My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon
It was 1957. Standing in the doorway of senior English, Mrs.
Stoudemire looked as if she’d just flown in on her broom. Her clothes
were askew on her skinny frame. The side zipper on her skirt was
halfway around to the front and her blouse was missing a button. Her
blue-veined boney fingers were bedecked with rings a size too big.
The stones they flashed were too large to be real, and they rattled
against each other as she waved her students in from the between-class
“In, in, damned spot,” she said, changing Shakespeare’s quote to
serve her purposes. She jerked her head toward the twins from hell,
Bob and Rob Hornsby who were across the hall trying to trip unwary
students while hanging on to the arms of their giggley girlfriends.
Mrs. Stoudemire’s purple tinted gray hair seemed to glow. “Come on
in, boys,” she said to them. ‘Go, go,’’ she quoted again. “”Look how
I go, swifter than an arrow from the Tartar’s bow.’”
“Is that Shakespeare?” drawled Bob, winking at his brother.
“Nah!” said Rob before Mrs. Stoudemire could speak. “Can’t be.
Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, remember?”
Nothing rattled Mrs. Stoudenmire more than suggesting that the Bard of
Avon wasn’t the real author of Shakespeare. “That is an ignorant
falsehood!” she sputtered, clutching her copy of Macbeth to her flat
The boys waved to their girlfriends and then sauntered to their desks.
Smart teachers always assigned the twins’ seats as far apart as
possible. Different rooms would have been better. The room filled and
Mrs. Stoudemire closed the door and held up Macbeth. “Lady Macbeth is
trying to spur her indecisive husband to action,” she said, closing
her eyes. ‘I have plucked my nipple from my babe’s mouth,’ she
A giggle ran through the classroom.
“I have given suck and know how sweet it is to love the baby at my breast.”
The giggle turned into laughter.
Mrs. Stoudenmire opened her eyes. Her glasses were crooked and her
lipstick had missed her lips in a couple of places. “Don’t you
see–Lady Macbeth is saying to her husband, “I know this is cruel. I
know it isn’t natural. But you must do it anyway!”
A knock came at the door and the school secretary appeared. “Mrs.
Stoudemire, are you holding senior play tryouts this afternoon?”
Mrs. Stoudenmire rubbed her forehead. “Isn’t this the afternoon I’m
meeting with the newspaper staff?”
“That was yesterday, and tomorrow you meet with the yearbook staff.”
Mrs. Stoudemire took a deep breath. “Could we move tryouts to the next day?”
“Teacher meeting that day. Tryouts today, then?”
Mrs. Stoudenmire nodded, and the door closed. “Where was I?” she asked.
“You was telling us about dangling modifiers,” said Rob.
“And how hard they are,” said Bob.
Stifled giggles erupted and the the intercom sputtered to life. “Will
the following fifteen boys report to the front steps to lift the
principal’s car off the concrete blocks.” Amazingly, the names did
not include the twins.
When the door closed behind the five who exited, Mrs. Stoudemire said,
“Where were we?”
“Dangling modifiers,” Bob told her.
The intercom crackled again. “This is Principal Hicks. Mrs.
Stoudemire, is it this afternoon you’re doing play tryouts?”
“Yes,” said Rob in a high pitched voice.
Mrs. Stoudemire glanced down at her copy of Macbeth and lifted a
stack of papers from her desk. I’m going to ask you to memorize the
most famous quotes from the play. So I’m going to pass out…”
“Me too,” said Bob and fell out on the floor.
Mrs. Stoudemire ignored him and handed out papers. “I suggest that
Rob and Bob pay particular attention to these quotes. I just now
decided–we’re doing Macbeth for senior play, and I’m casting Bob and
Rob as Mrs. Macbeth. Bob can take the role on the first night and Rob
the second. Very true to Shakespeare’s day.”
For once the twins were speechless.
Now it is 2015. I have been that overworked teacher. I get Shakespeare.
Rest in Peace, Mrs. Stoudemire.