a short story.


The day Dolores Miller careened down a hill and rammed her car into the side of Cheshire High School had been fueled by an all-nighter culminating in a 6:40 run to Dunkin’ Donuts, where she’d sat tapping her fingers on the wheel and waited for the eight other cars in front to hurry the hell up. When she finally got her strawberry glazed doughnut and medium skim coffee with only one packet of sugar, it wasn’t even that great. In fact, the doughnut left three grease stains on her new blouse that she had bothered to iron that morning and the coffee ran a few little rivulets into the cupholder when she bounced over that obnoxious pothole in the parking lot that the lazy bastards on the town council had never bothered to fill in.

Dolores Miller, age fifty, was originally from Westchester, New York. At eighteen she had been as much a giggling girl as the rest of the giggling girls that pulled into the high school parking lot sporting their new driver’s licenses, haircuts and Ugg boots, as much a member of the giant human amoeba that oozed its way through the narrow halls and into lockers, classrooms, cafeterias and guidance offices crying about college applications and berating mothers. In high school and college she had been shy, bookish, conservative and not nearly as gregarious as Annie Thompson in Algebra II, nor as well-dressed as Mimi Wu in Pre-Calc I, nor as completely apathetic as Charlene Lerner in Trigonometry. On her first day as a teacher fresh from college at the age of twenty-three she had lain eyes on Dylan Wallace, a moody senior who blasted David Bowie from his Walkman and wore a leather jacket. For months afterward Dolores harbored the desire of taking that silent boy back to her sparse New Haven apartment and forcibly kissing away all the secrets she was sure he held in his dark eyes and having sex to Thriller. Dolores never told Henry Miller, her fiancé three years later that part of the reason why she married him was because he reminded her of Dylan.

And now she was stuck with three grease stains on the front of her blouse and a sticky cupholder and she still had a few leftover pre-calc and trig tests to grade. The grade grubbing twits in Level 1 would no doubt be scraping for every point she took off because they hadn’t shown all the work, and the mathematically impaired in Level 3 would not even glance at their tests before stuffing them into lockers to be rediscovered at the end of the year covered in graham cracker crumbs and sneaker prints. Dolores caught her reflection in the rear view mirror and found that she was scowling and that her lipstick had rubbed off onto the napkin.

Once when she was in the lunch line surrounded on both sides by students who carefully avoided looking at her she’d overheard Ronnie Durton, Will Walters and Timmy Schaffer from her pre-calc class saying Miller needed to get laid because she was such a fucking hard-ass that she nitpicked on every fucking thing they did and hey look Veronica Evans was passing by and she looked damn fine in those ass-hugging jeans.

“Miller drives a BMW, you know,” Will piped up, stuffing three fries into his mouth.

“Shit,” said Ronnie. Tim laughed.

“Who’d buy that for her?”

It was a beautiful car, silver like a minnow, with a built-in navigation system that she relied on when she went to see her sister Alice in Rhode Island, and she had now tarnished its loveliness with a sticky cupholder. Henry had bought it for her for their anniversary last year, and she’d felt slightly guilty because she had forgotten and he’d assumed that the extra-delicious chicken cacciatore she’d made was for their anniversary dinner.

6:43. Dolores cruised towards the back of the school where the teachers had their assigned spaces. She passed the senior parking lot where she spotted Mimi Wu getting out of her car, her hair slightly disheveled and half a bagel dangling from her mouth. She wondered what this special occasion could be when Mimi Wu was not tardy but forty minutes early for school. It infuriated her because Mimi would saunter in two minutes after the bell rang with all her dark hair neatly in place with her red bow headband. “Sorry,” Mimi always said with a lazy smile as she dug into the front pocket of her black and red messenger bag and brought out the slip of green paper, always signed “Matthew Crenshaw,” her biology teacher. Then her bracelets would click against each other as she walked to her seat in the back row courtesy of alphabetical order and she’d spend the entire class writing or drawing in her binder and consequently barely passed her tests. However, her impeccable homework average and the occasional easy quiz kept her average to just above a C+, something that nagged at Dolores whenever she inputted the grades because she always saw Mimi smiling when she got a test back. Why was that girl smiling all the time?

Then it struck her that the girl Dylan Wallace had started going out with halfway through his senior year, Angie Parker, also always smiled all the time. She teased her hair without hairspray and loved dressing in purple. When Dolores passed them in the old math wing that was now the English department, they would always be huddled together, whispering, holding hands, and Angie’s purple would stand out against the rest of the crowd with their headbands and neon colored leggings.

Dolores had reached the uphill slope that led up to her designated parking area. It was relatively empty but for two cars—a gold Prius and a dark blue Hummer. Behind her, the school loomed. From the rearview mirror Dolores could see movement in the large glass windows. This was the history wing—maps and culture charts and photographs of artifacts were tacked all over the walls. And then she saw Dylan Wallace and her foot hit the gas. Her BMW lurched forward, slammed into the Hummer and pinballed so that Dolores found herself thrown first forward and then backward and then a loud crunching and cracking sound, the sound of bricks being broken as though by a taekwondo master through several thousand pounds of metal and then the hiss of a metal teakettle she was surrounded by white clouds of steam and she thought she could see Dylan Wallace in the back window again and this time he was on the tile floor of the classroom she’d wormed into. Her shoulders ached a little where the seatbelt had restrained them and she blinked a few times, unlatched the seatbelt and got out of the car.

In the classroom next to Dylan Wallace’s she could see Mimi Wu’s mouth in a perfect little “o” as well as the twelve other kids and George Ross, the psychology teacher. Dolores waved. In less than five minutes the shriek of ambulances and fire trucks reached her ears and she could see the EMTs talking to Dylan Wallace, who’d gotten up off the floor and was perfectly fine save for a few scratches and a cut across his head but he wasn’t Dylan Wallace.