.” She thought.

“I’m fine. Thank you very much for caring about me.” He said, started his engine and proceeded to back his truck right into the side of Alex’s car, just where Dave had broken her window. “Bam!”

Inside, the kids were making frequent trips into the office pilfering as much from the broken box as they could.  They were working themselves into a frenzy knowing that the class start time had come and gone and they weren’t studying. The copious amount of sugar they had consumed adding to their hyperactivity. 

Within seconds of the crash two large men with perms appeared. They were attired in matching black, fake suede sweat suits. The larger of the two was wearing a tracksuit adorned with a Sylvester the Cat picture and the smaller one who had Tweety Bird on his. This one was rubbing his neck and stumbling around. Mr. Tweety then did a very dramatic spin and plopped himself down on the ground of the parking lot. The driver of the truck just sat in his seat confused. 

Mr. Sylvester the Cat walked up to the driver and started screaming at him.  “You idiot! You tried to kill me and my friend and I think my friend is going to die. You destroyed my car! Let’s go straight to the bank so you can pay me for damages. It will be at least \8,000,000. If you think that you can get away with such a horrendous crime, you have some trouble coming your way.” 

Mr. Tweety stopped his rolling around on the ground for a moment and added in, “Yeah. Big trouble!”, then went back his performance.

Alex had had enough and was so angry she could only speak English.  “That’s MY car you morons! You had nothing to do with this!”

They had no idea what she’d said. The delivery guy stumbled out the vehicle and Mr. Sylvester grabbed him. “He’s coming with us!”

“Oh, no he isn’t!” She snapped in his face.

“He’s ours. We have some errands to run now don’t we?!” And Mr. Sylvester smacked the delivery man on the back of the head. 

She was done. Without thinking, Alex smacked Mr. Sylvester one on the face so hard that his sunglasses flew off.  He glared at her, picked them up, grabbed her by the arm and escorted her into the school. “Bring him with us.  We’re gonna have a little fun before we go anywhere.” He called out to Mr. Tweety who had grown tired of acting hurt and had miraculously take a turn for the better.

Alex was scared and in such shock and anger, that she lost her voice. The dazed delivery man was in not much better shape. Mr. Tweety locked the door behind him as they entered the school. It was dead silent and then…

“Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, koncho attack!” The hyped up nine year olds came bursting out of their hiding places with their fingers interlocked and pointer fingers sticking out of their joined fists. 

For those of you who have not been blessed with the experience of “playing” with Japanese boys let me explain. When they run out of things to say or do but still want to interact with you, they put their hands together and try to jam their outstretched pointer fingers into your rectum like aspiring proctologists.

These tough guys had met their match. “Stop it! Why you little… I’m gonna kill you!”

The kids swarmed them in a choreographed attack. They gentlemen of ill repute tried to retaliate but the berserk boys were ducking and diving with the skills of kids that come from a country that actively promotes dodgeball.  They fired and thrusted their probes repeatedly. With each attack they escaped the grasp of the much larger and bulkier men. One of the boys missed his poke but managed to pull down Mr. Sylvester’s sweatpants revealing a leopard print package so small Alex started laughing. He turned bright red and when he bent over to pull his pants up one of the boys landed a bulls-eye. 

“Agh!” He jumped in the air bringing his pants up with him. 

He looked at Mr. Tweety, grabbed his shoulders and went for the exit.  Because the door was still locked however, he sandwiched him into the glass.  They fumbled with the lock and fled with their tails between their legs. 

Alex sat the poor dazed man down in the office and corralled the sugar smacked boys into the classroom. It was in a shambles. It looked like they had had a parade. There were wrappers of all kinds strewn around the room and what she could only guess was one of the wall posters torn apart like confetti. “Who wants to play a game?” 

“I do.” They all screamed. 

She looked up at the clock. The moms would be arriving in three minutes.  “Let’s see who can pick up the most pieces of garbage, okay? Ready, go!” 

The boys scurried around the room grabbing and counting every little piece.

“No cheating. You aren’t allowed to tear a big piece into smaller pieces!”  She yelled above the din. 

They were finished in two minutes. “How many do you have?” She asked and checked as they plopped them into trash but she skipped on giving the winner his prize as they had already eaten half a years’ worth. 

The boys ran out of the door to their waiting mothers. The car doors slammed shut and off they went. The boys were gone and there was silence.

Alex went into the office and sat down next to the delivery man who was on the phone trying to explain to his company what had just happened. 

The ambulance arrived and Alex’s boss came in with them. 

“They came to the main office so I had them follow me here. Alex you look horrible.” 

She did. The EMTs came in and started assessing the delivery man.

“Can you teach?” Her boss had never seen Alex with her hair mussed up before.

She couldn’t. She was completely fried and he knew it.

“Hey, I’ll finish up here and you go home. You only have two more adult classes and I know them. They’re easy.” He started gathering her things. 

“I need to call the police about the car accident, too. Geez, you poor thing.  Take my car and we can trade back tomorrow.” He put her things in his car, traded car keys and sent her home. As she left the parking lot, she waved back at the delivery man who was watching her drive away as the EMTs examined him. They gave each other a little head bow and a soft smile.

When she got home, there was already a voice message from her boss.  “What happened at my school?! The screen was on the floor of the classroom.  I got several phone calls from the parents in the kid’s class. Apparently the boys had such a fun time with you that the parents each want to take private lessons from you. Do you know how much money that is? Thank you. Did you mop the front hall? I’ve been meaning to do that for ages. The smell is gone in the bathroom, too. How did you do that?! I talked to the insurance guy and you won’t have to pay for a thing. Their insurance will replace the whole door.  They’ll give you a nice loaner car in the meantime. The driver said he wanted to contact you directly to thank you so I hope that you don’t mind that I gave him your personal information. He said he worked for his family’s company so I assumed that he is respectable. And don’t worry about the last two classes. They went fine. I hope that you’re feeling better. Oh, and don’t worry about the screen, I popped it right back in. See you tomorrow.” Click.

The next day she got another phone call, this time from the delivery man.