Archduchess

Baker’s Pick
Caleb True


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Photo Credit: Madeline Brownstone

The entire class was seated quietly when Mr. Garritt came in and gave us instructions. Write for twenty minutes. I want plot, people. Give me character. A thousand words, max. Twenty minutes.

I began to write.

I made Mr. Garritt younger than he was. I let him keep his grey hair. I gave him a shave. Then, before putting the razor away, I went ahead and shaved his legs, too. He’d need that.

I gave him agility. I put him in clinging exercise tights, which went just past the knee. I gave him the upper body of a wrestler, the thighs of a dancer, the calves of a cyclist. The thighs were accurate.

I had Mr. Garritt bop around a little, do a pirouette, an arabesque. I had him assemble in fifth position, change to fourth with corresponding arms, and then do a hell of a turn, spotting. I was in front of him, sitting in a desk, so he spotted using me. I was the mirror.

I had him leap resoundingly up onto his desk at the front of the room. The impact sent ripples through the cup of coffee on the desk. He landed on one bouncing leg, and he steadied himself gracefully. The muscles in his thigh rippled as he bounced. Small beads of sweat were running down his smooth face. I noticed some wrinkles around his eyes, and took them away. He smiled at me, was happy to have his wrinkles taken away. He looked down, noticing his shaved legs, which alarmed him for a second, but then realized how formidable he looked. He’d never had muscles like that in his life. Mr. Garritt was mesmerized for a quick moment by his rippling thigh, as I had been. He looked back to me with a sexy smile, and a wink. His teeth gleamed.

Then I put slacks on him. It was okay, though—he kept bouncing on one leg, and his thigh’s majestic rippling showed through the slacks. Pants startled Mr. Garritt for a moment, but when he saw that they were European designer, he was all right with that, too. They were flattering for his body.

I looked around nervously for a second, but none of the other students had noticed Mr. Garritt’s amazing transformation. They were busy writing. It was all a show for me.

Mr. Garritt called my name, looked straight at me intensely.

It was like he was in love with me or something.

“I am in love with you,” he said in voice like warm molasses. I had given him that voice, had heated some molasses on the stove for a while until it burbled and was ready.

“Do you love me?” I asked Mr. Garritt.

He nodded.

Show me.

So I made it Halloween. Then it was time for a change of clothes. Mr. Garritt was completely naked for a split second, and then wearing a dress before he could realize he had been exposed. He was Grand Duchess Josephina, Princess de Bourbon de Parma, Duchess of Nassau, Princess of Belgium, Countess Palatine of the Rhine for Halloween. He could pull it off.

And so he started pulling it off.

With a poof of purple smoke, bass and drums filled the room through a fantastic sound system. As the smoke cleared, Mr Garritt started a striptease up there on his desk. He pulled off that ridiculous hat first, and threw it at me. I caught it. It was a miracle.

Where’re y’ from? You sexy thing, sexy thing you.

I believe in miracles, Mr. Garritt.

He mouthed the words while he stripped. He spent a while on the baroque dress but was soon down to Victorian wrappings and hosiery.

Then Mr. Garritt yelled “Time” in his ordinary old man voice.

We brought our writings up to him individually. It was a grandiose waste of time for those waiting. Mr. Garritt put on his reading glasses from 1980 and read the stories while each student stood there. Other students had nothing to do so they sent text messages and horsed around. When Mr. Garritt looked up at them scowling they stopped. Mindy was getting her calculus homework done, damn her.

“Rosetta,” Mr. Garritt called.

I went to the front and gave Mr. Garritt my story. My heart was beating fast as I watched him thumb through my four scribbled pages. I tried to read his expression but he had played poker while a younger man, he had told us once, and now he was using his most expressionless expression. I thought he was dead for a second, until he turned the page. His eyes flicked up towards me for a second, but they were back to the page just as fast.

When he got to the end of the words, he drew a red A Minus on the last page and circled it. He handed back my story. “Imaginative, Rosetta. Be careful with pop culture references and colloquialisms.”

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Caleb True is a student, jazz musician, and has published articles, cartoons, and short fiction. Email: calebtrue[at]gmail.com

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