WHEN ALL-ELSE FAILS, START SINGING AND DANCING!
After learning of my past affair with Bill Clinton, the West Chester Friends School--West Chester, Pennsylvania-- fired me. I had no trouble finding part-time work as a substitute teacher. The local Detention Centers kept me booked for weeks in advance. I learned I was one of their most popular substitutes because.... I was available.
Most of the licensed teachers in the area were afraid to teach students in the Detention Centers, especially the Center that housed sex offenders. For me, safety had never been an issue. When I taught at the Centers, there were always two or more guards in my classroom.
That particular Friday morning, arriving to teach at the Center for sex offenders, there seemed to be more activity than usual. The center’s director stopped briefly to say hello and mention that one of the Center’s more illustrious “clients’ would be leaving the next day. His staff was preparing for a large crowd of media and additional law enforcement for tomorrow’s Press Conference.
The client was being transported to New York State to serve an eighty year sentence. It seems the young man, recently turning eighteen, had committed savage acts of rape, murder, and dismemberment of three different women. His three victims ranged-widely in age—with the youngest being nine years of age, the next youngest being thirty-five, and the oldest being seventy years old. The extreme savagery used in all three cases caused even the most seasoned officers, investigating the killings, to cry-out for instant justice. Due to the killer’s notoriety, Pennsylvania’s Governor was sending extra teams of law enforcement to make sure the transfer from Pennsylvania to New York went smoothly.
Locating my room assignment for the day, I decided to get an early start by posting reading assignments on the board and placing a textbook on each student’s desk. The roster indicated there would be seventeen students in today’s history class. The classroom was new. In the past, I’d never taught in this particular room. I noted my desk faced five rows of student desks and the only door was located behind the students, at the back of the room. It crossed my mind that the students were between me and the door but, with two chairs, one on either side of the door, I felt safe, knowing two security guards would be guarding the exit.
Soon, the students filed in-each finding his assigned desk, while I proceeded to take attendance. Talking was not permitted between classes nor during class yet today’s silence seemed almost premeditated. Looking at the students filing in, no one looked familiar which wasn’t surprising since the Center functioned like a revolving door. There were exceptions but, overall, sex offenders stayed in the Center only until their eighteenth birthday.
At that time, they were transferred to a predesignated prison somewhere in the United States to begin serving their sentences. I was a little surprised to see the two guards located on either side of the door, were small in stature and appeared nervous, somewhat unsure of themselves. In the past, my room guards had been large, strong-looking men with an air of no-nonsense. These young guards looked weak and vulnerable. But, believing the Center knew best, I dismissed my apprehension.
I introduced myself and began the day’s lesson. Looking around, I observed the usual expressions of boredom, a few young men who were overly-medicated—hoping to sleep—and the blank stares from reluctant learners. But, when I looked into the eyes of the student on the third row, four desks from where I stood, there was no doubt, Evil stared back. Well-built, light-skinned, and with the handsome, poised look of a professional male model, the young man looked straight at me, his gold-colored eyes mesmerizing me with such intensity, I shuddered. Don’t ask me why but—I sensed death.
Forcing my eyes away from the compelling student and hoping to break the doomsday atmosphere, I started reading the first sentences of the textbook assignment, aloud, until I heard the sound of a desk scooting across the floor—and looked up. The student with all the trappings of a male model now stood beside his desk. “Hey, Bitch-Lady, we don’t want to hear you read, we want to watch you perform. In fact, I’m going to spread you out on that big desk behind you and fuck you ‘til you bleed like a stuck pig. I’m going to strip you buck-naked and after I finish fuckin your eyeballs out—every stud in this room’s gonna have a piece of your white ass.” Looking to his left, he said “Come on Jonah, you hold her legs and if she tries to fight, cut the bitch’s throat.” As soon as Mr. Death started speaking, I watched the two guards run out the door. Now Jonah and my declared rapist were walking toward me. Several others stood up too, waiting to assist their self-appointed Leader. Glancing at the faces of the students still seated, I saw a mixture of fear and curiosity as everyone waited for the action.
I had no time. In order to reach the door to freedom, I had to get past my offenders. Who knows why I did-- what I did--next. I opened my mouth and launched into the aria, Caro Nome—the aria I’d sung years before in The Miss America Competition. My lyric soprano voice blasted the high notes with all the passion and strength I could muster and, as I sang, my body twirled, moving me around in circles, and I danced. I never stopped dancing, waving my arms high above my head, and I sang. My legs spun me into leaps, twirling me around like a ballerina, while I sang my way past Mr. Death, and the other students. They appeared bolted to the floor like statues.
Yes—I caught the classroom off-guard with my unexpected outburst of song and dance—giving me just enough time to whirl out the door and into the arms of the Center’s Director. Armed guards rushed past me, as more guards arrived to barricade the area. Only then did I discover that the student who could pass for a male model—whose mesmerizing eyes spoke Pure Evil and who intended to violently rape me—was the notorious “client” who would soon begin serving an eighty-year prison sentence. Clearly The confident and deadly young man figured he had nothing-to-lose by committing one more vicious act of sexual violence.
Follow-Up: The incident traumatized me enough, I never returned to teach at the Center for Sex Offenders. Confrontations, near-death experiences, and constantly living on the edge, were not included in my dreams for a more- peaceful and happy future.
I’ve often wondered what prompted me to use “Song and Dance” as my weapon of escape but....who cares!?!?!? It worked!
PS, Read my book! You won’t be disappointed!