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The Last School Day
After polishing the desk tops, Mr. Rosario mopped his way up the aisle with
long almost loving strokes until the tile floor sparkled like glass. He had
already washed the windows and pulled the blinds down to the sill. He turned the
lights out and looked around the dark room. The smell of wax, soap and window
cleaner would linger through July and August and when the new teacher opened
the door in September she would know the room had been closed all summer.
Two weeks ago it smelled like blood. Mr. Rosario remembered that day as he
opened the door to leave. Three children and a teacher were killed that day in
this room. Mr. Baker and three little boys in the fourth grade gunned down by a
fourteen year old. Mr. Rosario would never forget that day -- he would never
forget how Mr. Baker tried to shield the children with his body while shouting
to the boy to stop, "For God’s sake stop!!"
But the boy fired, and fired, and fired. He fired until the gun was empty. He
even fired at Mr. Rosario in the hall. Mr. Rosario had never been so
frightened -- frightened to see a pistol pointed in his direction, looking so
the hand of a fourteen year old boy. He remembered the boy’s eyes, wide, white
-- like those of a hunted animal. Mr. Rosario thought he was shot when the
bullet smashed into the bulletin board behind him. Papers flew. Then there was
the frantic sound of the boy’s running feet as he raced down the hall and into
this room -- this room that now smells of wax, soap and window cleaner.
Then Mr. Rosario heard the firing again, and he knew children were dying in
that room. There was no one to tell him what to do so he ran down the hall and
followed the boy into Mr. Baker’s room. The boy was half-way down the room
shooting into the children huddled behind Mr. Baker. His gun clicked empty just
as Mr. Rosario wrapped his arms around him from behind -- he held him in a grip
of iron ‘til the police came. He made up his mind he would never let him go.
Even now, in this dark and clean smelling room he remembered the stench of
sweat, blood and gun powder.
He picked up his mop pail, closed the door, and locked it. It would stay that
way ‘til September.
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