Anna “Belle” Wilkinson sat in the waiting room outside of Principal Smith’s office. She fidgeted with her bracelet on her left arm and tried to remain calm.
“What has Eric done now?”
Once again, the school asked her to come in to talk about her son. For months she had tried to communicate with Eric. Her attempts to relate with her son had failed. Now, here she was again.
The phone buzzed twice. The secretary, an older woman with grey hair and a bad perm, answered the phone on the third ring. She gave a couple of non-sensical grunts and hung up the phone.
“You can go in now, Ms. Wilkinson.”
Anna stood and smoothed down her flowery blouse. She took a deep breath and started toward the door. The old woman gave Anna a dark look as she passed. Anna knew the look all too well, she’d seen it too many times to not know what the old woman thought about her.
Principal Smith sat behind a quaint desk. His degrees hung on the wall behind him in plastic frames often found in the local dollar store. Smith wasn’t much to look at. His brown hair had begun to thin before he reached the age of twenty. Smith’s eyes were cobalt blue and lacked warmth. A thin mouth stretched across his narrow face and highlighted the coldness in his eyes. Those two dead eyes followed Anna’s movement as she made her way in.
“Have a seat, Anna. We need to discuss Eric’s latest incident.”
“I’m sorry Principal Smith. I don’t know what is going on with my son.”
Smith nodded his bald head in a condescending manner and laced his fingers together. His eyes seemed to grow colder.
“Today, he got into a fight in the bathroom. Eric punched Billy Crook, a black student, in the face and then called him several racist names. This continued until security arrived on the scene. Billy Crook is in the hospital. I’m waiting for a phone call to see if I should release Eric to you, or if he’s going to jail.”
“Jail? My God, he’s only 17.”
Smith sighed and shook his head. “Freaking parents…”
“If Billy’s parents do not press charges, and Eric goes home, I will suspend him for six months. Yes, six months. This is not the first time he’s assaulted someone. It’s also not the first time he’s said racist things.”
“The other students should not have to fear coming to school. They should not have to worry about some out-of-control kid calling them racist names. While Eric serves his suspension, I recommend he sees a therapist to get his anger under control.”
Anna sobbed and dabbed at her eyes. Smith watched dispassionately.
“Sir, I can’t afford to put Eric in therapy. His father doesn’t make enough money to cover it.”
“That’s not my problem. He either gets help, or you and your partner can home school him. Let him call you racist names and see how long you put up with him.”
“I understand, but there must be a way for Eric to get help here. Can’t the school counselor help him?”
Smith’s frown deepened and his narrow face looked as if it would crack from the strain.
“Do you think we’ve not tried that, ma’am? He has refused to apply himself to counseling, he’s became more aggressive over time. There is nothing else we can do for your son.”
“So, you’re answer is to suspend him and send him home to us.”
“It’s that or juvenile detention. If it’ll make you feel better you can choose which one he does.”
“I’ll take him home.”
Smith pressed a button on his phone and ordered his secretary to bring in Eric. The door opened and Eric walked in.
“Hey, mom. What brought you here?”
Eric sat down next to his mother and tilted his head back in recognition of Principal Smith.
“What’s up old man? When are you going to get a wig to cover up that bald head of yours? Or are you solar powered?”
“Good luck, ma’am. Don’t bring him back until you correct whatever his malfunction is.”
“My malfunction old man is you and this cruddy school. Ain’t none of you losers worth my time.”
Annabelle grabbed Eric by the arm and snatched him to his feet. He leaned down in his mother’s face and met her glare.
“Apologize this instant…”
“Or what,” Eric growled at his mother.
Belle turned and walked toward the door. Eric followed her with both of his middle fingers raised to Principal Smith.