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The Indefatigable Mr. Lloyd: A Short Story Installment 2
Winter had been mild for mid-Atlantic standards. The nation’s capital received a moderate amount of snow all season and was now nestled immersed in a compilation of grey snow, ice and slush, the last vestiges of winter. Though the trees appeared as barren as they had all winter, according to the calendar, it was close to spring. February…the time of year when pitchers and catchers report for major league baseball spring training had arrived. Even his worst day as a teacher dealing with day to day issues was strangely appealing to him. It was hard for Lloyd to believe that for the five months he had been “assigned” as a teacher, nothing of note had really taken place, except for the fact that he actually enjoyed teaching middle school students. Because of his role as the computer teacher, Lloyd and his class spent a great deal of time in the school media center, which Lloyd always used as an opportunity to collaborate with his handler as well as teach middle school students how to utilize the Internet for something other than playing World of Warcraft, research. He had settled in to his teaching routine and began to think that maybe the entire year will go by or for that matter, several years with nothing to worry about except whether or not all of his students will pass the dreaded state standardized test. Lloyd had never been so wrong. In fact, the days that Lloyd cherished just teaching students began to fade away when he received an IM at the computer at his desk while he was dutifully completing last week’s grades. It read “There is a mole at Marshfield” When Lloyd tried to respond, it was too late. The sender had already gone offline and Lloyd did not want to raise any suspicion. The other event that definitively increased the sense of peril at the school was something on the surface that seemed innocent enough, the school science fair.
Since he started at Marshfield, one of his “duties as assigned” was to help with the school science fair. Since Lloyd was the computer teacher, he was to allow students time in his computer lab to research, develop and write their science fair projects. Some students had rather rudimentary projects. Others had done research on rather thoughtful questions. The idea was that the science teacher would teach the students how to do the science of the project, the English teacher would show the students how to do research and give writing tips and Lloyd would provide assistance in the computer lab when the students put their word-processed reports together. All of this was fascinating to Lloyd and he applauded the students for working so hard on their projects. Out of all of the student projects that he watched come together, there was one that disturbed him and rocked him to the very fabric of his being. All of his training had told him that this was why he had been placed in this time and in this place. The student was Nathan Browning. His science fair project was about yellow cake as in uranium that can be used for a nuclear weapon. His hypothesis was that ordinary lead can be genetically modified to function the same as yellow cake enriched uranium. Lloyd didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that if the boy was correct, it could mean that creating a dirty bomb would be as easy as…well, baking a cake.
Everything Lloyd knew about science taught him that this was not possible. The boy’s science teacher, Mr. Toma did not seem to mind. In fact, Mr. Toma told Lloyd that Nathan’s hypothesis, though preposterous, showed a keen insight in the use of the scientific method, appreciation for scientific thought and a lucid argument for such an experiment in much the same way that a physicist discusses the notion of black holes and breaches in the space time continuum. All of this potential, Lloyd thought to himself, from a 7th grader.
If you aint cheatin, you aint tryin- The World According to Mr. Haas
There are teachers who have a knack for engaging students, challenging them to do their very best. They are considered the cream of the crop of the teaching profession. Some veteran teachers have a legacy of bringing out the best in students and letting their natural abilities that they perhaps did not know that they had shine through. Mr. Haas was not one of those teachers. He was clearly the polar opposite of an exceptional teacher. He had been teaching gym the exact same way as he did when he started, somewhere around the start of the cold war, before the British music invasion and shortly after a little metallic sphere with rabbit ears sticking out of it called Sputnik orbited the Earth emitting a piercing beeping sound that sent chills through the spine of every day people throughout the world. Colleagues, students and administrators used to ask Mr. Haas, when he planned on retiring. He would simply respond “Can’t retire just yet. Don’t have the time.” That was twenty years ago. No one asks that question anymore. These days, Mr. Haas is literally thought of as a fixture in the school. One primary reason he’s kept around this long is that although he is a lousy teacher, he is an excellent bus driver. He’s had a perfect driving record for 40 years. Given that the district has a chronic need for bus drivers, the decision was made long ago to keep Mr. Haas around. The only way to do that was to keep him teaching gym, which was what he loved to do.
As part of a free flowing writing assignment, Ms. Parque asked her students to write about things that were older than Mr. Haas. Some of the actual responses were: Rocks, water, dirt and Moses. For the record, most of her students actually thought Mr. Haas was older than Moses. From the students’ point of view, this was understandable. After all, Mr. Haas had been at the school longer than anyone can remember. He had actually taught three generations of students. His original students’ grandsons and daughters were now taking his gym class. Some of the seventh graders even thought that Mr. Haas had invented gym class.
Albert Haas stood 5’11” tall with a slight limp in his left leg, white beard, piercing brown eyes, glasses and the largest collection of velvet warm up suits known to man. He had every color imaginable, gold, black, silver, copper and burgundy. They all had bloused sleeves with four white stripes that ran horizontal around each sleeve. His ensemble was complete with a commodore’s cap, whistle and white custom made gym shoes. Albert Haas wasn’t just a fixture, he also knew everything that went on at Marshfield Junior High. If he didn’t know, he was always determined to find out. Albert Haas knew that there was something different about that Browning kid. He was determined to keep his eye on Nathan.
Although it seemed like world’s away, the flatlands of West Texas and MarshfieldJunior High school were separated by only a two hour plane ride. The landscape of West Texas is as unforgiving in the humid yet arid summer as it is relentless in the blistery winter. Ever since the start of the cold war, Coughlin Air Force Base was a mainstay of West Texas. Located 150 miles west of San Antonio, Coughlin had been home to generations of young airmen learning how to fly and protect our nation “from all enemies foreign and domestic”. Since the closing days of the cold war, Coughlin had become a relic. The base itself had been closed down and the town of Del RioTexas had lost a major cog to its economic engine and as such, went into an economic abyss. All that was left was a boneyard, a place that old aircraft go to die, dilapidated buildings, overgrown weeds and the West Texas wind which made the entire base look like a ghost town. There was one vestige from the old days. The town still had bus service from San Antonio. This fact clearly was not lost on three men who had boarded the bus in San Antonio and got off the bus after it pulled into Del Rio and made it’s final stop at the Sound of Freedom Motel. These were three men who all had ties to the base. Dmitry Vladavstov, former low level KGB official during the cold war who had ties to the Russian space program as far back as Yuri Gagarin. Dmitry had advocated at the time for some sort of nuclear warhead to be mounted onto Sputnik. His superiors would not hear of it. At the time, Dmitry was a low level clerk. Soon after the launch of Sputnik, Dmitry left the space program altogether and lived in quiet isolation under the watchful eye of the KGB just outside of Moscow. At one time, Lin Ho was the posterboy for communism of the 1950’s in North Korea. He believed in the communist cause and he blamed the U.S. for the separation of his beloved Korea into two disparate countries. Even though Korea had been separated before the conflict, it was because of the U.S. that the divide had gone on to this day. He was determined to have his revenge. Finally, there was Andrew Denton, born and bred in Tulsa Oklahoma, Andrew was raised to love God, his family, the flag and anything deemed truly American. Andrew or Andy as he liked to be called was the youngest of the three men. He hadn’t even been born when the cold war started or for that matter when Sputnik was launched into space. He had limited knowledge of the Korean conflict and he wasn’t quite sure exactly what the Bay of Pigs was and why his uncles and father had been so upset about it. There was something he did know. He knew that as a boy growing up among the oil wells in Oklahoma, the sense of dread and utter despair when plants close, workers are fired and companies shift their operations overseas in the name of the bottom line. He saw entire families destroyed, entire towns decimated and just when there was no hope, the giant big box stores start rolling into, or over the town so that people who made a decent living making $20.00 per hour in industry are now making $7.00 per hour with no health benefits for their families if they were lucky enough to get one of the few jobs that the big box chain had. Andy also saw the dejected look on those of the younger generation who decided that anything was better than being stuck in this town. Many joined the military, primarily the Marines, just as Andy had done almost a generation ago. Over 75% of the young men and women who volunteered for the military, came back incapacitated in some way from Iraq and Afghanistan and ended up in the fight of their life with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over the benefits that were owed them. Even though Andy had been a marine, he had had enough. One would think that such a diverse group of three people would probably never meet. These three met by chance over a year ago on a social networking site. They found that they all had something in common which brought them to this point. The U.S. needed to go in a different direction. Something drastic had to happen in order for the U.S. to go in the direction it needed to go. They were determined to take matters into their own hands. Afterall, the politicians and the public have had enough chances to get it right. They blew it. These three knew what was best for everyone else. They were determined to get America on what they knew was the right track.