Yesterday's Magazette

4 – Scars Of A First Year Teacher

Scars of A First Year Teacher

By Robin Michel

It was 1969, and Miss Gaskill’s first year at Central Junior High. She was the youngest and most beautiful teacher in the school, and the only lady with a “Miss” in front of her name instead of “Mrs.” 

She was intense and unsmiling, a cool, blonde beauty with the bluest eyes I had ever seen – a brilliant aquamarine. Never had I seen eyes that color, and when someone told me about contact lenses that could actually change the color of a person’s eyes, I was intrigued. Were those eyes really Miss Gaskill’s, or were they fake?  

I had her for third period Music Appreciation. Our last music teacher had been a Mrs. Blackburn, who was old and bulky, with steel gray hair, and nylons rolled up just below the knees. Mrs. Blackburn never spoke, she always sang, and her voice was full of syrup.

In contrast, Miss Gaskill wore beautiful clothes that all the girls liked to talk about – expensive and well-made – often with a trademark silk scarf wrapped around her neck, framing the perfect oval of her face, and flattering her clear complexion and beautiful eyes. But her voice was cold and monotone, and without a trace of music in it. 

Miss Gaskill’s skirts were maybe a half inch shorter than a respectable length; so with her figure, all the boys would say “OH, BABY!!” or other rude and suggestive remarks behind her back. I don’t think she ever heard these comments – or if she did, I don’t think Miss Gaskill cared. 

Even though all the boys talked about how good-looking Miss Gaskill was, and all of us girls admired her beauty and clothes, and tried to style our hair in the same glamorous upswept way she wore hers, I don’t think anybody really liked her. She was too cool and unapproachable. She never yelled at us, but she never smiled or laughed at our jokes, either. And she could stop you cold with one stare from those blue-green eyes.

We found her c!ass extremely long and boring. It consisted of lectures on composers long since dead, practicing scales, or learning to appreciate music without lyrics. We were children of rock and roll, and were used to a harder beat.

“Feel the music,” Miss Gaskill would say. “Close your eyes and let the music paint a picture inside your head.” 

We would do what she said, but it was hard to keep our eyes shut for the full five or ten minutes we were supposed to, so mostly we would sneak peeks at one another, and try not to giggle at how silly we all looked – especially Miss Gaskill. 

When she listened to the music, Miss Gaskill would close her eyes, and hold herself stiff, as if to stop herself from swaying. At these times, she seemed as if a fire were building beneath her cool exterior – you could almost feel the sparks. I never saw anybody who listened to records the way she did. It was kind of spooky – like she was possessed. 

One day, as she was telling us about another dead guy, she dropped her notes. Bending down to pick them up, she said, “But even after Beethoven lost his hearing, he still ‘hears’ the music in his heart -” 

It was then that the scarf she wore slipped from her neck a little. And we saw it. Underneath the scarf on her creamy white neck was a huge reddish purple splotch about the size of a half dollar. 

“A HICKEY!” Dennis whispered to Tommy, who whispered it to Mary Jane, who whispered it to Janet, who whispered it to Shorty, who whispered it to Nancy, who whispered it to me. 

We had ALL seen it. Soon, everyone in the two circular rows of seats began to fidget and giggle, pointing surreptitiously at the scarlet mark on Miss Gaskill’s neck. 

Miss Gaskill never missed a beat. She continued her lecture, face frozen, eyes as blue as an Oriental paper fan, and two spots the size of dimes blossoming on her finely sculpted cheeks. We weren’t listening; the facts of Beethoven’s life and musical genius were pale in comparison to that blood red monkey bite. 

The next day Nancy George, who was going steady with Dennis Fischer, came to school in a high-buttoned blouse. 

“So my mother wouldn’t see!” she loudly told all of the awestruck girls in front of her locker before first period, hoping to attract even more admirers. Nancy was the most theatrical and daring girl in school, and everyone crowded around her in anticipation. 

With proud and trembling fingers, Nancy unbuttoned the first four buttons of her blouse. There, on her throat, was her own small and hard-earned first hickey. We thought it almost as exotic and every bit as scandalous as the one on the beautiful Miss Gaskill’s neck. 

Soon, many of the seventh grade boys were sucking on their arms noisily, giving themselves angry purple hickeys the size of baseballs. During the next student council meeting, Thayne Stevens suggested changing the school colors from blue and gold to red and purple. Everyone giggled, but nobody explained why when Mr. Reddington, our teacher advisor, questioned us on it. 

Changing the school colors was a short-lived idea. Within two weeks the notion faded like the spot on the neck of the beautiful Miss Gaskill – who stopped wearing scarves to school. 

Vol. 38 No. 3 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall- 2011

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