Yet before I get too carried away, we should step back and acknowledge that these moments of togetherness, of unity between the children and Mrs. Gallagher, are offset by moments of impassable distance; like the next week, how Mrs. Gallagher momentarily forgets the presence of R.J. and Sydney and Erica, et cetera, right there in front of her, copying down the day’s homework assignments. She gazes out the window and sees… What? wonder the children… The correct spellings of a thousand words taking form in the budding ends of the sycamores? The branches themselves sprawled like binary trees and casting their intricate shadows over the white tops of the desks? Certainly she can’t be blind to their expectant lips, their waiting eyes that blink and blink, the students who do not know if Mrs. Gallagher pauses because she expects their active participation or if she pauses to consider some complex problem unknowable to them because they are children and because they know nothing of Mrs. Gallagher’s life beyond fleeting anecdotes about her elderly husband, adult son, twin sister, and love of white chocolate which are interesting, yes, but not fully elucidating, not quite enough to illuminate the woman, Mrs. Gallagher, who seems always aloft on a pedestal of marble and gold with her legs modestly crossed at the ankles, a fist placed under her chin and the turquoise watch slipped down her forearm, Mrs. Gallagher forever towering in teacherly pose.
“No chat rooms. No games. No adult websites.”
“It’s quite alright, children, don’t be afraid. Look, two small pricks. Nothing at all.”
“Consider the wing of an airplane—the top is sloped and the underside flat. As you may see by this formula, air pressure relates inversely to speed, so that high speed occasions low pressure, and low speed occasions high pressure. When a plane accelerates, the velocity of the airflow above the wing’s surface is greater than the velocity below. This disparity in velocity is accompanied by higher pressure beneath the wing than above,”—(the children take notes furiously)—“thus producing lift. Amelia is a pilot on a jetliner which routinely shuttles passengers from New York City to Moscow and back. She describes the feeling of lift as the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing the buoyancy of the soul.”
Mrs. Gallagher is missing. The children return from lunch to a brightly lit classroom, the door ajar, but the desk empty where Mrs. Gallagher usually sits, grading quizzes in felt-tip red pen, rearranging the clips in her hair, and awaiting her students’ return. “Where’s Mrs. Gallagher?” The good children (Sydney, Hank, Justin, Tom, Alyssa, Josh, Katie, Cody, and Sarah) wait in their assigned seats; the bad ones (R.J., Erica, Nancy, Amy, George, Brad, and Mike) pull at the topmost drawer of Mrs. Gallagher’s desk, which is securely locked and accessible only with the key that Mrs. Gallagher keeps on her person. The bad children grunt with the effort of pulling the drawer but the lock will not give.