A Brass Monkey  -- a short story by Colin Kelly

Some teachers can be tough. Some can be awful. Some can be absolutely the worst. Even the day before the Christmas and New Year's break. Let's see if Mike will be able to cope with one of those “absolutely the worst” teachers.


Mike sat upright, a little nervous but confident. Mrs. Peterman sat at her desk, calling out the names of the students, and handing back the California Government class projects that represented one fourth of their final grade. She’d said that a project’s score would be downgraded if students didn’t use proper English. He’d spent a lot of time on research and making sure spelling, grammar, and punctuation were absolutely correct.

She finally called his name. He walked to her desk and picked up his report as the bell rang. Mike took a deep breath and looked at what she’d written in red on the top of the title page. ‘Good research. Acceptable conclusions.’ Mike let out his breath and grinned. He shoved his report into his backpack and left the classroom, joining the parade of kids leaving Edison High to head home for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“Okay dufus, what grade did ya get?”

Mike turned and grinned at his boyfriend Austen. “Don’t know yet, but I think it’s good.”

“Come on, let’s see your grade.”

Mrs. Peterman didn’t write the grade on the first page like other teachers. She wrote it on the last page. Mike got out his report and looked at the last page.

“What the…?”

He flipped through the pages and fumed. She’d circled every contraction he’d used. He’d spent a month working on his report, and she downgraded it for contractions?

“What did you get?” Austen pleaded.

“A freakin’ C-minus! Peterman downgraded me from an A for using contractions. She never said don’t use contractions! This is totally bogus!”

“That’s cold, man. Cold.”

“Yeah, old lady Peterman’s cold. Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!”

“MICHAEL WILLIAMS!”

Mike turned. Mrs. Peterman stood there, fists on her ample hips, glaring at him.

“Yes? You need something?” he said sweetly.

“What I NEED is for you to come with me to the Vice Principal’s office. NOW! Disrespecting me will NOT be tolerated!”

Mrs. Peterman barged into Mr. Taylor’s office, and Mike followed.

“Mr. Taylor! This… delinquent! …disrespected me. I want him suspended!”

“And how did he disrespect you?”

“I will not repeat what he said. It is too vulgar!”

Mike handed his report to Mr. Taylor. “She downgraded me from an A to a C-minus because I used contractions. She never told us not to use contractions, just to use proper English. I made sure that my spelling and grammar and punctuation were all correct because I didn’t want to be downgraded for anything wrong with those. Contractions are proper English.”

“And exactly what did you say to her that was vulgar?”

“Uh… well, just now she overheard me privately tell a friend she’s always cold to us, cold enough to freeze the… you know,” Mike blushed, and continued softly, “the balls off a brass monkey.” Mike looked down at the floor. He knew he was toast, he’d probably get detention or be suspended or something like that.

Mr. Taylor leafed through the report, and spent some time reading parts of it.

“This is for your English class?”

“No sir, California Government.”

“Please wait out in the hall, Michael.”

Mike stood across from Mr. Taylor’s office door and waited, wondering what was going to happen. Austen stood next to him, not saying anything, giving him the silent moral support that Mike desperately needed.

After a few minutes Mrs. Peterman stormed out of the office, gave him one of her typical hateful looks, and rushed down the hall toward her classroom. Mr. Taylor stepped into the hall and motioned for Mike to return to his office.

Austen squeezed his shoulder. “Good luck, man. I’ll be here when you get out. If you ever get out.” He grinned, and lightly punched Mike's arm.

Mike walked into the Vice Principal’s office and sat down, as nervous as a hive full of irritated yellowjackets. He clasped his hands together tightly and squeezed them between his thighs so they wouldn’t shake. He could feel perspiration starting on his forehead and in his armpits.

Mr. Taylor sat reading Mike’s report again, but this time it appeared like he read it all. Finally he wrote something on the first page and looked up.

“Mr. Williams, I talked to Mrs. Peterman.” He paused and stared at Mike.

‘Oh my god!’ Mike thought, ‘I’m going to be suspended for sure. When Mom and Dad find out I’m going to be grounded like forever. My life is so over.’

Mr. Taylor handed Mike his report and smiled. “You now have an A on your report. It’s very good. I’ve transferred you to Mr. Langston’s seventh period California Government class effective the day we get back from the holiday break. And, Mr. Williams, from now on please watch what you say about your teachers, and especially where you say it. Okay?”

Mike couldn’t believe what he just heard. He looked at the front of his report. Mr. Taylor had written a big letter ‘A’ using a red marking pen. He took a deep breath and couldn’t keep from grinning. “Okay! Thank you! From now on I won’t say anything negative about any teacher when I’m at school. And Mr. Taylor, have a Merry Christmas!”

“Go on, get out of here, go home, and you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, too. I’ll see you around school when we get back in January.” Unlike Mrs. Peterman, Mr. Taylor was definitely not cold like those proverbial body parts on a brass monkey. And instead of detention or worse, Mike got the very best Christmas present possible. No more Mrs. Peterman.

Mike put his report in his backpack, smiled and waved goodbye to Mr. Taylor as he walked out of the office into the hall. As soon as the door closed behind him, Austen grabbed his arm.

“Well? How much detention did you get? Did you get suspended? Or expelled?”

“You are just not going to freakin’ believe what Mr. Taylor did. Can you come to my house now?” Mike grinned.

“Yeah, I can go to your house. No problemo, as long as I call my mom to let her know, as usual. I guess from your smile that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. So come on, what did you get? Like, you have to write old lady Peterman a letter apologizing or something?”

“The first part of your guess is right, it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’ll tell you all about it on the way home. Then when we get to my house you can help me find one of those brass monkeys online. I want to buy one as a Christmas present from me to me. It will be a reminder of what I said about Mrs. Peterman. And I want to make sure it has brass balls. Big ones. The bigger the better.” They laughed, each thinking about what a brass monkey with those attributes might look like.

Mike put his arm around Austen’s shoulders and they walked down the hall and out the main entrance of Thomas Edison High School.



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This story and the included images are Copyright 2011 by Colin Kelly (colinian). They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.

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