Lily (Part twenty-nine)

“Miss Rood, someone else is at your door,” Michael said.

“I’m very sorry, guys,” Lily said. “This is keeping you from our examination of Hamlet’s methods and/or madness, isn’t it?”

Through the rectangle of glass of her classroom door, Lily glimpsed Beth’s frame and red blouse.

“Ms. Rood. Would you do me the favor of coming to the counselors’ offices during your planning period today, please?” Beth asked.

“Today? I’m trying to get through Hamlet and Great Expectations with my seniors. Does it have to be today?” Lily asked.

“Thanks so much, Ms. Rood. I will see you then,” Beth said, turning her back. And she was gone. Beth personified dismissiveness towards those by whom she felt threatened.

Lily heard the clinking of Beth’s bracelets as she faded down the hall towards the counselors’ offices.

Reentering her class, Lily labored to refocus her mind upon Michael’s earlier question about ghosts. But her thoughts were of meeting with Nathanael early tomorrow at the Cup-n-Saucer, his cryptic intimations of what happened in his mother’s past with Beth and Ruth, and now being called to the counselors’ offices… de trop.

“’When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.’ Who said that?” Lily asked her class.

“Jesus,” the class said.

“No, not Jesus,” Lily said.

“Shakespeare?” the class said.

“Yes. In this very play you’re to have read and understood,” Lily said.

“You always tell us the Bible and Shakespeare supply most of the world’s wisdom,” Michael said.

“I stand by that, Michael. And I’m sure Lily Rood figures in a close third.”

“You’re too much, Miss Rood,” Michael said amidst laughter.

As Lily had their attention again, she tried to reenter Elsinore and the question of Hamlet seeing his father’s ghost.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief, she heard in her mind.

It was only first period and her planning period was hours away, when she would walk to the counselors’ office; the irony was too much. Beth, a counselor, then headmistress for a blink, and now—what? To counsel Lily? To bring her into whatever past the Aims daughters apparently had never outgrown?

(To be continued)


Lily (Part twenty-eight)

Michael’s questions spurred Lily. Why? Always the question. Lily remembered stepping from her car onto Beulah’s blacktop parking lot for the first time. Weeks ago now when she met Donald, Fred Aims, Tim the Sunday school teacher, and Beth. Even with Beth, Beulah called to her. Tim taught Scripture the way she taught literature: read the text, explain the context out of which it was created, and then probe the situations and characters based upon the type of literature it is. Only by doing at least these things could one rightly interpret literature. Tim asked thoughtful questions, too, a hallmark of powerful teaching. Donald was there. And Mrs. Ellen Aims. And the pastor seemed humble and wise. Yes, she thought, she appreciated Beulah and her people.

And at Covenant, she believed she had a friend in Thomas McDavid. He encouraged her delicate disposition each time they were together. He was too old to view her sexually, so she felt safe with him. Moreover, he appeared to have read everything. He feigned not knowing which characters did what in Shakespeare’s plays or in the great novels, but Lily knew that he knew them all.

But what about Covenant’s leadership? What would happen to Beth, or between her, Sarah, and Ruth? And there was Nathanael.

“Miss Rood, did you hear me?” Michael asked.

“I’m sorry, but what did you say?” Lily said.

“I asked you whether you think Shakespeare expected us as readers of Hamlet to believe in the reality of ghosts. After all, King Hamlet appears as a motivating force for many, if not all, of Prince Hamlet’s actions,” Michael said.

“Excellent, Michael. What do you all think about the question Michael has raised, class?” Lily asked.

As hands went up to respond, Nathanael knocked upon Lily’s classroom door.

“I’m sorry, class. Give me just a minute, okay?” she said, and walked from the front of her classroom to the door. Heads swiveled in unison following Lily to her door.

“Good morning, Ms. Rood. I’m sorry to interrupt your class,” Nathanael said.

“It’s okay, but is everything alright?” Lily asked.

“Actually, I came to ask you a few things,” Nathanael said.

“Really?” The question hovered in the hallway air between them.

“Perhaps I should say that I feel like you are owed some explanation of what has occurred at Covenant, and a bit of background on my mother, her sisters, especially Beth, and how I came to be here,” Nathanael said.

“I would welcome all of that,” Lily said.

“Do you know where the Cup-n-Saucer is?” Nathanael asked.

“I do.”

“How about there about 6:45 tomorrow morning?”

“Sure,” Lily said. “I’ll be there.”

“Very well, then,” Nathanael said.

“Sorry again about interrupting class. Literature was my favorite subject in high school, and I’ve taken you away from your class for too long,” Nathanael said.

“Well, you’re the headmaster, right? I suppose they may excuse my brief absence from discussing Hamlet,” Lily said.

“Oh, do we not teach Dickens’ Great Expectations to seniors nowadays?”

“We do, for sure. But we are discussing drama this morning, especially how our past… you remember King Hamlet, right? Anyway, his ghost, or Hamlet’s mind, or whatever…well, the past played a crucial role in his future,” Lily said.

“As it did for Pip in Great Expectations, if I recall correctly,” Nathanael said. “Funny,” Nathanael continued. “The past is really what I wanted to discuss with you tomorrow morning.”

“I will see you at 6:45, then,” Lily said, and returned to her class.

(To be continued)


Lily (Part twenty-seven)

“Miss Rood, why did you leave Rook and come here to Covenant?” Reserved by temperament, when Michael asked a question, the class (and Lily) knew to listen.

“Am I not the one to ask questions here, Michael? It’s my classroom,” Lily said.

“I know, Miss Rood. And I’ll answer your questions about Pip and Joe, and about whether Hamlet was mad or not, and whether I think Hamlet actually loved Ophelia. I was just wondering, that’s all. You ask us all the time how these characters we study—Hamlet and Ophelia, Romeo and Juliet, Pip, Joe, and Miss Havisham—how they all show us truths about ourselves, about our human position, as you say… so I thought I would just ask you to apply those questions to yourself. Does that make sense, Miss Rood?”

“It does, Michael,” Lily said, pausing. “I suppose I came because I felt called, in the sense of vocation. What I mean is that moving here from Rook, coming to Covenant, finding my way here is the way of faith.”

Lily could see her entire first period class listening. Michael led this tiny army of questioning teenagers in discovering their teacher’s motives.

“Do you mean faith in a religious sense, Miss Rood?” Michael continued.

“Michael, you are asking important questions. And I’m not sure that I can answer them sufficiently in this setting. Do you remember how Hamlet’s family, and even his friends, thought he was sometimes mad, or that he was doing things that upset the world’s expectations of a prince?”

“Yes ma’am, I do,” Michael said.

“I suppose my response is somewhat analogous to that. Moving here, leaving my comfort, walking by faith, et cetera, is my duty in faith. A deeper question, Michael, might be in whom or in what is my faith? Put another way, in whom or in what is your faith? That question could be addressed by each of us as thoughtful people, couldn’t it?” Lily said.

Michael paused and looked away for a moment, then looked back at Lily.

“I’m glad you came, Miss Rood.”

“I am, too, Michael,” Lily said. “Now may we reenter Elsinore to see how the play is going to turn out for Claudius and Gertrude?”

Lily’s students opened their paperbacks of Hamlet. As they turned the play’s pages to find the right location for today’s study, Lily looked out through the rectangle  of glass in her classroom door. Thomas McDavid was holding a crimson-colored sweatshirt in both hands above his head and mouthing, “I have you a sweatshirt!” In bold letters across the front and back was written: COVENANT.

(To be continued)