"Benny and Me"
I was walking to work when Benny Mast stepped in front of me and said, I just want you to know that I always fucking hated your class. You were the worst teacher ever. Sidestepping around Benny without making eye contact, as though he were a crazed person, I continued on my way.
A couple of years later, I was purchasing a bottle of Malbec in the liquor store, and when I looked up, whom did I see behind the counter? Benny Mast looked about 30, though he had to be no more than 25. It was probably the tattoos, and circles under his eyes. All he said was, $13.23.
Sometime after that, I read in the local paper that Benny Mast—in the article, referred to as “Benjamin Mast”—was apprehended at the train station for groping female passengers. This was, apparently, his third offense.
And on another afternoon, as I was coming out of the 7/11, I saw Benny Mast staggering out of Malloy’s Bar. He looked about him, bewildered, as though he couldn’t believe it was daylight. Then he collapsed onto the sidewalk. I hesitated; Benny Mast or not, one shouldn’t leave a man lying drunk and vulnerable on the sidewalk. But then a police car, lights flashing, pulled up; and I got into my car and drove away.
The next time I saw Benny Mast, he was working at my school; at his former school: not as a teacher, but as a maintenance person. He said nothing to me when I saw him mopping the cafeteria floor. I then asked my principal if he knew that Benny Mast was one of the maintenance men; and my principal sighed and said that human resources had gotten the all clear; that they wouldn’t have hired him if he hadn’t passed the background check.
Maybe Benny got exonerated. Or perhaps he knew someone on the board of ed.
I’ve said all I’ve had to say.
S.F. Wright lives and teaches in New Jersey. His work has appeared in Hobart, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and Elm Leaves Journal, among other places. His short story collection, The English Teacher, is forthcoming from Cerasus Poetry, and his website is sfwrightwriter.com.