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Rated: E · Non-fiction · Inspirational · #1931030
A demanding teacher sets aside cirriculum to present a lesson from the heart.
Oh, but David Rath was cool. Much too cool to be teaching English at my high school during the late sixties. But there he was that Monday morning, dapper as ever; modest gray tie, (matching the gray that streaked his temples,) penny loafers and authentic English Tweed jacket complete with leather elbow patches.

David Rath refused to acknowledge that he taught Junior English; the class was "Masterpiece Literature" and he was "Mister Rath," our instructor. The girls were madly in love with him; and the boys, well, we wavered between loathing and envy.

Monday mornings we were always at our desks, nervously watching the door, where just at the bell Mister Rath would burst in, winded from his frantic dash from the teachers' smoking lounge. But that morning we were lucky; he did not have our pitiful, red-ink-lacerated submissions from Friday tucked beneath his arm. Mister Rath opened the coat closet, lifted out a drafting stool and placed it alongside his desk. Then he perched upon it and surveyed the room, scowling until the whispers stopped.

Mister Rath set aside his dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights, and asked, "Would someone please explain why we are so chatty this Monday morning?" One brave girl raised her hand, and Mister Rath nodded permission to speak. "The Winter Formal is Friday, and the Junior Class will do all the decorating," she gushed in excitement.

Mister Rath arched an eyebrow, pondering this statement for a moment. "Ah, the Winter Formal... Promenades... the Junior-Senior Prom," he said in an almost wistful tone. Then, adjusting the knot in his modest gray tie, and with a wry smile, he announced, "I was not always the debonair man you see before you. In fact, to attend my Junior Prom, I had to borrow a dinner jacket and a car."

The girls were incredulous, and each boy that had his own car, (even Jerry, whose junker was perpetually parked in front of Auto Shop,) let a sneer flicker across his lips. But the rest of us warily watched Mister Rath's eyes. There it was - that flicker of flame - and... he pounced!

"Of course, it was a Triumph Convertible! Ruby red, with a dove-gray ragtop!" The girls sighed, the sneers faded, and Jerry slouched further down in his chair.

Mister Rath seemed to gaze into the distant past as he continued. "I spent hours waxing that auto, removing ages of oxidized paint, until it glowed like a ruby chariot! Then, I examined the gray 'rag-top' and found it truly was but rags! Searching every hardware store in town, I finally found 'Mystik Cloth Tape' in the same color-tone as the top and proceeded to patch every rent in the fabric. As if to test my handiwork, the skies released a deluge the moment I finished, but my repairs held fast!"

Mister Rath, still gazing over our heads into a by-gone era; described his arrival at the Junior Prom. "That night I was a demi-god in white dinner jacket and silk bow-tie; my prom date, a vision in peach silk and chiffon. The other drivers would honk and flash their lights in homage as I hurtled my ruby red chariot over the storm lashed streets! I steered through the motley throng of fellow students rushing towards the Gymnasium, and pulled up to disembark my radiant cargo.
Everyone stopped and stared as I emerged from my chariot, so aptly named, Triumph! The girls froze with mouths agape at the Adonis that leapt from the auto. And the boys were pointing and grinning from ear to ear in acknowledgement that David Rath had arrived in style!" Our class sat in rapt attention as Mister Rath continued his narrative.

"I bounded around the auto to open the door for my date, and there..." Mister Rath's face froze in horror, and deep from within his chest an agonized moan rumbled forth; the same hideous moan that had introduced us to Heathcliff, alone on the moor. "Mocking me, " he gasped, "dripping with the vile muck of the storm ravaged streets!" Mister Rath threw back his head; his eyes squeezed shut in anguish as he rasped, "There! Locked outside the door of that auto, with its cursed nameplate 'Triumph.' There! Black with oil and grit! A full six inches of silken hem on a now ruined prom gown!"

In the stunned silence of the classroom, Mister Rath staggered toward his desk, shoulders sagging in defeat. His features ashen, he clawed at his copy of Wuthering Heights, then turned and meekly climbed back upon his stool.

His gaze averted, Mister Rath adjusted the knot in his modest gray tie, tugged at the sleeve of his authentic English Tweed jacket, and drew in a ragged breath. Then with fire in his eyes he faced us, and in Churchillian voice bawled out, "Know this about adolescence; You Will Survive!"

Oh, but David Rath was cool!

Notes - Originally published in The Front Porch Periodical, 2004
Years ago, a call had gone out before a class reunion to come with some stories
about our favorite teachers. I recalled this tale told by Mister Rath many years before.
Unfortunately, the reunion fell through. I continued working on this story, later ending it to
The Front Porch periodical, which published it. My email was included in the
"about the author" section, and I received some responses from former students
who'd also had Mr. Rath at different times. Two for a High School class,
and another, for a college English class. It seems that at an opportune moment in
their classes, Mister Rath told this same tale! Until they read my rendition, each, like myself,
had thought this very demanding teacher had opened his heart only to our class!
          Oh, but David Rath was cool!
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