Angela ‘Sneezy the Cat Lady’ Rhymes met the eyes of a billboard advert model through the classroom window. Three teenagers slouched in chairs with their arms folded, facing her whiteboard. One was on her phone. Angela sighed. “None of us want to be here at magic summer school so let’s get done what needs done and go home, deal?”
Anna-May ‘the Animator’ Ghibli nodded enthusiastically, as the only one who wasn’t there through misdemeanors.
Jesus Hernandez raised his hand. “Miss, how many classes do we have to go to before we can graduate?”
“You have to be able to pass a test, Jesus. It’s not a number.” Miss Rhymes rubbed her forehead where a frown was working its way into a tension headache. The teacher rubbed the plastic chip on a cord around her wrist.
“You can control cats, right?” asked Peter ‘the Pervert’ Parka, without raising his hand.
“We need to begin the class for any of you to pass the test,” Angela said, ignoring Peter.
“But you can, right? I heard you set a pack of cats on a kid for spitting on you.” Jesus smiled as if it was the funniest thing since he’d last looked at his phone.
“Yes,” Angela said, hoping she could address their interest and move on. “I can control cats.”
“That’s a cool power.”
“Not really,” Miss Rhymes sniffed, reaching for a tissue.
“How is that not cool?” Peter asked, “all I can control is clothes.”
“Yeah, you suck, creep.” Jesus frowned at the blonde boy in the plain white T-shirt. Hernandez then stood up, knocking over his desk as he held the waistband of his trousers. Fighting an invisible force, his fingers lost their grip on the fabric.
“PETER. STOP IT.” Angela felt her tension headache settle in for the day as she yelled at the boy who was giving his classmate the middle finger.
“Why? He was being a dick. Why not show everyone his?”
“Because that’s sexual assault, Peter. You’ve been told that a hundred times.”
“More like a thousand,” Parka said as Jesus pulled up his trousers.
“Then learn,” Miss Rhymes said, not holding back the anger in her voice. Her eyes caught Dalia DeWinter slouching in her chair. The girl had turned herself into a full sized doll with blank staring glassy eyes. “You’re just prolonging this if you don’t pay attention, Miss DeWinter.” Angela walked to the transfigured student and clicked her fingers in front of the girl’s unresponsive face.
“What would happen if we pulled her arms off like that?” Peter asked, smirking as he eyed the plastic joints of Dalia’s bare elbows.
“Prison or the chair, Parka. Don’t even think about it.”
“I heard you’re an alcoholic, Miss.” Anna-May said, smiling the wide smile of a gossip laden teen.
“Incorrect.” Angela rubbed the one year chip on her bracelet. One year, one month, two days, she thought. “I don’t drink anymore. Now I would like to start by-”
She didn’t manage to finish the sentence as Jesus grinned an evil grin, pointing to her water bottle. “Want me to turn that into wine for you, miss? No charge. Maybe you could just say we all passed the test and we could go. Except Peter. He can go fuck himself.” Hernandez turned his stubble covered head to grin at Parka. Jesus stopped grinning as his purple letter jacket collar began strangling him.
“Peter, enough!” Angel said, holding up her hand as if it would do something. “I SAID ENOUGH.” Her shoes clapped on the discoloured laminate tiles as she strode to her desk with purpose. Throwing back a glug of water she downed another allergy pill. Pulling her wand from her pocket, she chose the biggest book on the shelf and aimed it at Parka.
“Owch. What the hell?” Peter looked at her with wide eyes and a red mark on his forehead. “You can't do that!”
“I just did and I’ll do it again.”
“You’ll get fired.”
“I have tenure. If they could fire me they would have done it already. SIT DOWN. SHUT UP. LISTEN. I’m not asking you again.” She looked at Dalia, still as death in her chair. Angela rubbed her throbbing head. She pulled a marker from her pocket and began writing a spell they had to master on the board.
Peter rubbed his head as his eyes followed her pen. Shimmering sparkles in the corners of his blue eyes hinted at tears he was fighting back. Angela breathed deeply, counting to ten in her head.
“Look at that,” Anna-May said, pointing her black painted nails to the window.
Despite herself Miss Ryhmes looked at the billboard outside. The handsome with the glass of wine in his hand was beckoning to Angela. The teacher turned to the student with hellfire in her eyes.
“That’s not funny, Anna-May. Do you know how hard I fought to get sober?” A cat leapt onto the window sill.
“I heard you punched Miss Banks from art class,” said Jesus, grinning the bully’s grin.
Feeling her eyes itch and water, Angela opened the window. The striped moggy casually leapt through the window. A tabby leapt up behind it. The itch spread to Miss Rhymes’ throat as she went back to the whiteboard. “Repeat after me, or the cats will scratch the spell into your skin.”
Hernandez and Anna-May recited the spell as Angela pointed to it. Peter pulled off his socks with his powers and had them dance in front of the cats to distract them.
Felines poured in through the window, two at a time. Parka was in no time surrounded by moggies who had no interest in his socks.
“Are you going to pay attention, Peter?” Angela asked.
“Yes, Miss Rhymes.”
“You’re not going to cause trouble?” Her voice was ice. Cubed ice floating in single malt whiskey. Something from Islay. Dammit, stop thinking about alcohol.
“No, Miss Rhymes.” Parka shrank down in his chair rubbing his forehead.
“Good.” Cats continued to floor into the classroom. Though her eyelids and throat began to swell she kept the cats there, watching each of the students as they repeated the spell with her. She wanted them to pass the test. She wanted to go on a holiday.
Barbados, she thought. Sitting in a deckchair on the sand. An umbrella as I look out over the sapphire blue sea. Sangria in a pitcher on the table next to me. Fuck.
Anna-May gazed out of the window again as Miss Rhymes wrote up the next spell on the board. Outside the window, the printed photograph of the beautiful man and woman were kissing.
“Looking at the board everyone.” Angela was pleased with the rest of the lesson despite the fact she was slowly suffocating. Her airways were closing as the time passed. The breeze from the window was blowing cat hair everywhere.
Without interruption she managed to note down and have them repeat every required spell. A week of that would probably be enough for them to pass the test.
“Time to go, kids. Get out of my classroom.”
“Woo,” Peter whooped, throwing his hands up. A ginger paw pushed his chest. He fell silent and nodded. The feline sea parted for Anna-May, Jesus and Peter to leave.
“Can you walk on water, Jesus?” Miss Ghibli asked.
“I can ice skate, yeah.” Hernandez had clearly been asked a thousand times. His delivery was slick and delivered with practiced confidence. He wore his letter jacket like a king’s cloak, swaggering.
He’s not the messiah, Angela thought. He’s a very naughty boy.
Their voices retreated down the corridor. Jesus and Peter insulting each other again.
“Enjoy your evening with the cats,” Miss Rhymes said to Darla ‘Doll Face’ DeWinter. Locking the door, the teacher thought about Barbados again. Sun soaked bodies glistening with the sweat of mild exercise.
DeWinter turned back to human form, expecting the teacher to be at the desk and the lights on. She leapt out of her chair backwards into more cats. Her perception of anything but the clock on the wall had vanished in her other form. Felines seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
“What the hell?” asked Dalia as the cats she’d crashed into scratched her. On the board were the words: ‘See you again tomorrow Miss DeWinter, and every day until you learn the set spells. You only wasted your time.’
Pulling her phone from her back pocket, Dalia saw multiple missed calls from her mother. “Hi, Mom. Yeah, I did it again. Just gonna wait here. No, I'll be fine. See you tomorrow.”
I’m going to be dealing with that Dalia idiot all summer, Angela lamented as she walked to the bus stop. The billboard for Welcome Wine leered down at her from the photographic eyes of the handsome man and the beautiful woman. Bitch. The bus pulled up, Miss Rhymes saw cats disperse from the school as the bus doors hissed shut.
Catching the eye of a muscular young man with tattoos protruding from his gym wear, she smiled. He grinned back. Trading addiction to alcohol for sex addiction wouldn’t be so bad would it? At least I’d get some exercise. He flashed his teeth again as the bus turned a corner, arms bulging. Am I too old for him? Fuck it, he’s smiling. Come on, Angela, let’s do this. Just don’t sneeze on him.