Publish Novellas 18 August 2021
EPISODE 3 – ELEMENTARY PhD
An overqualified instructor teaches an underprivileged classroom of grade-school students in an effort to sift out an elite group of scientific minds.
The class is settled and quiet—an amazing feat for a classroom of mostly twelve-year-olds. Their comportment is due to the clandestine nature of their meeting. Seven children sit, waiting and watching the door for the moment Evelyn enters the room. When she does, there is a momentary ruffle as they come to attention.
“Is everything okay? You guys are really quiet!” Evelyn inquires with askance.
Mary, a chubby-faced 11-year-old with pigtails looks around and starts to talk when no one else speaks up. “We are worried someone might come in since you….”
“Oh, that's okay. Technically… you all are in detention today!” Evelyn says with a smile, hoping that the class cheers up.
The tension abates, but the kids remain quiet. The instructor makes a mental shrug as she puts her armful of books onto a dusty classroom table.
“I know that you guys are eager to hear what I have to say so I’ll get to it. First off, no one is here by mistake. You were all carefully chosen for this class.
“Even though I hope that this group gets larger, this size will remain for quite a while. This is necessary to build a good foundation for our curriculum.”
A hand shoots up in the back. Evelyn pauses and takes a short breath.
“Yes, Wilson?” The girl called Wilson looks around as though asking the rest of the students for permission to inquire. There’s distant laughter from kids somewhere above them. This makes sense since the room is directly below the gym.
“You said there’s a reason we are chosen and not other kids…. Why us?” she asks.
Evelyn looks at her and thinks, ‘Jemma Wilson, twelve years old. The second daughter of a single mom, a mixed race of black, and possibly Italian… smart, inquisitive, and bold. Straightforward and observant too…’
She shakes out of her thoughts and looks Wilson in the eyes. Then allows her gaze to float across every other student. “Yes, Wilson, you were carefully chosen to be here. But I will not get into the details of that. Ask me that question again in five years and you will appreciate the answer,” she replies.
Jemma doesn’t seem satisfied but there is a tone of finality in Evelyn’s voice that tells her to back off.
Evelyn turns to the rest of the class and says with a clear, strong, but gentle voice. “This class will begin now, I want to show you how the human body works.”
The kids all intently focus as Evelyn pulls out a flip chart and a poster that she hangs on the board. She illuminates the poster, showing the detailed and well-illustrated human anatomy picture. The kids gasp in fascination.
“I am going to teach you how the human body works, and how to control it—make it do what you want it to do—without cutting it open!” she announces.
“Wow! Cool!” A boy named Daniel whispers in the class, but the rest of the students are just too mesmerized to respond.
“We will begin by naming the body parts and talking about what they do. I think we should start from the abdomen. This makes up a significant portion of the gastrointestinal system. These organs are very important to the general functioning of the entire body. One of such organs is the gallbladder!”
Her voice remains steady and strong. In silence, the classroom of children lean in to the discussion. When Evelyn continues speaking, the girl in the front seat growing pale does not surprise Evelyn. She knows exactly why Chloe is reacting this way and will address it later.
After class, Evelyn walks briskly, making the girl behind her run to keep up. She smiles, as she presses her car remote and unlocks the door. The action increases the sense of urgency in the girl and she breaks into a run.
“Miss Chambers… Miss Chambers!” She calls out desperately. Evelyn turns around and looks at the girl. This is the test she has been worried about for a long time, and so far it is going well.
“Yes, Chloe… right?” The girl finally catches up because Evelyn has stopped walking. She looks up into her eyes and nodes.
“Yes ma’am. I need to talk to you about something!” the young voice responds.
“What’s that Chloe? Is everything okay?” she asks the petrified girl.
Chloe thinks hard for a while and then starts to talk. “My brother, Justin, is six years old.”
“Okay…” Evelyn tries to coax more dialogue.
“He is the smallest in his class. He looks more like my four-year-old cousin!” Chloe continues.
“He gets these bad pains in his, abdomen, sometimes. He cries and keeps us up all night. He has a fever and vomits so much. It is like he isn’t eating… you know!” Chloe says with a worried look on her face.
Another teacher drives by in her car and waves at Evelyn and Chloe, who both force a smile and wave back.
“Tell me more, Chloe,” Evelyn says as the car drives out of earshot.
“My parents don’t have insurance. They keep saying they’ll make an appointment. But they never do and I think it’s because we just don’t have that much money!” confesses Chloe.
“I know!” Evelyn is silently jubilating at the turn of events.
She is glad that Chloe connects her brother’s symptoms to the topic she taught earlier in class. The intuitive girl is also smart enough to see that her parents are not negligent. They just can’t afford the healthcare her brother needs!
“I think something s wrong with Justin’s gallbladder. I know they had him tested, but I don’t know what the doctor called it,” the youth surmises.
“We should go over his symptoms again, Chloe. After that, I’ll give you some questions to ask your mom, and the child himself. Okay?”
“Yes, Miss Chambers.”
“Okay, come… I’ll write it all out for you,” she says. Chloe follows her as they close the remaining gap between them and Evelyn’s car. With spring in every movement, Evelyn picks up a note pad and scribbles on it for a while.
“All you have to do is check if your brother has had any of these symptoms. You tick if he has, and cross it out if he hasn’t, okay?” she asks.
“Yes, Miss Chambers,” Chloe says while taking the note from her.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Evelyn replies as she gets into her car. She watches Chloe walk away, taking a deep breath when the girl mixes with a bunch of students stepping onto the bus.
In this instant, she knows that the journey has begun. She can feel the excitement coursing through her body. There is limited time to do all that needs to be done. As she turns the car around and starts driving away, she taps the voice recorder on her phone and says, “First patient, a new day.”