In this episode, I learn that the girls have agreed to stop teasing me. In fact, they propose–through Mrs. Casazza–to do something I would never have imagined.
Some weeks later, I sat in my office having usual breakfast and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. It was Thursday, and Thursday’s crossword is always tricky. I was on the lookout for anything unusual. Just as I had figured out the Thursday trick to the puzzle, I heard a knock at my office door. It was Mrs. Casazza.
“May I disturb you for a moment, Mr. Fornale? I know you’re doing your crossword.”
“No problem at all; I’ve just figured it out. Your timing is perfect.”
“Well,” Mrs. Casazza began, “I’ve got some good news.”
“Great!” I said. “I’m always looking for that.”
“Good, I knew you’d be receptive. It’s about the bullying case you wanted me to look into a few weeks ago.”
“Bullying? Our students usually behave well toward one another. Who is bullying whom?”
“Mr. Fornale,” Mrs. Casazza said, rolling her eyes, “They weren’t bullying each other. They were bullying you. Or, at least, that is what you tried to assert.”
“Yes! Well….right. Yes, those mean girls were clearly trying to upset me. That is why I called in the police.”
“Hmmm…perhaps,” Mrs. Casazza began to respond, “but I understand Officer Chris was merely stopping by to walk the building and check in with the teachers he works with. That is, after all, what school resource officers do.”
“Well, whatever, whatever! Tell me this good news you’re talking about.”
“Yes, well, it turns out that your only defender in this situation…”
“Yes! Rebecca! I know I can count on her. She’s the only student in that grade who knows the meaning of honor and loyalty…a shining example to her peers!”
“Right…so, as I understand it, she has negotiated with your tormentors, and she has brokered a cease-fire.”
“Meaning?” I asked, ever so tentatively.
“Meaning, Jolie, Harlynn, and Ava–along with the rest of the girls in the fourth grade–have agreed to turn over their Beanie Boos to you, and you may dispose of them as you wish.”
“Ha!” I returned. “I’ll burn them!”
“You can’t burn them.”
“Well, they will be destroyed. How do we go about collecting these evil items?”
“As it turns out,” she continued, “there will be a considerable…volume..of items–Beanie Boos, Hello Kitty, stuffed fluffy cute things–everything that the girls in fourth grade have used to torment you over the past two years. They are determined to make amends.”
“Sure,” I said. “I trust some of them about half as far as I can throw a piano.”
“They’re serious,” Mrs. Casazza continued. “Rebecca has made a case that the girls have taken things too far. No matter how many times you try to steal Isabella’s water bottle–”
“It isn’t stealing! I’m trying to take it back. It’s mine!”
“No matter how many times you fake sneeze so loudly that the kids jump out of their chairs–”
“Fake? I have allergies. Real allergies!”
“No matter how many times you walk into classrooms and stir the children up–”
“Aw, come on!”
“These girls have agreed to round up not just the stuffed animals, but every pink item they can find in their cubbies, in their bookbags, and at home. Simply decide where you want these items placed, and they will surrender everything to you, never to replace the items–and never to tease you again.”
“Never. Just tell the girls where to collect the items, and I will make arrangements to dispose of everything as you wish.”
“I want it all burned,” I grumbled.
“We can’t do that,” Mrs. Casazza responded, “but we can donate the items…”
“No!” I interjected. “Those evil items will be removed forever from circulation!”
“I suppose we could recycle them.”
“Good…good!” I responded. “Recycling is good for the environment! Let’s do that!”
“Great,” Mrs. Casazza continued. “It only remains for you to say where to put the items that are collected.”
“Oh, anywhere,” I responded.
“But you have to be specific,” she pressed.
“Please don’t bother me with such details. Let the girls choose the receptacle, and I will have all the cute things and whatever they are in taken away for recycling.”
“But some kind of container?”
“Mrs. Casazza, please!” I insisted. “This entire topic gives me a headache. You say my headache is coming to an end, yes? Simply have the girls choose any container for collection, and have it all disposed of–”
“Yes, yes–recycled! Container and all!”
“But are you sure you want them to choose–”
“Mrs. Casazza!” I interrupted. “Might we please end this inane discussion once and for all? This is my moment of victory. These mean children have finally seen the error of their ways. Without any help from Officer Chris or Mrs. Holmes or Mr. Paltjon, these girls have finally come to understand how to treat their principal. Please don’t spoil this wonderful moment with technicalities.”
“So you’re sure?” she ventured. “They can put the Beanie Boos, stuffed animals, Hello Kitties, and all other things in whatever large item can hold them, and I am to have everything–and as you say, everything–sent out for recycling. Do I have this right?”
“Yes, Mrs. Casazza, yes. And please have it done by next Friday afternoon. I love Fridays. And to see it all carted away before I leave will set the tone for the weekend. Ahhh! This gives me something to look forward to. And, you, know? Maybe those three girls are not so mean after all. Of course, I give credit to Rebecca. She’s the only one who truly stood up for me.”
“Right,” said Mrs. Casazza. “So as long as you’re sure about all of this…”
“Yes, yes! I am sure. Thank you, Mrs. Casazza. Maybe I should be sorry for calling you Brutus that one time.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Fornale. As long as you’re sure, I’ll take it from here.”
And out she went from my office. I stood from my little table where I eat my breakfast. I held up my crossword puzzle. I had figured out the Thursday trick and solved the puzzle. And I had defeated these bullying children by sheer moral force. The world was finally beginning to make sense again. By the next Friday afternoon, it would all be official. I could hardly wait.