grizzled old hand

Walked into school this morning, late, sober – not in the sense of state of sobriety, in the sense that the corners of my mouth tilt, pull downward, of their own accord, until I realize it and set my face to neutral. So I walked in, late, and there was a shrill squeal from all little throats at once. I walked in without taking off my coat or setting down my bag and they rushed me, hugging and giggling until they were on top of my head and the world became a small circle of light above my face, then was blotted out completely.

The other teacher was worried that I would get hurt; I assured her that I was a grizzled old hand at child-wrangling and hadn’t sustained a bruise above the shoulders in years. Literal years. I take any and all opportunities to say ‘grizzled’ and ‘grizzled old hand’ especially.

“They don’t do that for me!” said the other teacher in that voice peculiar to teachers, each and every word enunciated, clear, smiling even, but somehow you feel like a test is coming. The hint of teeth, as it were. I straightened myself up, hunted for a wayward bra strap under my sweatshirt and answered her “Because you don’t want it.” Period, no exclamation point.