Wheat and Weeds

The menopausal waitress at the Cup-n-Saucer saw Lily exit her car.

“Hi, hon. Welcome back. Your friends are in their spot.”

“Thank you,” Lily said.

“Black coffee for you?”

“Yes, please.”

Lily walked towards Donald and Thomas McDavid.

“Ms. Rood, thanks for coming,” Donald said.

“Bonum diem,” Thomas said.

“Afternoon, gentlemen. Am I late?”

“No, Ms. Rood. All is well,” Donald said.

“May I ask then why afternoon coffee?”

“Have you heard from Beth Aims, Lily?” Donald asked.

“No. Why do you ask?” Lily wondered why Donald now used her first name.

“What do you think Beth is up to?” Donald asked.

“Why do you ask me questions I cannot answer, Donald?” Lily remonstrated.

“First you ask me if I’ve heard from Beth, and I tell you no. Then you ask me to speculate what she has been up to. Why do I sense you know the answers already?” Lily continued.

“Ms. Rood, since you came to Covenant, you and I have become—well, friends. Have we not?” Thomas McDavid asked.

“I hope so,” Lily said. “I believe we have, Thomas.”

“But why am I being questioned?” Lily pleaded.

“Because we are your friends, Ms. Rood. And Beth Aims and Desiree Dramal are friends–with each other,” Donald said.

“Yes. So?”

“People like Beth don’t have friends, Donald. They have co-conspirators,” Thomas McDavid said.

Mr. McDavid continued. “Did Iago work alone, Ms. Rood?”

“No,” Lily said with finality.

“Correct,” Thomas McDavid said. “He divided people. He sowed discord. He sowed seeds of mistrust. He thrived on innuendo, did he not?”

“He did,” Lily said. “’I am not what I am,’” Lily quoted from the play. “If Beth is my Iago, Desiree Dramal is my Roderigo?”

Suddenly Donald interrupted. “I am not educated in this stuff, Thomas. What we are suggesting, Ms. Rood, is that Beth Aims has not gone away. She is planted in Covenant’s soil whether we like it or not. And Ms. Dramal is not much different. She’s from our town, too, and has certain connections.”

“Why must everything come back to being from this town? It sounds less like a town than like a cult,” Lily said.

Immediately Lily saw her words wounded Donald. “I’m sorry, Donald. I didn’t mean that—well, not that forcefully. I just meant that…”

“It’s okay, Ms. Rood. I am an old man, a tired old farmer. I have lived here my entire life and I know the people, and they know me. I’m not here to defend this town or make it appear better than what it is. Thomas and I only want you to know what you’re up against. Fred Aims was our friend. And his daughters could not be more different from one another. Beth has always been—driven. But not by the good,” Donald said.

When he finished speaking, he folded his Jergens-scented hands in front of his face as if he were going to pray. But then he looked over at Thomas McDavid and spoke.

“Thomas, I’ve said too much. I’ll let you talk while I drink my coffee.”

The waitress appeared at the table, refilled the men’s cups, and poured Lily’s. Mr. McDavid inhaled deeply, held it, and slowly exhaled. He began to speak, but then looked away from Lily and towards the door.

Desiree Dramal and Beth Aims had entered. They stood at the threshold of the Cup-n-Saucer. They looked over to where Donald, Mr. McDavid, and Lily sat. Beth stared at Lily and smiled, her teeth shiny as swords.

(To be continued)

Lily and Desiree Dramal

Lily overheard Alice say her name. Lily intended to speak with Tim, Mrs. Aims, and Donald but when she heard Alice say her name again, she caught Alice’s eye. Lily sensed Alice’s excitement about introducing Desiree Dramal.

“Oh Lily, this is Desiree Dramal. I’ve known her and Beth since we were all girls. Desiree, this is Lily Rood. She teaches literature and writing with us now,” Alice gushed.

“Pleasure, Ms. Rood. Or is it Mrs. Rood?” Desiree asked, extending her right hand.

“Good afternoon. Miss, yes. Welcome to Covenant,” Lily said, shaking Desiree’s hand.

“I’m so excited to have you two meet. Desiree, you’ll be so impressed with Lily; she’s read everything. She’s got me reading an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel now. Isn’t that right, Lily?” asked Alice.

“I’m sure we all have our areas of interest,” Lily said. “Without music life would be a mistake, right? Reading is music for me. I don’t believe I can say I really chose it; it was more like it chose me.”

Wanting to remove herself as topic, Lily asked a question. “So what brings you to Covenant, Miss Dramal? It is Miss, right?”
“Yes, single still, Ms. Rood. We are still a small town here. Many of our young people have moved off for promises of careers in the city. Sarah and Ruth—you may know them already, I believe—they moved off. But others of us have remained. I guess some feel called to remain where we were planted. Isn’t that right, Alice?”

“You bet,” Alice said. “Desiree, Beth, and I have—oh gosh—we’ve known each other most of our lives. I’m so excited about how we get to work together.” Lily discovered herself longing to speak with Thomas McDavid, Tim, Donald, and Ellen Aims. But she forced herself to continue.

“And you will replace Beth Aims here, is that right?” Lily asked.

“I don’t know if ‘replace’ is the word. But I will take over a significant counseling role, yes. I see myself as a kind of rudder.” Lily’s abdomen tightened.

Donald’s gentle voice rescued Lily. “Ms. Rood, is that you?” He walked into the triangle of women. Lily caught the scent of Jergens as Donald shook hands with each woman.

“Donald, good afternoon. I did not know you were attending today’s meeting. Do you know Ms. Dramal?”

“I am familiar with her, yes. I watched her grow up alongside the Aims daughters, and Alice, too,” Donald said.

“I was just telling Ms. Rood,” Desiree said, “that some of us remain where we’re planted. We don’t move away. We have vocations here in our community.”

“Some do. Certainly,” Donald said. “I’m just a farmer–well, used to be anyway. I suppose it’s a matter of where we think we can do the most good. For my wife, our boys, and me, it would not have made much sense to pick up and leave.”

Lily listened. “But I know that we are thankful Ms. Rood was willing to leave teaching at Rook and join us here at Covenant,” Donald continued. Desiree said nothing.

“You bet,” Alice exclaimed. “It’s going to be a great rest of the term.” Alice turned to exit quickly as if she had forgotten something.

“Ms. Rood, it was a pleasure meeting you. I’m sure we will see each other regularly,” Desiree said.

“Welcome to Covenant,” Lily said.

“And welcome to our town, Ms. Rood.”

“Ms. Rood, do you have just a second? I know your teaching day is over and you’re probably tired, but I just have a quick question,” Donald said.

“Of course, Donald.”

“Thomas and I are going to the Cup-n-Saucer this evening. Would you care to join us?”

“Certainly,” Lily said. “What time?”

“Five o’clock,” Donald said. “See you then.”

Lily returned to her classroom to gather her materials she planned to work on later that night. The faculty and staff had largely dissipated when Lily passed back by the library. She looked for Tim, Sarah, and others but did not see them. As she passed through the front doors of the school, Alice popped out of the front office. Looking through the office windows Lily could see the bookroom door ajar from which Alice had sprung.

“Lily, I wanted to tell you I already finished Gatsby. Terrific! I can’t wait to discuss it with you,” Alice exclaimed. “I have it here for you. Nick Carraway would have liked our town instead of West Egg and East Egg, don’t you think?”

“Maybe so, Alice,” Lily said. “He misread much early on. Towns and cities had less to do with his struggle than with a dearth of  discernment.”

“Lily, we’re going to have such great talks. ‘Dearth of discernment’? Who talks like that but you, Lily? Anyway, let’s get together. We could even meet with Beth and Desiree,” Alice said.

“Um, we’ll get that coffee soon. Have a good evening,” Lily said. Alice returned to the bookroom wondering if she’d misread Fitzgerald’s novel or why Lily mentioned coffee.

Lily drove home. She thought of meeting Donald and Thomas McDavid at the Cup-n-Saucer. As she drove, she watched the fallow fields fill her car windows. Her thoughts flashed quickly as the patchwork fields–Easter in a few weeks; farmers would seed their fields; Covenant’s spring play; and Desiree Dramal.

Warning

Warning: The following paragraphs address an emotional issue—abortion. They also contain a link to a video of actress Martha Plimpton bragging about her multiple abortions. Finally, my paragraphs share some of my thoughts, some experiences germane to this issue, and a short confession. If you are willing, I invite you to continue. What is at stake is important; no, it is more than that.

I was driving home today to prepare my military gear. I am one of thousands of soldiers being called upon to support our nation amidst Irma’s lashing the land. But that is not what this is about. I had my radio on in my truck. Dennis Prager played an audio of actress Martha Plimpton who recently spoke to a gathering in Seattle, Washington. Her topic: the beauty of her abortions. Plural. Prager played forty seconds of Plimpton recalling her “best abortion” that was performed in Washington. The crowd reacted—with applause.
I’ve attached the link for you here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URiXH_iMLqo

First, I became viscerally angry. I felt my chest tighten. I felt my pulse quicken. I discovered I was squeezing my steering wheel. For a moment, I only pictured this woman’s face in my mind, and I despised her. I wish I could say I am more sanctified than that, but I’m not. I was angry.

Second, I turned off the radio. I pulled off the road. I had to. My stomach was hurting. Why? I felt I might vomit.

The feeling that came to my stomach was the one I felt when I took fellow soldiers through Nazi concentration camps in Germany. I’m thinking of one time in Dachau. Some of my fellow soldiers and I took a few days and I led them on a tour of Dachau. We walked under the iron gates, stood in front of trenches that Jews were forced to dig; we stood in silence before the ovens where men, women, and children were incinerated; we walked into concrete rooms where Zyklon B poison was used to gas millions. We stood under the smokestacks where charred human remains billowed out like snow. We saw rooms stacked with Jewish hair, teeth, and shoes—all torn from them, since they were “undesirables.”

Back to Plimpton. As I heard her speak, and I heard the crowd cheer, that old feeling returned—that sickness that rises in the stomach when we see evil, whether in a concentration camp, or when mothers are lauded for murdering their boys and girls in the womb. One word only I could think of: barbarism.

Third, I thought of my wife. Several years back, she was unable to carry two of our children to term. We lost both of them. I won’t give you all the details, because this is not about us, but about something that affects civilization–if we call it that anymore. At any rate, after several weeks of pregnancy, we had been to the doctor, and we had those proud moments when we bring ultrasound pictures back and display them on our refrigerator. But those children were not to be born. I suffered in a way that defies language. But it was nothing to compare with what I saw my wife suffer and endure. She still grows silent around the time their birthdays would have been.

How do these three things relate? How do they cohere? I pulled off the road because my stomach hurt. It hurt in a way that was visceral. Today brought up some of the greatest pains I have ever known: the horrors of witnessing the remains evil men unleashed upon other men, women, and children in the 1930s and 1940s in Europe—because of a secular worldview; and the horrors of seeing my family’s children die in their mother’s womb, and our praying for God to save them, to deliver them to us healthy; and an American actress boast of multiple abortions to an audience who applauded.

What did I do? I pulled over. I tried to pray. But I wept. I lamented our barbarism. I saw the irony of how we deploy soldiers to save our fellow men from hurricanes, but we murder our sons and daughters in the womb. Barbarism. And I wept and prayed some more.

I wanted to write of literary things, or of history, or of theological interests again. But today I could not. Some things are too important; silence is not my choice.

Desiree Dramal

Nathanael walked towards a rolling lectern stationed at the far end of the library opposite where Lily and Alice sat. For reasons Lily did not understand herself she peered outside to check the color of the sky. Bruise-colored clouds washed across the lowering sky; thunderstorms were moving in. March brought them faithfully. Lily swallowed and tried to moisten her throat and lips. Alice, seated next to her on the settee, seemed pleased at news to which Lily was as yet ignorant. Over Nathanael’s shoulders, under the florescent lights of the library and the gathering gray light entering from the windows, Lily saw Mrs. Ellen Aims, Donald, Sarah, Tim the Sunday school teacher from Beulah, two other men Lily had never seen before, a young woman about Lily’s age, and Thomas McDavid, seated a row behind the rest. He wore his familiar grin and appeared content, unflappable.

“Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming on short notice,” Nathanael said. “I will honor your time by trying to be brief. But I wanted to honor more than just your time. We have a new addition to Covenant’s faculty.”

Lily heard Alice emit a tiny squeal of excitement. She looked over at Alice, then back at Nathanael, who continued.

“Many of you have likely known Ms. Desiree Dramal for some time. She came up in this town. But to others among us, she may be new. She will be augmenting the staff of counselors we have at Covenant. My aunt, Beth Aims, though not in an official role as a Covenant counselor, may assist Ms. Dramal as she unites with our staff. Desiree Dramal, please come forward. And welcome to Covenant.”

Most of the faculty applauded as Desiree Dramal rose from her chair where she had been seated next to Nathanael’s chair behind the lectern. Alice stood and applauded, and looked at Lily as if to will her to join in the applause. Lily clapped lightly and tried to see the reactions of Thomas McDavid, Donald, Sarah, and Mrs. Aims, but she could only see Nathanael and Desiree Dramal near the lectern.

In looking for familiar faces, Lily glimpsed a plastic circular clock above the checkout desk: 3:55. Reflexively, Lily looked out the window. The sky was ashen, the color of burned charcoal.

“Thank you so much, Nathanael,” Desiree Dramal said. “Most of you know me, and of my long friendship with the Aims family, and of my love for Covenant. I am grateful to be here. I hope to earn your faith and friendship. I promise to counsel students in such a way that lives up to the best of what Covenant means for our community. Again, thank you.”

Alice and most of the other faculty clapped again. Lily clapped, too, and watched Desiree Dramal take her seat again as Nathanael returned to the lectern. As Nathanael rose, Lily noticed that Donald and Thomas McDavid were speaking quietly to each other on the back row of chairs beyond Nathanael. Suddenly Thomas looked over at Lily and winked, as if to reassure her. Everyone but Nathanael sat down again.

“I’ve asked Mrs. Wilkins to distribute some background information on Ms. Dramal and Ms. Rood as our newest employees. You will find those in your mailboxes in the main office, if you haven’t already. Also, please be reminded that we’re in March already. That means our spring play is in just a few weeks. What’s more, you should be nearing the completion of our core areas with our students. If you have students struggling with a particular area, please link them up with the appropriate teachers: Mr. McDavid for history; Mrs. Madden for math; Mr. Bloom for science; and Ms. Rood for writing and literature,” Nathanael said. “A complete list of teachers and subjects Mrs. Wilkins has already posted in the front office.”

When Lily heard her name, she straightened. She felt the glances of the faculty. Most nodded and smiled. Finally she caught uninterrupted views of Thomas, Donald, Sarah, and Mrs. Ellen Aims. They appeared thoughtful and cautious.

“If no one has anything else, we’ll dismiss,” Nathanael said.
“Ms. Dramal will be around for a few moments if you’d like to come welcome her to Covenant,” Nathanael said.

“Oh Lily, would you like to come meet Desiree?” Alice asked. “You’ll love her.”

“Um, sure. But would you mind if I just said hi to a couple of other folks first?”

“You bet,” Alice said. “I’ll be up front with Desiree, okay?”

“Okay, thanks,” Lily said.

Lily rose and walked towards Donald, Tim, Sarah, and the others she knew from Beulah. As she did, she saw Desiree Dramal wrap herself in conversation with each faculty member. She scaled her voice low, as if to used to hushed tones. Lily felt her dry throat again, and tried to swallow. She looked outside again, just before she spoke to Thomas McDavid. It had begun to rain.

(To be continued)

The Meeting

Lily fought her emotions when examining Hamlet. She had read and taught Shakespeare’s dramas and poetry for decades but she could not put Beth from her mind. She worried about Beth’s schemes and about her remaining connections to Covenant. Lily was not from this town; Beth’s entire life was rooted here. Lily nevertheless persisted teaching.

She wrote on her dry erase board of Hamlet’s endless conflicts. Hamlet struggled with his mother over her remarrying so hastily after King Hamlet’s murder. And as son of the murdered king, Prince Hamlet should have been the next ruler at Elsinore, but he was denied that role. Additionally, Hamlet suffered amidst a kingdom of corruption. His life was stripped of almost anyone he could trust. And the ghost of his murdered father, prompting him to avenge his murder—well, Hamlet’s conflicts called for our compassion as reader-witnesses of his struggles.

Covenant’s faculty, not unlike Elsinore’s citizens, was seeking trustworthy personnel. Nathanael was headmaster, but Lily knew now that Beth had not been crushed; the terse note confirmed that.

Lily assigned topics for her students to write on in their journals. As her students settled into writing, Lily sat down into the cheap swivel chair behind her desk and looked outside. Clouds the color of bruises slid across the firmament. Winds stirred. Then Lily rose from her chair and walked over to the rectangle of window. As she neared the window she caught her reflection in the glass. Her muslin dress seemed to her as sackcloth. She beheld her aging frame. Did God ever hide his face, she wondered.

The day limped along. Finally the last classes dismissed. The afternoon meeting time neared. Lily walked the corridor to the library. Looking up, she saw Alice standing in front of the library doors.

“Hey, Lily. Are you ready to meet our newest employee?”

“I think so,” Lily said. “Are you familiar with her?”

“You bet,” Alice said. “She is a friend of Beth’s. They’ve been inseparable since girlhood.”

“Really?” Lily responded. “Interesting.”

“Why do you say ‘interesting’?” Alice asked.

“Sometimes it seems Covenant is skeptical of hiring outside of this town, with few exceptions,” Lily said.

“That’s ‘interesting’ you would say that, Lily. Beth would like that,” Alice said.

“Lily, would you like to sit together?”

“I usually sit in the same spot each time we have meetings, if you’re okay with that.”

“You bet,” Alice said, and followed Lily. Lily looked to confirm the settee near the shelves of Dickens’ works had not been moved.

Lily looked for Thomas McDavid’s face among the other entering faculty and staff personnel but did not see him. But Nathanael entered with his grandmother, Ellen Aims. Her face had the same warmth she exhibited at Beulah. Mrs. Aims saw Lily as soon as she and Nathanael entered. Lily rose and walked over to them.

“Lily, nice to see you, dear. Are you finding Covenant satisfactory? And is my grandson leading well?”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Ellen. Covenant promises much—bright students and fine leadership.” Lily listened to her words, wondering if she’d be misunderstood.

“Well, Nathan is like his mother and father—a born learner. I am so proud of him,” Mrs. Aims said.

“How about we get settled, okay?” Nathanael said to his grandmother. “I should move things along this afternoon.”

“Of course, Nathan.”

 
Lily returned to the settee near Dickens’ works.

“You know Mrs. Aims?” Alice asked.

“Somewhat,” Lily said. “I have been visiting Beulah. She is a very kind woman.”

“Like our founder,” Alice said. “We have good people here, Lily. I’m so glad you’re here. You’ll like our new employee, too. She’s a lot like Beth. It’ll be good to have them working together, even though Beth’s role has changed. Aren’t you excited?”

(To be continued)

Broken and Beautiful

Broken but beautiful. Ever had the experience of seeing the same pattern over several days? I don’t mean patterns like traffic or how we arrange silverware in our kitchen drawers. No, I mean patterns that speak to something deeper. If you have experienced them, what follows may resonate with you. If patterns are lost on you, skip this altogether. I write as one convinced that patterns are important. Why? Because confluence, convergence, and the coming together of ideas may serve as presages. Patterns exist for several reasons. One of those reasons is to act as messengers. Let me explain.

Last week I read a short theology book. The author wrote of how all people who are honest admit that our world is broken, and that we all are broken people. We know intuitively that the world is a fallen place. And we know that we’re fallen, too. Witness the current destruction of statues and monuments to America’s history by angry mobs. Witness the targeted slaughter of law enforcement officers. Witness the rancor among pundits who seem to have relinquished reasoned debate and replaced it with ad hominem attacks. Most of us would admit that the world we live in is hostile, rancorous, and well—broken. This brokenness is not just external to us. It is not merely “out there.” If we are honest, brokenness is part of the way we see ourselves. No pattern yet, right? Hold on. It is coming.

So I kept reading the book and thought, “Yes, this rings true. We are broken.” But then the author did something else. He used the term “beautiful” to describe us, too—amidst our brokenness. For many readers, that term might not signify much. But for others, that term denotes that a lot more is going on; namely, there is beauty in this broken world. There is an aesthetic to the universe. Yes, there is ugliness, deformity, depravity, etc. The list is long of how brokenness manifests itself in some people’s cruelty to one another. However, humanity is still beautiful. Then I put the two words together—broken but beautiful. That was last week.

Now to this week. In a Sunday school class, a teacher was leading us in an examination of some of what Scripture teaches about how Christ-followers will—not may—but will suffer. We looked at Peter’s words: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). And then we read James’ words: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2). Do you see the pattern? The world is broken, but beauty abides still. These broken people are beautiful in the crucible.

Then we looked at Paul’s words from prison: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear than I still have” (Philippians 1:29-30).

 

Then the teacher said this: “We are broken but still beautiful.” I almost slid out of my chair. The same terms, the same truth, the same pattern—broken but beautiful.
The pattern asserted itself through experience, through a book, then through a teacher at church—with its simple message: broken but beautiful.

When we had eaten lunch and returned home after church, and changed into comfortable clothes, my son said, “Dad, let’s throw the football.” Even though I had a thousand other things to do to prepare for the week ahead, the pattern emerged. Excuses came to my mind: I need to work in the basement; I need to wash my truck; I need to prepare for the course I’m teaching, and on they ran. But here was my son, asking to do what is beautiful to him.

As we threw the ball to each other, I watched him run the hill and sprint for passes. I saw the white laces spin round as the football arced towards him. I heard the sounds of his cleats on the earth and watched the way sun fell in patches on our driveway and through the overhanging white oaks. And the pattern whispered—broken but beautiful.

Lily is Questioned

Beth’s words, “It is not finished,” now assumed the colors blue and black worn by the lady Nathanael escorted into the counselors’ offices. Colors of bruises, Lily thought. Images washed over her mind. Beth’s ruined hair, Lily sneered to herself, was the color of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Her raven black nails at the ends of her mannish hands, the jangle of endless gold bracelets and tarnished rings betrayed want of character. Suddenly Lily was aware she was sweating. Seeking comfort, she glanced through the rectangle of glass in her exterior wall at the oak outside, as if a tree might herald refuge. But its limbs jeered at her, like creation scorned her gaze. The bruise-colored clouds above deepened her gloom.

“Good morning again, everyone. What questions do you have about Hamlet now that you’ve seen him plot to entrap his murdering Uncle Claudius?” Lily asked, trying to pull her thoughts, too, back to the play rather than to her melancholia.

“Do you think Hamlet loves his mother, Ms. Rood,” Michael asked.

“What makes you ask that?” Lily asked in turn.

“Hamlet aims to avenge his father’s murder–more than he longs for his mother and Claudius to repent for the murder of King Hamlet,” Michael said.

“I think he loves his mother, Michael. But he is prompted by his dead father’s ghost. He is importuned, in fact, to swear vengeance. Hamlet says, ‘The time is out of joint. O cursed spite/That ever I was born to set it right!’” Lily said.

“I know,” Michael said, “but he seems so hateful to his own mother.”

“I think Hamlet loves his mother and his father—both of them. But perhaps it is the murder, the corruption and cover-ups in the kingdom, that Hamlet’s personality–his constitution–cannot endure. For whatever reason, he takes justice, as he sees it, into his own hands. He cannot accept the dissolution. Hamlet does not abide fallenness well.”

“Fallenness?” several students asked.

“Yes, that things are not the way they were in the beginning, that something is rotten, not just in Denmark, but with the world. Make sense?” Lily said.

Michael persisted. “So you think Hamlet loves his mother but he loves the idea of a perfect Denmark, a perfect kingdom, an unfallen world, more? Is that what you’re saying, Ms. Rood?”

“I think I am, Michael. May I ask you all a question now?”
The class sat up in their desks whenever Lily did this.

“Do you think Hamlet loved the truth more than he loved people?” Lily asked.

Lily watched her students’ faces. For a moment the class was silent.

“I hope not!” came a voice from the corridor. It was Thomas McDavid, smiling.

“Mr. McDavid. Welcome to our discussion. Would you like to lend some historical perspective?” Lily asked.

“I don’t know if it’s a historical perspective, Ms. Rood, or just a commonsense one,” Mr. McDavid said.

“As you wish then,” Lily said.

“When people love ideas more than people, blood spills. Empires designed on the basis of bad ideas litter history. Carnage is as old as, well, the fall…to use your language.”

“I didn’t ask whether he loved ideas more than people, but whether he loved the truth more than he loved people,” Lily said.

“Are they mutually exclusive?” Michael asked.

“Are you able to expand on your question, Michael?” Lily asked.

“I mean, what if Hamlet loved his father, and was therefore justified to hate Claudius, his father’s killer? That seems like a natural response, right? How does that make Hamlet one who loves truth more than people? Why must loving the truth be opposed to loving people?” Michael asked.

“Michael, I didn’t say that it was, did I?” Lily asked.

“No ma’am, Ms. Rood, you didn’t. But I thought you were suggesting that.”

“I simply asked whether Hamlet loved the truth more than he loved people,” Lily repeated.

“Because Hamlet loved the truth, he hated the corruption, the fallenness of things. Is that what you’re saying, Ms. Rood?”

“I think so, Michael. But I think Hamlet assumed roles that did not properly belong to him,” Lily said.

“Setting things right was not his prerogative, was it?”

“Vengeance was not rightly his, but he made it his, and tragedy unfolded,” Lily said.

“Just as I was saying, Ms. Rood!” said Thomas McDavid, smiling. “By the way, I did not come to conjecture about Hamlet’s motives, my young friend, but to tell you that Mrs. Wilkins says we’re going to meet in the library this afternoon at 3:45 to meet the new counselor.”

“Yes of course,” Lily said. “Thank you, Mr. McDavid.”

Lily and her students watched Mr. McDavid turn away.

“We have a new counselor?” the students erupted. “Who is it? Did someone leave? Did someone get fired?”

“This is English class. We don’t entangle ourselves in banalities, now do we?” Lily asked. “How about we return our thoughts to Hamlet’s plot to avenge his father’s murder? Isn’t that where our focus should be?”

“We were just wondering, Ms. Rood. Aren’t you curious about the changes at our school?” asked a polite girl at the rear of Lily’s class.

“I suppose I should be,” Lily said. “You are right. I suppose I should be.”

(To be continued)