Mr. Brangle’s Proposition

“Remember,” Mr. Brangle said as he walked over to the door to the hallway and propped it open. “Test tomorrow.”

A chorus of groans greeted the students in the hallway as Mr. Brangle’s class filed out through the door.

Except Sheila who was standing at Mr. Brangle’s desk, waiting to get her make-up assignments from him. He always created new assignments for students who were out so he could be “assured” that they “did their own work.”

“Well, Miss Jenson,” Mr. Brangle smiled pleasantly at her as he perched on the edge of his desk and picked up a piece of paper. “Here are your make-up assignments.”

Sheila stretched out a hand. “Thanks,” she said, looking at the paper. “There’s nothing on it.” She looked suspiciously at Mr. Brangle, still smiling. The smile didn’t seem so pleasant, and Sheila was remembering some of the wilder rumors she had heard.

“Have a seat, Miss Jenson,” Mr. Brangle waved her to a front row desk. “You’ve missed quite a bit of school. Is everything okay at home?”

“Uh, of course,” Sheila’s face crinkled in surprise as she watched Mr. Brangle perch.

“Your folks have taken on a lot, I hear – bringing in three foster kids with such severe  . . .  shall we say . . . impairments.”

Mr. Brangle paused and looked at Shelia curiously. “It must be hard for you – less time with your mom and your dad. They’re so busy with the other three kids now.”

“It won’t be for forever,” Sheila shrugged. “What about my assignments?” She tapped the empty page.

“Ah, those,” Mr. Brangle slid one of the desks closer to where Sheila sat, and slid into the seat. “I thought you might want some extra help catching up. Maybe a quiet place to work on catching up. Must be hard with so much noise in the home now.”

“Exactly what are you saying, Mr. Brangle?” Sheila sat back and folded her arms across her chest, uncomfortably aware of the direction Mr. Brangle’s eyes seemed to keep falling.

“Why, I thought I was pretty clear, Miss Jenson,” he tilted his head to one side, a look of speculation in his eyes. Sheila could see him mentally totting up pros and cons of getting really specific.

“I’ll spell it out for you.” He paused and leaned slightly forward, lowering his voice. “Most young girls need a little extra guidance, a bit of help, from an older man during this time in their lives. Things change so fast, you know . . . parents can be so hard to talk to . . . I’m offering to help — if you like.”

Sheila watched the tip of his tongue flick out between his teeth complete a rapid circuit around his thin lips and shuddered internally before drawing a deep breath.  Inspiration struck.

She leaned forward in her desk, gesturing Mr. Brangle even closer. With their noses a mere inch away from each other, Sheila murmured, “Fabulous idea . . . but I want four years of college — all paid for by you.”

She paused and added, Oh – and a car in my name but paid for by you – and the maintenance and insurance . . . and . . . I think a clothing budget of . . . oh, let’s say $200/month.” Sheila leaned back in her chair and tilted her head. “Also a trip to Europe – because it would be so educational to travel . . .”

“What?” Mr. Brangle sputtered, mouth open in shock.

Sheila stood up from the desk, crumpled the blank paper into a tight ball and tossed it into the wastebasket next to Mr. Brangle’s desk, heading toward the door.

“You know what I mean,” she put her hand on the door, “but let me spell it out for you. There ain’t nothin’ for free, Mr. Brangle. After all, this is Economics class.”

Sheila let the door shut with a bang behind her and walked off down the empty hall.

Part of her was laughing at the look of surprise on the man’s face, and part of her was trembling at her audacity. What if the man had agreed?