The Gum Chewers | Teen Ink

The Gum Chewers

March 20, 2009
By Jackie Katz PLATINUM, New York, New York
Jackie Katz PLATINUM, New York, New York
20 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I never actually intended to do what I did. I mean, I never thought I would go to such extremes. Some might call me crazy—but I swear I’m not one of those psycho mass-murders. You should have seen these kids chew gum.

I teach, well, taught, 11th grade English, and most of the time my students didn’t find me too interesting. They listened to their iPods, they feel asleep, they doodled. I didn’t make much effort to punish them. What could I have done? I could’ve pulled the head phones of their ears, woke them up, grabbed the pens from their fingers and given them all detention. But that wouldn’t have made them interested in books. So I let it all slip by in class, and gave them C+’s when reports were due.

I let the gum chewers get by most of t he time. The gum-chewers, as I called them, were the group of girls who clustered in the front of the room. They chomped on huge, colorful gumballs all the time, but otherwise they were my best students. They participated, and actually read the assigned books. But their gum—they chomped while I spoke, they chomped while I read aloud, and worst of all, they chomped while they spoke. The gum just sitting in their mouth, staining their teeth and tongues. I could have asked them to spit it out, I suppose. Gum is against school rules. But if they spit it out, it would be sitting in my garbage can for the world to see, sticky and slimy. If they used a tissue or a piece of paper, I would feel tempted to squish it or play with it, which would be worse.

Gum is one of the most tempting yet disgusting substances. It’s sticky and fun to play with. It’s a colorful wad of sugar and dye. It’s yummy, and then gets gross and flavorless. I don’t know what to think of gum. All I know is that I can’t stand watching others chew it, and I get grossed out if I chew it myself.

Three months ago during my class, those girls were particularly bugging me. I already had an unlucky morning that day—I spilled coffee on my pants, I misplaced my graded papers, and my car’s headlights were out. But mostly, those gum-chewers really pushed me to the limit. All of them were staring at me as I lectured, chomping and staring in unison. Then one of the girls spoke. But before she got two words in, I went and took the gum out of her mouth myself. Yes—I stuck my hand in her mouth, got rid of the gum, and threw it in the trash, throwing newspaper over it so I wouldn’t see it. The girl gasped, spitting my germs onto the floor. The class fell silent.

Now everyone was staring at me, in shock or disbelief. Some were whispering in the back. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead. I couldn’t just go on with the class, and yet I didn’t want to look like I regretted my actions by apologizing. Besides, the class wouldn’t care if I apologized. Everyone would tell their friends anyway. Soon the whole school and faculty would know. They would all be scared of me. Eventually the headmaster would know. Would I get fired? My wife would kill me.

The class was still silent. The gum-chewers (the rest had spit our their gum in tissues but kept the tissues in their hands) were comforting the girl, and even gave her a Listerine strip to get the taste of my hand out of her mouth. I looked behind me to take a moment to myself. I saw my rain stick—this thick wooden log that you flip and all of these beads make a trickling, rain-like noise to silence the class.

As I said at the beginning, I never intended for this to happen. I didn’t plan any murders or thought this would ever be the case. But I picked up the heavy rain stick. It felt powerful in my grip. I faced the class. The class still looked scared, but they weren’t completely quiet anymore. I raised the stick. It felt even more powerful. And then I just started bashing the faces of the gum-chewing girls. All four of them. I bashed and bashed until they were bloody and broken. The rest of the class ran out of the room. And then a bunch of faculty came in. And that’s why I’m here, in jail, for the rest of my life.

I suppose I shouldn’t have worried about being fired, because being jail is far worse, and my wife was far more upset. Apologizing wouldn’t have been so hard.

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