Abraham Table was in the office again. Bloody nose.
He often combated nosebleeds; in fact, they forced him to the office at Polk Middle School more times than he cared to go, but this time it was nothing his body could have concocted for him without some outside help whose name was Hector Serafin (who was probably the nicest kid in school). Accidents happen.
Mrs. Green handed him a fresh gob of paper towels with blue hands – disposable gloves that smelled like mint. “Keep your head tilted, Abe. I know it hurts, but put pressure on your nose. We need to stop the bleeding enough so that I can look at what happened, okay?” She stepped out of the room, doubling her efforts to handle all the people in the office. The last thing she needed during the busy lunches was all the trouble his nose was going to cause.
A brown bottle of peroxide was out on the sink in the cramped health room, but it wasn’t seeing any action yet. Abe spotted drops of blood on the floor as he sat down on the little cot, crunching the paper cover. He leaned over thinking he should dab it up with the extra paper towels in his free hand, but a pounding like a pulse in his nose forced him to sit up right away and a new torrent of blood threatened to overrun his hand, the paper towels and anything else that might be used to stop it.
After Mrs. Green determined that the cut was fairly small and wouldn’t need stitches and had called his mom, Abe had to remain in the health room until his nose-bleeding tendency relented. So, the office went through its hectic paces during the two lunch periods: kids came and went, two kids were brought in who had started a fight, parents picked kids up and dropped kids off. The principal came in and out. The deans came in and out.
Everything was normal. Abe caught pieces of the conversations in the office, paying attention sometimes, not paying attention most of the time. Things grew quiet and he could see that only the student aid was sitting out there. Both secretaries were typing on their computers. Mr. Borland, the boys’ dean, came in with a voice too big for an office, but Abe wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation he struck up. Until he heard the word problem.
“This is becoming a real problem. I’ve tried to line things up differently, but it hasn’t worked. I don’t think we have any choice. It’s like chaos. The only way to deal with it is divide and conquer – like we talked about. I’ve made some trial uprights out of steel pipe. I think it will hold,” Borland said.
“Will it have a solid enough base to stay upright?” Mrs. Jensen asked.
Abe couldn’t figure out what they were talking about, but he sat up on the cot so he could hear better.
“I think so. It’s steel. And fairly heavy.”
“We’ve got plenty of rope,” Mrs. Green chimed in.
“The rope is fine, but when you get those bodies pulling on it, hanging from it… that could be a problem.” Mrs. Jensen always had practical considerations.
Abe wondered what in the world they were talking about. When he thought about it for a minute, he chuckled to himself. It sounded like they were talking about building a scaffold to hang people. Mr. Borland interrupted his overactive imagination.
“If one person hangs from it, don’t worry. The rest will fall in line.”
Abe’s eyes bulged. He leaned out on the cot so he could see Mr. Borland.
“But what about JM?” Mrs. Green asked. The office staff often used student initials when talking about kids. Like the other students couldn’t figure out who they meant.
“If he hangs once, it will be his last. He’s on a pretty short rope anyway,” Borland said. A Grinch-like grin crossed his face. “He’s as good as gone,” he said and left the office.
Abe sat stunned. Were they really talking about hanging someone? Jorge Martinez? He got in trouble sometimes because he ran his mouth a lot. But they couldn’t have meant hanging him? He shook his head and laughed to himself.
“Did the bleeding stop?” Mrs. Green popped in the health room and surprised him; he jumped.
“I think so.”
“Alright. I’ll send you off to 6th period with a paper towel,” she said as she worked a small bandage over the cut. “If things start flowing again, come back down.” She looked at his cut again holding his head with new minty gloves.
With a tardy slip in hand Abe opened the office door.
“Come right back if you have any problems, and we’ll take care of you.” She smiled and Abe left wondering about the strange conversation he had heard.