THE LAST FEW students stumbled into Mr. Giencanna’s Introduction to Philosophy class like zombies. It was only 9:30 a.m.—still too goddamn early in the morning to be trying to philosophize over some shit. No one felt like being there. Unfortunately, taking this class, not to mention dealing with Mr. Giencanna, was a necessary evil. Mr. Giencanna was one of those teachers that taught a little bit of everything, and no matter what, all students would cross his path sooner or later.
Standing at the front of the room, staring mercilessly at the students, Mr. Giencanna stood in his usual hard-ass stance. He had been a counselor at a boy’s home in New York City before becoming a teacher. The children there were violent and hardened, and the staff treated them as such. Now, Mr. Giencanna displayed that same attitude with his current students.
Observing the angry mob of young adults, who seemed more pissed off about learning than being grateful for it, Mr. Giencanna shook his head. “Look at you all,” he said with disgust. “Not one enthusiastic face in here eager to feed his or her mind. If you don’t feed your mind, then how are you going to feed your belly when it comes time to survive on your own?” The room was filled with blank faces, and there was no response. “Mark my words,” he continued, “without knowledge you’re all bound for the welfare line or the penitentiary.” Nobody was trying to hear him, and he proceeded with the daily roll call.
“Mr. Jason Abbott?” Mr. Giencanna called out, fixing his glasses on his hawklike nose.
“Here,” a young man in the rear spoke up.
“Right here,” said another male’s voice.
“Miss Natalie Farmer?”
This time there was no reply.
“Natalie Farmer?” he repeated.
A young man wearing a blue and gray varsity jacket nudged Natalie, who was at her desk, dozing off.
“What?” she said sleepily, and with an attitude.
He nodded toward their instructor. “Roll call. That’s what,” he replied.
“I’m here, Mr. Giencanna, sir,” Natalie said, wiping around her mouth.
“Stay with us, please, Miss Farmer,” said Mr. Giencanna. Although he phrased it like a request, Natalie knew by his stern tone and the piercing look in his eyes that it was, without a doubt, an order.
Mr. Giencanna cleared his throat and continued. “Miss Julacia Johnson?”
Once again there was no reply. The classroom was silent as everyone looked around to see if there was another nodding student somewhere. Everyone appeared to be wide awake.
“Perhaps we have another sleeping beauty amongst us,” Mr. Giencanna said sarcastically. “Is there a Miss Julacia Johnson present?”
Still there was no reply.
“Julacia Johnson?” he repeated, very much irritated this time. The silence remained.
The welfare line or the penitentiary, he thought as he prepared to call the next name.