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Class Hamster

Dreamed 2008/11/13 by Wayan

Emily Joy walks up. I'm glad to see her, but nervous--she's a long-distance girlfriend, and that slips so easily into ex-girlfriend...

But she's years younger--in her early teens, before I ever knew her. "I want you to see what my middle school was like" she says. "Follow me." Just as decisive as her later self. So has she pulled me back in time? Apparently. We're outside a middle school, all right.

I follow her in, but doubt the staff'll let me just prowl their school. Silly me. We walk right in. The staff's overwhelmed. It's a confused, confusing zoo. Anything goes!

Em and I join a small group of her friends. I like them. But I feel guilty--they're cute, but they've regressed too, just middle schoolers. Besides, Em's right here! I think "I'm a pervert AND a slut!" Though I don't feel TOO perverted--Em has good taste in friends. They're smart (if not Em), with nice auras (if not Em)... and Em's treating me like an ex. An ex she wants to give one final lesson before letting me go. Why this, though? Why middle school, why her past?

We're handed student papers we're supposed to peer-review and suggest improvements. The one I get has printed boxes--seems to be a framework to force students to write well-formed short stories. Hmm. Didn't work too well for this kid. Blue-black inkblots dapple the page. She scratched out most of her writing! All I can read are a few character-names. "Liza said..." then the blot-jungle's back. Either she has ferocious critics in her head, or constant, nosy interruptions...

...like this school. A boy starts screaming, threatening to kill someone. Full of real hate. He means his threat. Thud! A meaty punch. A cop appears and grabs the kid (or do teachers here have badges and guns? Knows the kid's name!) The boy spits, snarls, curses, struggles. The teachercop frisks and cuffs him.

"How common is this?" I ask Em.

"Common? Try chronic!"she says. It's true; none of the other kids are batting an eye. On the other hand, they're not getting any work done either. Half their attention (and all of mine) is scanning for danger. No wonder students here can't create!

As kid and teachercop wrestle, the wall behind them splits--a hidden door. A tall boy's crawling on the floor of the hall beyond. He tries to pry open the door; the strugglers block it. Teachercop roars "BUSY!" and the kid gives up. Slam. But something he held in his arm has escaped into our classroom--a scurrying little animal, white and brown.

"Class hamster," says Em sourly. "Kids here like to steal one, stick it in the microwave on low and slow-nuke it til it dies and dries, just a shell of skin and fur."

"Why?" I say, feeling sick, picturing the hamster roasted alive from inside, then realizing the obvious just as Em says drily "To put in a kid's desk of course. Or lunch." She's looking at me. Well, yes, now I see why her writing's been stuck. Public school's a microwave whose stresses slowly kill the sane, sensitive, decent kids from inside. They're all class hamsters.

I say "I'd heard it was this bad, but I didn't really get it. You can't work or learn like this." Suddenly I'm not even sure it can change. Too many kids into violence. Can they ever unlearn it?

"We didn't believe it either" says a guy at the next desk. Not a boy, a guy around thirty, I'd guess, a skinny balding guy with a silly moustache. Beyond him, a middle-aged man. They're teachers or trainees sent to observe. At a loss, like me. Just stunned at what the bad kids get away with--and how it shuts down the rest. Here, nothing can get done. Hamsters all.

Sketch of a dream by Wayan: a rat throws something at three hamsters studying at school desks. Their classroom is the inside of a microwave oven.

NOTES IN THE MORNING



LISTS AND LINKS: time travel - school dreams - suburbs - kids - threats and bullying - violence - focus and distraction - breakups - more dreams by Emily Joy on American schools: Humanity's Greatest Fear and Slave's Choice - Julie Doucet dreams she walks out of her Recurring School Nightmare -

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