Beecher at the Library
I seen Miss Beecher today at the library checking out a old lady's book. She had her head tipped down so I couldn't see her face real good but I knew it was Beecher on account of her hair is the exact same color as a car I stole once. Bronze metallic. Beecher doesn't look like a regular librarian but at least she didn't look like she was falling off a cliff the way she did most of the time back when she was trying to be a teacher.
I didn't go all the way inside the library, just stood in the doorway waiting for Letty and Juanito to finish listening to the story lady, but Juanito saw me and he yelled, "Eddie!" I quick looked at Beecher to see if she heard Juanito holler my name because if Beecher looked at me, then I would nod, maybe say, "Hey, how's it going." But she was busy helping another old lady find her library card so I ducked out.
First time I saw Beecher, I thought, Oh great, another one of those Peace Corps people with their organic shoes and their tofu sandwiches and their posters showing how important it is to save the whales and the rain forests and the baby seals and me and all the other semi-literate at-risk underprivileged economically deprived youth at the alt school who don't really give a shit about getting an education because what difference would it make if we did. We'd still be us. We'd still be freaks and losers except we'd be freaks and losers with educations, so we'd understand exactly what we couldn't have.
The day Beecher showed up at our English class, Edgar Martinez asked how long had she been a teacher. We knew Beecher was virgin the second she started to answer the question because the old teachers know better than to leave themselves open like that. Beecher told us she was going through a program for alternative certification because she didn't decide to become a teacher until after she already graduated college. So she said we had something in common because she was an alternative teacher and we were alternative students. For like two seconds, I started to fall for that idea, but I caught myself in time.
I don't miss Beecher or nothing, but at least she was better than the guy we have now who is a total pathetic pussy who wears pink glasses. He thinks if he tells us four hundred times a day that he went to Stanford University, then we'll appreciate what a big sacrifice he's making to be a teacher who gets paid crap and works in a place that looks worser than Juarez. He thinks we'll like him for devoting his life to helping disadvantaged kids become successful, productive members of society but we mostly think he's a pinche dickhead. At least if he was driving around in a cool car with a hot stereo and a shiny rich girl in the jump seat, we could be jealous and hate him and maybe we would jack him up and take his car, but now we hate him worser because he could of had all that stuff and he was too stupid to take it, so now nobody has it. If he really wanted to help kids who didn't have his advantages, he could of saved up his giant allowance and got his parents to buy him a real expensive car and then he could of just came here and gave us the money and the car. He could of even sold lottery tickets. I bet a lot of kids would go to school if they might win twenty bucks or a car just for showing up. But he blew it. How can you respect a teacher who wasn't even smart enough to figure that out?
Beecher didn't try to pretend she didn't appreciate her nice easy white-girl life. And she wasn't scared of us like most of the lady teachers are even though she's skinny enough that you could probably pick her up and throw her down the stairs real easy. And she didn't try to feed us all that crap about how useful our education was going to be someday, like how we would need algebra to figure out how many square feet of carpet we need in our living room because everybody knows that we'll be renting some crappy apartment our whole life and even if we could buy a house, measuring the carpet is the carpet guy's job and he probably has a calculator.
The first day when nobody would open their grammar books to the page number she wrote on the board, Beecher didn't even yell. She just sat down on the edge of her desk, still holding her book, and looked around the room. Not with mean eyes. More like she was surprised that we weren't all following her. Like if a mother duck turned around and instead of waddling along in that nice neat little line the baby ducks were running all over the place where they could get lost or killed so easy.
"Wouldn't it make more sense to exert a little effort and get through this material quickly, so we can move on to something more interesting and relevant to your lives?" Beecher asked us.
"Oh yeah. Ha!" T. J. Ritchie laughed his hard dirty laugh. "Like how to sell more crack?" T.J. is big, really big, probably seven feet tall, and he doesn't give a shit about anything. Usually new teachers give T.J. that look that says you're a stupid nothing loser and someday you'll be sorry you wasted your pitiful little life. Or they send him to the office or else just ignore him, but Beecher hooked her hair behind her ear with her finger like she does when she's thinking and said, "You're a drug dealer?"
T.J. shook his head and made check-her-out faces at his friends and they were all like, Duh. Beecher walked over and opened the door. "Then you might as well go." She flung her arm out into the hallway.
"You can't kick me out," T.J. said. "I didn't do nothing."
"I'm not kicking you out," Beecher said. "I want you to stay. But if you want to be a criminal, I can't help you."
"I don't need your help, lady. You think you're all better than us but you're not."
"I absolutely do not believe I am better than you." Beecher shook her head and her hair sort of shimmered around her ears. "I can understand perfectly well how a person might decide to reject capitalism and corporate corruption and choose a criminal career over a traditional education."From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Muchacho: A Novel by Louanne Johnson. Copyright © 2009 by Louanne Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Ember, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.