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“Frick...” I said. I had forgotten about the film studies assignment and left it on the counter at home. Our evil film studies teacher, Mrs. Brinch, had assigned us to watch The Wizard of Oz and count all of the continuity errors. I always forget assignments we get assigned over the weekend.
“Erik. It’s alright. You can copy mine,” said Angela. She has light brown hair with blond highlights and wide brown eyes. I could tell you stories about the great times we’ve had together. I’ve known her since 2nd grade, and she’s been my best friend since 4th.
I looked up. I had been rummaging through my homework folder, looking desperately for my assignment. She smiled. She doesn’t smile at people, she smiles into them. It’s weird. No one else has a smile like hers.
She held out her perfectly flat lined paper. It was two days from the end of the quarter, and I couldn’t afford to take a fail.
“Thanks,” I said as I took it from her, “You’re saving my skins.” I started to transfer her nice handwriting to my chicken scratches.
The bell rang.
It was the beginning of class.
And we hadn’t a teacher.
As a class, we looked around. Mrs. Brinch was never late. If she was late for some happenstance, she wouldn’t have any excuse, because it was, after all, fifth period.
“I hope nothing bad happened to her...” said Angela. She naturally worries about everything, even though teachers are absent all the time.
“I hope she’s DEAD.” I replied. Angela glared at me.
It was then that the assistant principal strode into the room, and behind him came a tall man with short blonde hair and a cleft chin. The man’s face was slightly scrunched up, like he had just walked out of a gorilla habitat and into our classroom. He looked around the classroom. I don’t know what it was, but it seemed like I knew him from somewhere...
“Howdy, everyone!” said Mr. Glackma, the assistant principal. He’s goofy. Too goofy. We all acknowledged his greeting, and he continued.
“Mrs. Brinch won the lottery, quit her job, and moved to Bermuda. Mr. Queman here will be your substitute until we can find a replacement.”
A chorus of sighs echoed through the classroom. It’s a perfect day when you know your least favorite teacher will never enter your life again.
Mr. Glackma left, and Mr. Queman walked to the front of the classroom. He had a black backpack on.
“Hey guys,” he said (you could detect the lack of self confidence in his voice), “I’m Mr. Queman. I guess if I’ll be here for a while, you should know a bit about me. I’m thirty-nine years old, I went to USC, and majored in film studies. Of course, you guys may have figured out that I have a connection with the film world. Heh...heh heh...”
He beamed at the class. No one cared. He beamed at me. I cared. I like substitutes, and feel bad for them when the class doesn’t follow rules. Of course, I’m one of those students...
Mr. Queman broke the awkwardness he set up himself. “What film are you guys studying right now?”
Gordy, the bookworm of our class, answered for the rest of us. “Cast Away. We’re taking notes on the mistakes.”
Mr. Queman scratched his head. “Why study goofs? Shouldn’t you be studying the lighting points and lens flares?”
“No, that’s eleventh grade film studies.”
Mr. Queman gave in. “Well, if we are studying goofs and how to avoid them in our own works, I guess we should take a break from Mr. Hanks for a bit and watch one of my favorite films. Have you guys ever seen Countdown?”
The class went silent.
“I’ve never heard of that film,” I said. I usually don’t speak up during class, but I noticed this pop out at me. I watch a lot of movies. I mean A LOT of movies. I had never heard of Countdown.
Mr. Queman looked at me. He turned pale. His backpack, which he had not taken off yet, slipped a little. He snatched it back onto his shoulder.
“Then why did you automatically say the title in english?” I felt like rebelling. It was one of those days.
“Uh...” He was flustered. I continued.
“What year did it come out?” I was halfway standing. Mr. Queman was white.
Snow white. 1937.
“...Never mind. We’ll finish Cast Away.” He turned on the Blu-Ray player, and it picked a random scene to start from. The scene where Chuck Noland finds the dead body of one of the pilots. An audible chorus of “eeeeew!”s came from the girls in the class.
After class, Mr. Queman took an Advil and sat at his desk, rubbing his temples. Angela and I picked up our things and walked out the door into the busy hallway. As soon as we were out of earshot from Mr. Queman, Angela erupted.
“Alright, that was FREAKY!”
“Mr. Queman looked EXACTLY like you!”
I stopped, then continued. “...Really? I wasn’t really paying attention. I’ve never heard of Countdown.”
“Yeah, and you’ve seen all the movies ever released,” Angela said sarcastically.
We reached our locker. Angela and I share a locker. She turned to me, and read my mind.
“Did he look familiar to you?”
“Really?!” I could tell she was a little excited. It didn’t really shock me too much. A lot of people in the world have short blond hair. Apparently, Mr. Queman and I were two of them.
I forgot about Mr. Queman until later that night. It was 10:13 pm, and Mom nagged me into picking up my dirty clothes from off the ground. Angela climbed through my window. My room is on the first floor of my house, and Angela lives in the house behind us, so she does this a lot. I pretended not to notice her. This makes her mad. She is a woman, after all.
“Erik....” she reminded me of her presence.
“You know, you’re really lucky I wasn’t naked when you entered my bedroom.” I know she’s a girl, but I said this kind of thing to her all the time when we were littler and she climbed through my window. This was like a reference to the good old days.
“Yeah, I probably would have screamed and turned bright red and run into the next state.”
I laughed. I looked up and smiled at her. She smiled her movie star smile at me.
“I think he’s your dad.”
Wow, she can really start a conversation.
“My dad’s dead.”
“You don’t know that.” She had a point. My dad disappeared a month after my grandpa, his dad, died of lung cancer. They were really close, so we think it was suicide.
“Mr. Queman is not my dad.” I looked back down and scanned the floor for underwear.
“Think about it, Erik. He looks EXACTLY like you. Spitting image.”
“No he doesn’t! He looks nothing like me!”
“How do you know? You hardly ever look in a mirror.” This was true. For all I know, I could have had a beard.
Just to prove her wrong, I strode into the bathroom connecting my mom’s room with mine, flipped the light switch, and gave myself a good stare in the face. Angela stood next to me, and stared at me just as hard as I was staring at me.
I looked at my eyebrows, my chin, my nose, my ears. I looked at the slight swoop in my blond hair. I looked at my cleft chin (I didn’t know I had a cleft!). I looked at my ears that stuck out maybe a bit too much. I spoke up.
“A billion people in the world have blond hair.”
“It isn’t just your hair. It’s your chin. You both have clefts. And your ears stick out just the same.” We turned to each other. She brushed a hair out of my face.
“Don’t touch the ‘brows,” I said. She laughed. I love making her laugh.
“It might be crazy, but I seriously think Mr. Queman is your dad.”
“We’ll see tomorrow.”
I walked out back into my bedroom, and picked up a sock from the floor. Angela stuck one foot out the window. She turned to me.
“Tomorrow in class, just...try to see a resemblance.”
“Sure. I’ll try.”
She hopped out the window like a dancer. It was cold outside, but I left it open.
The next day, I had found that the film studies classroom had been emptied of everything that Mrs. Brinch had put in there, and replaced with three movie posters hung on the wall. The desk was still there. Mr. Queman was sitting in it. He had his black backpack on. It’s like he had that thing sewn into his back.
I noticed, after having a good long stare at myself the night before, that Mr. Queman did look like me. It wasn’t so much the hair (his was a tiny bit shorter) it was our sunken cheekbones.
The bell rang. Everyone sat down. Mr. Queman walked to the front of the classroom. He was about to speak, when Angela dashed in late. She looked at Mr. Queman, and he looked at her. He turned red. He fell back into his rolling chair, and Angela sat down. Mr. Queman started to watch a movie on his computer, but only one scene. I could hear it was Back to the Future, but I couldn’t tell which one. I think it was the second.
Mr. Queman recovered from his encounter with my best friend, and stood back up in front of the class.
“Alright, guys. Since we finished Cast Away yesterday, we’re going to watch The Lion King. Notice its similarities to Hamlet.”
Finally, a film I had never seen before. I had seen every other Disney movie, but I had never seen The Lion King.
“This is a real ‘dad movie’, as I refer to it. All my students say they watched it with their families when they were younger,” said Mr. Queman.
“I’ve never seen this,” I whispered to Angela. She stared at me.
“Seriously? You’ve never seen any Disney movies?”
“No, I’ve seen Disney movies, I’ve just never seen this Disney movie.” I may have said that a bit too loud. Mr. Queman slowly strode over to our table.
“Would you like to tell the class what is so important?...” He skipped backwards to his desk and glanced at the roll. He seemed to find my name rather quick.
I looked up at him.
“...I’ve never seen this movie before.” The whole class gasped. I felt like yelling at them all to shut up, but I stayed silent.
“Really? You never watched it with your dad?”
I looked down at the doodles on the desk.
“I couldn’t. I never had the opportunity to. He died when I was two.” I didn’t feel like anecdoting to the class, so I ended my story there.
“Really...” He didn’t sound like he had pity for me. He sounded a little suspicious. Then he let the truth be free.
“...My dad died, too. A while ago.”
Angela shot me a glance, and rose an eyebrow.
As we were watching The Lion King, I wasn’t really paying attention. Angela and I were passing notes.
She slipped me a neatly folded piece of paper.
I freaking told you! He is your DAD! Trust me.
I wrote back:
I believe you. His story fits in with mine like a puzzle.
As I slipped my reply to Angela, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Mr. Queman knelt down by my seat.
“Hey Erik. Will you come talk to me after class?”
After he walked back to his desk, I looked at Angela. She looked back. We both knew the moment of truth was coming.
The bell rang near the end of the movie, but it was still playing. Mr. Queman stopped the film and turned the lights on. Everyone was rushing the get their things together so that they could get to their next class.
Angela and I walked up to Mr. Queman’s desk. I looked at him. He was watching everyone get their things together. He looked at their binders and their pens and their pencils. The whole time, during the movie, he flipped through a note pad and scribbled nonsense in it. Mr. Queman is a weird dude.
He noticed me standing there.
“We’ll wait until everyone’s gone. It’s pretty important.” He moved his focus back onto the students. I looked at Angela, and she looked at me. Then she walked out the door.
“Have a seat.”
The classroom was empty, and the late bell had already rang for the next class.
“I’ll get you a late pass for your next class. We’re lucky I have my prep this period.”
“Sorry, sir, but what is this all about? Why did we have to wait until everyone was gone?”
Mr. Queman stood up and walked around his desk. He grabbed a nearby chair and sat down unnaturally close to me. He spoke softly, not quite a whisper, but it was urgent. The self confidence came back into his voice, the side of him I hadn’t seen in the days he was my teacher.
“You and Angela suspect something of me, don’t you?” There was a smile behind his serious face. He knew the answer. It was obvious we had been conferencing about him.
“Uh...” I panicked a little. What was I supposed to say? Was I supposed to just ask him if he was my dad?
“Angela thinks you’re my dad.” I pretended I knew better than her. If he wasn’t my dad, I would make a complete fool of myself.
He frowned. I could tell he hadn’t expected this. His back straightened, then relaxed. “Hah. That’s a good guess, but no.” Dang it. Sorry, Angela.
He took off his black backpack. It was the first time I had ever seen him without it on. He set it in his lap, unzipped it, and pulled out a silver, sleek pad of sorts. I knew what it was.
“Aw, that’s cool! You have an iPad?” It sounded kind of nosy of me, but it was a nosy moment. He looked at me and smiled, then down at his iPad. He entered a very long password, then started surfing through his apps.
His iPad didn’t look like a normal iPad. It was thinner, and it had a sort of attachment at the bottom. It looked like a camera attachment. I tilted my head to look at the back.
HOLY CRAP!! It was an iPAD 9TH GENERATION!!!
“Do you work for Apple?” It was a stupid question. The iPad 3rd generation had just barely come out. Even if he did work for Apple, how in the world would he get his hands on an iPad 9? They probably haven’t even started on designing the 4th!
“No...” he said. His eyes flicked up to me, then back down at the screen. He bounced as he laughed a little.
He had found what he was looking for. He held up the screen for me to see.
On the screen was a picture of him, Mr. Queman, holding hands with a very beautiful woman. The woman had the same air about her. She was familiar, like I had seen her before somewhere, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. To the left of Mr. Queman was a boy. He seemed to be a little older than me, maybe 16. To the right of the woman was a girl. She looked my age. I looked a little closer.
I sat back. It was Angela. Angela was in the picture with Mr. Queman’s wife.
I looked up at him. “Angela?”
He said: “No.”
He pointed at his wife in the picture. He said, “That’s Angela.”
I slumped back in my chair. I understood everything now. I understood who Mr. Queman is.
Mr. Queman found something else on his iPad. He held it out for me to see. It was his home page, an array of his apps. They weren’t games and pointless apps. They were good, useful apps. In the corner was one that caught my eye: TimeWarpX Lite
“I can go back, but I can’t go forward. Not without the pro version. Back here, though, my bank account doesn’t exist, so I had to get a job. A job as your teacher.”
I walked out of the classroom, stunned. I was boggled. My mind was oatmeal. Angela was waiting for me, sitting by the door of the classroom.
I could tell she was impatient. She wanted to know who Mr. Queman was as much as I had. I wasn’t expecting this, though.
She stood up. I stood in front of her. I stared into her brown eyes.
It was so weird, knowing I was going to marry her someday. I knew, but she didn’t.
I leaned my face forward a few inches, and kissed her. She didn’t refuse. We had always felt something for each other.
She pulled away after a few seconds.
“Is Mr. Queman you dad?” She looked at me. She looked into me.
“No. Mr. Queman is me.”
I kissed her again.