Steven Miller asked me to write this letter recommending him as a middle school English teacher, so here it is.
I have known Steve since high school. We sat next to each other in Jim Freeman’s European History class and I made wise cracks and Steve laughed at them. Steve had an enormous head and looked a lot like Dave Letterman to me. Others disputed the resemblance, but they disputed nearly everything. They had what you might call a perverse contrarian streak. Of course, this is a matter you will be able to judge at the interview, provided you know who David Letterman is.
I think the resemblance is uncanny. So much so, that I really let loose when we were supposed to be paying attention in class and talked a lot; I felt like I was actually a guest on the David Letterman show. Steve even asked questions and laughed at my answers. Other students paid attention to us and were a bit like the studio audience. I don’t quite know what role the teacher had– he didn’t really fit, but, he was a pushover and tolerated our often times near constant chatter with what I now feel was near miraculous patience and affable good cheer. If I was ever ready to say something to the rest of the class actually about European History, he darted over to my desk with a beaming smile of encouragement and prompted me onward with my speeches by punctuating each clause or phrase of everything I said with an enthusiastic “yes.”
Though he was a total pushover, we did respect him for his encyclopedic knowledge of European History, and if I was tired or moody or sick or hung over and thus not responsive to Steve’s prodding, we sometimes fell into silence and admired the Socratic fluency with which he conducted his class, though, to be sure, most of the students participated monosyllabically, sometimes mustering phrases; a complete sentence was rare.
The class was on Revolutions – the French and Russian to be precise. The point here being that as my desk mate in our little Socratic square, (the desks made a square, not a circle, so we kind of all faced each other) Steve made the class fun for me. But if I was moody or withdrawn, he gave me my space. He was, even at that age, adroit at handling troubled teens. I am sure you’ve got your share of those, and Steve will deal with them well.
Steve tried to get me to do work for him, which was stupid because I was the most irresponsible student in the class. I did not appreciate the artless way he kept going to the well. The point here being that Steve has made strides since then. Back then, he would try to get me to do work for him, and I would not. Now, he has once again asked me to labor on his behalf, and here I am, writing this letter. That means he is persistent. Also, asking me to write this letter is quite different from asking me to write some paper on the Reign of Terror in France – I am actually supposed to write this; he fulfilled his responsibility asking that I do so. Seeing as how I have gotten it to you almost right away, he obviously chose well too. It is worth noting also that he did not ask me to fill out his job application. Therein lies evidence of his maturity and growth.
We later got reconnected in college. We smoked dope and hung out and made wise cracks about people that passed by and disputed the fuckability (my neologism, not his) of “chicks” that had the misfortune of walking into our view. Not that they ever heard a word we were saying – the misfortune was Platonic.
Steve was “against” big tits and nice asses and “fuck worthy faces,” (my descriptors, not his) but really seemed to mostly have a problem with big tits.
I insisted he was simply trying to be unconventional in his taste or striking some pompous pose of refinement. I pointed out how he was always shabbily dressed and ill kempt, and had been his whole life. I hadn’t known him his entire life, but there was no way I was wrong, and he didn’t dispute the point. The clothes were all part of the posture, I think, the whole “I’m not shallow like everybody else,” refrain.
He called pretty plain girls with tits no bigger than oranges “beautiful” and sometimes “gorgeous,” and I called him a “fag” for his word choice and then pointed at one with big ones and said “you can’t seriously tell me that if given the chance, you actually wouldn’t fuck her,” and he denied that he would. They were somehow not classy, not worthy of respect, and I have to admit, I bridled a bit at his superiority. Again, this from a guy wearing mustard stained, drawstring sweat pants and a t-shirt advertising a local muffler repair shop. It was hard to bite my tongue.
The point here being that if you hire him there’s some risk he will contrive to not assign any classic literature and opt for something obnoxiously avante garde instead – or maybe it’s the contrary. I am not really sure which girls are analogous to what – if the plain, boring ones not eliciting conventional lust would be the contrived, superior, avante garde taste, or if instead their more subtle and lasting charms make them akin to a great work of literature. As an aside, I don’t see why a plain girl should be assumed to possess depth – in that regard, Steve’s judgment was superficial.
Either way, he might take some perverse, obstinate stand against prevailing departmental taste – all guys want to screw voluptuous women and will make utter fools of themselves exposing their lusts in the open, never to have any of their desires fulfilled; Steve, though, was different. That is the point – I used earlier the word “perversely contrarian” – well, Steve can be that way in matters of taste.
If you use any kind of reader, I wouldn’t bother ordering any sets for his classes. It may be that his faux, non-lust for buxom broads bespeaks a perverse compulsion to ostentatiously hate all things popular, in which case, you would be in luck; that is, if your English department is staffed by fuddy duddies still assigning Jane Eyre, though that does seem a little rough for middle schoolers. But an 8th grade English teacher my dad banged a few times, she assigned that book, so I guess you might too. Steve might finally break the students free. On the other hand, it must be kept in mind that Steve is not the type to go to the barricades and fight for his contrarianism; the truth is he’s rather lazy. My best advice would be to keep your readers and expect that Steve will reliably assign books for which plenty of movies have been made.
From what I can tell of middle school teachers these days, they don’t assign much reading and do a lot of projects instead, so this whole discussion may be irrelevant. A caveat is here called for, as I should let you know I doubt very much Steve could ever work up much enthusiasm for doing any kind of project. He would think it stupid. If not, then he has changed and changed so much that you might as well throw this letter away now, since “project Steve” would be a person so contorted out of his original person, that he would be a thing I simply do not know. I may be wrong about the whole project thing – that’s just the feeling I get watching kids always dragging huge poster boards to school. But I’m really out of touch; my dad doesn’t bang many middle school English teachers anymore, and if he did, I wouldn’t know current pedagogy trends anyway, since him and I are very out of touch.
Steve lost his virginity quite late in life, sometime in his twenties. He lost it to some woman in her thirties who had two kids. Apparently, he had some kind of meta-orgasm his first time, so the little head games she played with him wrecked havoc on his heart and led to a prolonged mental crisis, during which neither me, nor our mutual friend Dan, saw him at all for more than a month.
I learned of the meta-orgasm from Dan after I actually became concerned and inquired after Steve. Dan had said Steve had quite the doosie of an initial sexual experience and didn’t know how to handle to fickle vibes he got from the lady (she was older than him by at least five years), and was really messed up because he yearned painfully to do more boning, and then lost it and broke up with her, and hasn’t been seen since. I had gone by his apartment and knocked and knew he was home because a window was cracked slightly open and wafts of weed smoke grew more and more astringent and overwhelming as I stood on the little mat at his door. I heard sounds of him moving around to avoid detection. I finally gave up and left, a little stoned myself actually.
We all smoked a lot of dope, and he had been complaining about paranoia and shortness of breath just before he started banging that older chick, and now, here he was smoking again, so I thought something might have really been wrong. I mention this to let you know he’s extremely sensitive and will thus likely be able to emphasize with the wild emotional mood swings of the kind, disturbed kids who seem to make up if not a majority of any typical middle school brood, at least a culture shaping plurality. Also, on a more direct, basic note, he will be able to deal well with your school’s stoners.
He graduated college somehow, a year or two after me. I left and got into teaching and had a job.
He decided to go to Korea and teach English, which he did. He called the Koreans “roughnecks” and said they were all bad students, but also said that he had worked out a peace with them by virtue of being tall and imposing with a deep voice, willing to work up a good lather of anger. He said it helped also that he didn’t take the task of his teaching, and especially their learning, too seriously. They worked out a kind of implicit, mutually corrupt accord. I think this bodes well for him getting along with other teachers and administrators.
He met a Korean girl, and they got engaged and married. I mention this so you know that he has experience with non-white people, if your school should have any.
He worked in Seoul and there are a lot of US army personnel there. He went to the same bars as them, and one night made some off handed remark about how he didn’t think the US military should be in Korea. This started a discussion with a table full of GIs, and Steven soon found himself pinned to a pool table. I mention the army guys pinning him down to let you now that despite being able to work with non-whites, he can be very daft and deeply un-open to viewpoints different than his own. All new teachers have flaws, and I’m sure that if hired, this particular one could easily be mentored out of him. Besides, everyone who asked me in my interview about the importance of collegiality has turned out to be a complete asshole or bitch, and I doubt very much your staff is somehow comprised of an aberrant set of angels.
I don’t think Steve is really that in to all non-whites, though. All of his complaints about the Koreans seemed to focus on the young men in his classes, and I detected in his complaints a jealous irritation that they all had the hottest chicks. I don’t think I’m putting it strongly enough. It hardly required of me any kind of detection; that was what Steve more or less said.
I really don’t think he’s comfortable at all with black people. I listened to rap music in college and other black recording artists, and he hated it. He mocked all the non-verbal, soulful moaning out of notes – apparently all vocalizations must consist of words. I detected a hint of repression in his objection and pointed that out; I also thought it stupid that white people singing “yeah” somehow raised music a notch above some black woman singing “oh…” or saying “uh.”
As far as I was concerned, they were simply things men and women said during sex. Which brings me to the point I was going to make – I think Steven married the little Korean girl because she was a tight fit. And generally docile and nice and kind. A lot easier to deal with than most American women, whom Steve and I agreed, believe their incessant, aimless discontent and dogged trouble making and craven bossiness to be progressive, modern, cutting edge, on the cusp of some kind of greatness, advanced. This is to let you know Steve is not a totally rubber, docile, employee – he has carved out his own space, and has his own opinions on things and is, at least partly, his own man.
I am reminded now that Steve and I actually first met in junior high school, when he was playing Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.
There were no middle schools back then – the idea was a novelty and uniformly derided as stupid, mostly because the people who promoted it were stupid themselves. Little did your profession know that was an opening salvo in their war to conquer the schools, which they have succeeded in doing. I offer as exhibit A for this contention the following vignette: I picked my nephew up at high school one time last year and passed a poster proudly displayed outside some dumb lady’s history class with some others under a giant banner reading “Dr. Gibbon’s History Class Ancient Grease Projects.” I later consulted the faculty guide and learned that her name is Anita Gibbons.
I offer as exhibit B the many morons staffing the high school where I suffer the misfortune of being employed as a so-called history teacher. No further detail will be given as that would take up too much of your time.
Steve was already a towering six foot two in 8th grade, which is why he got the part of Petruchio; and I must admit, now that my juvenile jealousies of him getting the lead have largely subsided, that he fit the bill quite well. There is a certain natural obstinacy that radiates from his being, and it heightened the comedy in his exchanges with Kate, played by a really hot girl who had those tits that seem to be just one dark and very round milk dud for a nipple but an amazing ass that she swayed to mesmerizing effect in her well worn Levi’s jeans. My locker was distressingly close to hers.
The play we put on as part of a class – Shakespeare II. I had taken Shakespeare I already and was pissed to find us not only doing the exact same play, but also that I was cast also in the exact same part. That I was in 9th grade and Steven in 8th made the whole thing especially galling. My rebellion consisted of not trying at all and learning none of my lines.
I thus spent every moment on stage during the two performance nights cupping my ear to the fake wall saying “line” to yet another pretty hot girl who was glad to have occasion to form such a weird relationship with me. I was a kind of Romeo of the school, though I didn’t actually score that much.
My original purpose in mentioning this history of thespianism was to add further explanation as to why I think Steve married the Korean mostly for the tight fit. Our teacher dressed us in tights and it was readily apparent that Steve’s manhood was ill proportioned to his large frame, though his balls here pretty large. His crotch has the contours of a small nose sitting atop a pair of bulbously huge cheeks. That was constantly evident throughout the two weekend nights we all humiliated ourselves performing that dumb play.
Steve is, in other words, a regular guy with regular friends, and his own quirks and problems, and as is the case with all regular guys, you could do worse than hiring him; and I don’t really know that hiring a more interesting, charismatic, or dynamic person to teach middle school would be wise – after all, you do have to wonder what a person with such attributes would be doing teaching middle school in the first place; for what it’s worth, my experience has always been that any man of ability who seeks the professional company of his inferiors must be in possession of some hidden, and highly disturbing, deviant streak. That describes a lot of our teachers in that junior high school, most of whom continue in the profession, clinging to whatever the thing is they continue getting out of it for dear life.
I think there should be some kind of law that for every person of retirement age who insists on continuing in their job, some job seeker be selected at random to start receiving that person’s retirement pay, and the person should receive daily updates showing its steady depletion. I am sure some of you reading this should really make way for Steve.
That would be fair, if not the right and reasonable thing to do.
But since none of you will do that, the least you could do is give him a damn job. Think of it as the first bead of your penance.
Jason Half-Pillow’s writing has been in The Iowa Review, The Bicycle Review, Hobo Pancakes, The Driftwood Press, The Satirist, Crab Fat Magazine, Marco Polo Arts Mag, the eel, and Remarkable Doorways Literary Journal. A story of his is forthcoming in On The Rusk and another will appear inBully, an anthology soon to be published by KY Story.