See this photo of our latest snowstorm?
Look closer—see all the spots on the image when I turn on my camera’s flash?
No, no, no—don’t start saying, “Oh, how sweet!” because they aren’t. Not one bit.
They are everywhere. Hundreds, every single day, springing up in the oddest of places. Usually I find them my bedroom and in kitchen–literally IN the butter dish and in the refrigerator (under the veggie drawer, trying to get to my lime).
They don’t respect anything or care where they die. My curtains seem to be their favorite death spot. And our cat is useless against them.
Did you know that when you step on them with bare feet, they have the softest crunch? Not as bad as cockroaches, but still very unsettling when, in the middle of the night, you pad clumsily to the bathroom and feel tiny “crunch . . . crunch . . . crunch” under your feet.
This has been problematic for me because I’ve gone on the offensive, vacuuming up these creatures every day—hundreds a day–and every morning the window looks again like this:
I like to believe I’m a pacifist. I don’t destroy spiders, but back away respectfully and let them have the room until they feel like leaving. I’ve caught mice in past houses and released them into the wild. I have a “live-and-let-live” philosophy: everything deserves life, as much as I do.
Except for hornets. Just the other day I followed a disoriented one who must have come out of hibernation early in my classroom. It landed on the floor and I whacked it repeatedly with a binder, to the cheers of my students. Hornets serve no purpose except to sting me and make my hands swell up.
And ants. They can do anything they want outside, but if they invade the house, they’ll meet my can of Raid and my cries of “DIE! DIE!”
Ok, so I’m a pretty bad pacifist, with a “live-but-not-in-my-house” philosophy.
Funny how circumstances can make you rethink your philosophies, how something hitting close to home—or invading your home—can shift everything.
For example, I hate guns. Always have. I recoil when I see one nearby, and the desire to run for cover overwhelms me.
Until recently, when I realized that as a “permanent substitute teacher” I have a responsibility beyond myself.
Our school has recently been discussing ways to improve safety. New measures began this week, and as I explained them to my students, we naturally joked about how to deal with real threats. (These are teenagers—the only way to deal with heavy issues is to make them lighter.) We talked about the door, and how I might be rearranging the classroom to put me nearest the door, in to open it first whenever someone knocks.
A student said, “So that means you get to die first? Mrs. Mercer, how’s THAT supposed to help us?”
Before I could answer with, “Gee, I really don’t know. I hadn’t considered that,” another student suggested, “Seeing her get shot gives us half a second to realize what’s happening so we can hide under our non-bulletproof desks.”
“But if Mrs. Mercer had a gun,” someone said, “she could take out the shooter and save us all!”
Shockingly, I found myself smiling at that.
No. No, no, no I hate guns. I don’t even like their shapes. But suddenly, looking at all of my students who daily test and try me, but who I love far more than I ever thought I would, I wavered.
Would I try to take out their shooter? I like to think I’d rush him, like a manic mama bear, screaming and flailing and maybe doing some good before I was cut down.
But if a gun appeared in my hands at that moment—and I knew what to do with it—would I use it in a situation where I thought my students were in danger?
Shockingly, I just might.
Oh, I know all of the arguments against guns—I’ve written them all in my head. Every time I read about an accidental shooting, or another child finding a loaded gun, or someone else being careless and causing injury or death, I point it out to my husband and say, “Again, THIS is why I insist you keep the ammo and guns separate.” He does. It took him years to convince me to let him have any weapons at all.
I’ve always maintained that I would rather lay down and die in front of a gunman, instead of risking taking someone else’s life. Especially if there was the possibility of my misreading the situation and using a weapon on an innocent bystander. Judging a life-or-death situation accurately in a moment’s notice is difficult for highly trained soldiers and police. They sometimes get it wrong, despite all their experience.
But someone like me? Untrained and emotional and terrified? I wouldn’t trust myself to make the right decision. That’s why I’d prefer to lay down and let happen whatever would happen. God will sort it all in the end.
But as a teacher—even a mere permanent substitute—it’s not just my life in that classroom. I’m a pseudo parent for every child in that room, and I have to consider, “What would each of those parents expect me to do for their child?” I still hate guns. I never want to hold one, but . . .
I’m wrestling with that idea as I vacuum up yet another batch of invading ladybugs.
Only a year ago, I would have carefully rescued the stray ladybug I found in the house and escorted it outside, not unceremoniously suck them up and throw them into 22 inches of new snow.
Circumstances have changed, and I’m changing too.
And I’m still debating if that’s a good thing or not.
Mrs. Yordin chased after Mahrree. “Don’t you dare interfere with my soldiers!”
Mahrree stopped. “Your soldiers? Eltana, no one in Salem owns anything, especially soldiers! But this is what it’s about for you, isn’t it? Revenge for Gari? You don’t care one bit for these people. You never really tried to live the Salem way. You harbored resentment and anger all this time, and now you’re using these gullible people to try to, what, kill Lemuel Thorne? Is that your goal?”
“Yes!” Mrs. Yordin declared. “For me AND for all these people, and even for you, Mahrree! We kill Thorne, we change the world.”
“Change it to what? Not all change is for the best, Eltana, I promise you. The kind of place where bitter old women like you get their way and peace-loving people suddenly want to know how to bleed a man to death is not a place I’d want to live in!”
Mrs. Yordin folded her arms. “You were always so self-righteous,” she announced smugly. “Always had to tell everyone else what they were doing wrong and why nothing was ever right. No wonder the world forced you from it. They were sick of listening to you. Everyone in Edge was. And now you’re breathing your sanctimonious ranting here.”
“Yes, I am.”
~Book 8, The Last Day, coming Summer 2018