The English Teacher

By Con Chapman

Myra had loved going to college back east, and had returned to the Midwest for graduate school only reluctantly. It was cheaper going to a state school, her father told her, and your mother and I are at a point in our lives where we don’t want to be running up big tuition bills. He hadn’t said what seemed just as important to him—English teachers didn’t make much money and, since she had inherited his face and not her mother’s, it was unlikely she’d attract many marriage prospects. He hadn’t said those things because the truth would have been too cruel for her to take, and if she got the message some other way he wouldn’t have to say them.

A master’s degree was all she needed to teach, she was told, and it was true; she was one of the few teachers with an advanced degree at the high school where she ended up in a county seat sixty miles from the university. It had a downtown, two movie theaters, and three restaurants with tablecloths that served something besides barbecue. If you get bored Kansas City’s only an hour and a half away, her mother said, or you can come see us in St. Louis over long weekends and holidays.

The drinking habit she had acquired in college and further refined in graduate school was now like a hobby she had brought with her to an inappropriate clime–as good as a pair of cross-country skis in Florida, she thought. Where am I going to find people to talk to—that was what made drinking fun, and the hangovers worth it. The word play, the allusions, the connections she and her friends had made sitting around talking late into the night. She didn’t want to drink alone.

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Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe and various literary magazines.  He is the author of two novels and The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees pennant race, The Year of the Gerbil.  He has recently completed a biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington’s long-time alto saxophonist, for Oxford University Press.