Friday, September 21, 2018

An Eraser

When my wife and I lived and worked in California, both of us found ourselves at barrio schools at a certain point in our careers. It was a wonderful experience for both of us. From my point of view, I learned so much about kids, about teachers and, well, life.

One day, Kim came home and told me a story about one of her kids, Chad, and it stuck with me to this day. As her husband, I was a bit worried, but Kim has a toughness wrapped in gentleness that isn’t all that unique. I’ve seen that same combination in many colleagues I rub elbows with each day.

Kim pegged Chad as a class clown . . . at first. Wouldn’t listen. Did his own thing. But she had a knack with those kids. Still does, actually. But Kim found out later on that Chad was more than a class clown. He was in the upper echelons of a large gang in the area.

At some point during the year, Chad and Kim called a truce. She taught and he learned. At first, begrudgingly because after all, he was used to getting his own way. And, he didn’t want anyone to perceive him as weak.

Towards the end of the year, Chad was “gone” for about two weeks, maybe a little longer. Absent. Excused for “medical reasons.” When he returned to school and Kim’s class, he had some scars on his face and most of his hair was missing. Not a normal haircut, mind you. Not any type of surgery that Kim could tell. Just . . . missing.

Kim never asked about it, but welcomed him back to class and life went on as if nothing had happened. Then at the end of the year, Chad walks up to Kim when the two were fairly alone and somewhat private.

Chad said, “You’ve been really nice to me, so I think I need to tell you about what had happened to me.” Kim smiled and replied, “No, Chad, you don’t have to. I’m just happy you’re back.” Something to that effect. Chad insisted on telling Kim what had happened, so Kim listened.

One night, Chad and a friend stole a car. They rode around in it and they had finished with it, they decided that they needed to get rid of it along with any evidence. Their idea was to torch it. Set it on fire and be done with it. Stupidly, if not recklessly, Chad unscrews the gas cap and lights a match so he could see how much gas was left in the tank. Fumes. An open flame. Boom!

Chad and the friend were fortunate to be alive. Probably not the first time that could be said. Probably not the last time that could be said. Not the first run-in with the law. Probably not the last, either.

But Kim listened and at the end of the monologue, Kim said something like, “Well, I’m happy you’re alive and I’m happy you came back to my class.” Chad nodded, smiled, and walked away. Something like that.

Fast forward to the next school year. First day of class and Kim is taking attendance. Chad is now a senior, but not in Kim’s class.

Chad walks over, eyes the class and the class eyes him. Kim says, “Hi, Chad. Everything okay?” Chad smiles and says, “Everything okay, Mrs. Lewis? Everyone treating you okay?” Kim answers, “Yes, Chad. Everything is fine.” And Chad places an arm around her shoulders and says, “Good. Because if anyone doesn’t listen to you, let me know, and I’ll take care of it.” Kim answered, “Thanks, Chad, but I have it.”

Chad smiled at her, gave a “look” to the class, and walked away. And Kim never had a problem with any kid that year. Not one.

The thing is, Kim didn’t do anything extraordinary. Not really. Not anything a hundred other teachers do to or with kids. She smiled and listened. She taught. She had expectations and goals for the kids, and life went on.

But something happened along the way between Kim and Chad that created a connection. A trust. A feeling that all is safe, that Chad was safe. That Kim was in charge and Chad was a student . . . like or unlike the other students- you decide- and that was that.

With any kid, any student large or small, Trust is very much like an Eraser. Very much so.

As with any mistake, the mistake can be erased. But a bit of the eraser is gone in the process. The bigger the mistake, the bigger the chunk out of the eraser, until there is no eraser left to use. None. Like Trust. Often times, many times, Trust disappears and cannot be regained. How often has that happened to us? Too many, I fear. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I will be selling and signing copies of my books at three events coming up in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area. Hope to see you at one or the other or both! The first will be at:

Stafford's Fall Festival
Saturday, September 22 at 10 AM – 4 PM
163 Staffordboro Blvd, Stafford, VA 22556

The second will be at:

Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival
Saturday, September 29 at 10 AM – 4 PM
Old Mill Park; 2201 Caroline Street; Fredericksburg, VA 22401
I will be on a panel with other authors discussing Character and Setting Development from Noon to 12:45 p.m. in Tent One.

The third will be at:

Barnes & Noble
Sunday, October 7 at 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
1220 Carl D. Silver Parkway
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Thanks to all who have taken a chance on reading Caught in a Web. If you are interested in a copy on either Kindle or in Paperback, you can find it on Amazon  or on Barnes and Noble at

And if you do give Caught in a Web a shot, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!

Caught in a Web:
The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

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Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe