Title: "Till You Hit the Ground" 1/1
Author: monimala
Fandom: "Never Been Kissed"
Rating/Classification: NAC, Sam/Josie-ish, ficlet.
Disclaimer: Geez, I have no idea who owns this material, but it sure ain't me!
Summary: Those who can't, teach.

Lara's voice blares from the machine again. Sharp, shrill, and staccato like those sopranos she loves so much. "Sam...Sam, I know you're there! Pick up!"

He turns the machine down one notch and John Coltrane up one line on the stereo, tapping his pen against his hand as he walks the length of the room. By the time he gets back to the pile of reports on his desk, there are enough red dots on his palm to look like a measles outbreak. Or a weekend on Divan Street.

Coltrane segues into the next disc. Less smooth and soulful, more mellow. The Beach Boys always remind him of of high school and summer. The wind coming off Lake Michigan. Passing a joint around as he and Jake and Marty read Salinger and Kerouac out loud and planned to see the world. Planned. The best laid plan...It all got shot to hell after Jake died their junior year. They were idiots playing chicken on the El trestle. They all thought they were immortal...and maybe Jake was, for a split second, before he fell.

Sam learned to read about the world instead, to teach about it. And he quit smoking pot. Public education tended to frown on habits like that. And a lot of other things.

"...can't ignore me, Sam. You can't hide in your books and your students forever. Call me. I mean it!"

She means it. She always means it. She should have broken up with him years ago. *He* would have. Except that takes effort and he's nothing if not a man of inaction.

Except when it comes to scrawling bold, flourishing, Ds on a paper that a third grader could easily improve upon. He doesn't like to give Fs. Even though Guy Perkins clearly deserves one for not even *reading* the material. Roseanne and Armando? Shit for brain and a pretty face. The kid's been coasting through class on his charm. He sighs, slouching down in his dad's old leather office chair. Guy has an El trestle and immortality written--in terrible penmanship--all over him.

Those who can, die. Those who can't, teach. That's Sam's variation on the bumper sticker. Because books are safe and a suburban Chicago high school is still pretty safe. Thank God he's not allergic to dust, right? He slides Guy's report to the bottom of the stack. Next up...The Artful Use of Masquerade in Shakespeare's "As You Like It" by Josie Geller. Five pages. Double-spaced. Perfect margins. He knows she proofreads and is more than well acquainted with her thesaurus. He actually almost drools in anticipation.

For the better part of the school year, it had been him and Aldys in 2nd Period English with 24 passive observers and the sporadic ringing cell phone. And now they have Josie, who's not only literate, but happy to engage in discussion. She has intelligent things to say and she loves to read and she's not afraid of laughing. She's a teacher's wet dream. *His* wet dream.

"Fuck." The red pen bounces out of his hand and across the room. To retrieve it, he has to journey past Lara's eighth message of the night, so he turns the stereo up higher, overlaying her tirade with "The Sloop John B."

He'd like to think he's a normal, healthy guy. Not some freak who fixates on teenage girls. Sure, he notices when his students are pretty. He's human. It was harder when he was fresh out of college, but now he's been teaching for almost eight years. He's almost thirty. A cute 17-year-old blonde who uses footnotes shouldn't be his idea of Playmate of the Month. A cute 27-year-old blonde, yes. Except that Lara has never, in her life, qualified as "cute." And he's pretty sure she doesn't footnote.

Or end note.

Or cite works.

Sam groans, dropping back into the chair. Seventeen. She's seventeen and she thinks he's great.

Those who can't.

'Shakespeare uses disguise as a mechanism for truth, for self-discovery. For all of the subterfuge in Rosalind and Orlando's unusual courtship, ultimately their love is revealed as pure.'

"...Sam, you're an insensitive prick."

Nine consecutive calls from his girlfriend is excessive. So is writing an A++ with comments like "beautiful prose" and "great use of textual evidence" in Josie's perfect margins.

Those who can't.

He'd like to blame Kerouac and Jake and maybe even his old hockey helmet, but...but it's her smile. It's the fact that she uses words like "subterfuge." It's the fact that watching her is like falling.

And, for a split second, he's immortal.



December 28, 2004.

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