Mr Heron really didn’t like Christmas. Especially Christmas shopping.
He told his wife that he would pick up some candy canes for the stockings of the party for the in-laws, for some snotty nosed privileged children who lived in the suburbs.
After all the other stores were exhausted, Mr Heron found himself driving into the Mart parking lot. Making a quick sweep with his eyes to make sure that no one saw him, Mr. Heron locked the car, and bolted in , as anonymously as possible.
After walking through the carnage of Christmas Eve eve shopping, Heron found some candy canes that weren’t broken or half –opened.
He got in line, a long line. But shorter than the rest.
As he got closer, he noticed the checkout woman…. It is… no it couldn’t be. It was. A stout, sour faced teenager, who would look just right with a cigarette dangling from her lips , shot gun on one hip, bawling toddler on the other. Ashley. Ashley… W?
Heron was up too close. He would have switched lines if he could, but he was already late, and it was snowing. It would be too obvious. Maybe he could be invisible. But… kids ALWAYS remembered him…. Even when he fumbled with their names. Shit.
Sure enough, it was Ashley. This little girl, some 10, maybe 12 years ago, had been in the second grade class he was teaching. It was the worst grade for him. Ashley was sullen, confused looking then, too. And mean. Mr. Heron noticed how the other kids were scared of her… and when she thought the teacher wasn’t looking, she smashed Tuan’s head into the door, hard. Tuan was crying. Ashley gave a confused, sour look, “ I didn’t do ANYTHING”. She then kicked over a desk, before going down to the principal’s office with Ms. Jackie, the 2nd grade aide.
Mr. Heron wrote the incident up, and gave the referral to Ms. Farwell, the principal at Benjamin Baeneker Elementary school.
Soon enough, a special ed referral was started, and Ashley was gone in a month. Either moved or was transferred- he couldn’t remember. It was a hard year for him, and after she was gone in November, Heron had plenty of other things to worry about.
As he got to the front of the line, the usually verbose and garrulous Mr. Heron meekly, invisibly put down the candy canes. She wasn’t in his class very long. God… she still has the same confused, irritated & surprised look on her face. Shoulder length kind of blond hair,and an air of genuine dissatisfaction. PLEASE DON’T REMEMBER ME! I’m SORRY FOR THE HURT I CAUSED YOU!!!!
“ Thanks for shopping at Mart” she said after fixing a beady eye on him. Phew. Mr. Heron felt like a smuggler walking past security with the most dangerous contraband, undetected. It was all he could do to not break out into a run, a skip, a shout of joy. It was snowing hard, and he had to go to a Christmas function, which he despised almost as much as Mart.