(Editor’s note: I wrote this several years ago, but now and again someone asks me to rerun it. Here it is. Most of you didn’t realize I have a shady past.)
Mr. Norton’s words rang in my ears as I grabbed my paper and dashed out the back door. “If you can’t make it to class on time, don’t come.” I knew from experience that I’d never make it on time if I left the house one minute later than 6 a.m., and the lighted dial of my watch already read 6:15. As I spun out of my driveway, raced the mile to 341 and turned left, I prayed that all the state patrolmen were still sleeping. Americus and my class were a long way from Pine Grove. As I passed through Hazlehurst, I calmed down a little. Traffic was light so far and would be for another hour. Maybe I could make up some time. On the north side of McRae, I relaxed a bit more. The wheels of my gray Nissan Stanza gobbled up the miles as I slipped the cassette into the player. I had recorded mythology notes on it the night before so I could study during my two-hour trip. With a schedule like mine, I dared not waste a minute.
“Persephone,” my own voice spoke to me from the tape. “Daughter of Ceres and wife of Hades. Allowed to return to visit her mother six months of the year.” I glanced again at my watch. I was making excellent time. I’d only met two cars on the long stretch so far. Not a policeman in sight. I smiled and eased the accelerator down a bit more. My voice continued to lecture on the gods, and I briefly hoped those gods and any others in the vicinity were watching over me as I flew up Highway 401.
The gods lost interest in me about four miles out of Abbeyville when the blue lights appeared in my rearview mirror. I pulled to the shoulder, shut off my car, and watched in the rearview mirror as the patrolman approached my car. I handed him my license and insurance card before he could ask.
“Good morning, Mrs. Ellis,” he said, reading my name from my license. “I can see that you’re in a hurry, so I’ll write this ticket as fast as I can.” And he did. Seventy-eight in a fifty-five zone. May be paid in Abbeyville, at the sheriff’s office, within 30 days. “Have a good day, ma’am,” the blue patrolman said, as he saluted me smartly and returned to his car.
If I’d had time, I would have cried, but I didn’t. I was still in a hurry. I held to the speed limit until I left that county and then eased back up, praying that no more cops were in my orbit that morning. “God,” I bargained recklessly, “I promise to observe every speed limit on the road this afternoon, if you’ll just get me to class on time this morning.”
At five minutes after eight, I parked my Stanza in the commuter parking lot and sprinted for class. Maybe he hadn’t locked the door yet. As I ran up the stairs, I saw the door standing open, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I slowed to walk sedately into the classroom. I wasn’t sure I could handle a Norton tirade this morning. I slid into my desk at the front of the room and glanced up to see his reaction to my lateness. He wasn’t there. Amazed, I looked around. Mr. Norton never missed class. The sun might forget to rise or set, but Mr. Norton did not miss class. I turned to my neighbor and started to comment, when Mr. Norton ran into the room, looking as frazzled as I had felt five minutes before. His shock of blond hair was uncombed, his clothes wrinkled. He clenched his reading glasses with his teeth because his hands were occupied with his briefcase, his usual stack of books, and his perpetual thermos of coffee. He unceremoniously dumped them all on his desk, including his glasses.
“Sorry I’m late,” he apologized to the class. “I had to take my wife to the hospital. She’s in labor.”
One reckless student asked, “Mr. Norton, shouldn’t you be there too?”
“What for?” He replied. “I already did my part. Open your books to page 378 and let’s talk about literary archetypes. Don’t forget to give me your papers before you leave.”
(To Be Continued next week)
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