He was shouting, which was not good, as it drew attention to the situation, but dammit, he was angry.
Still on her hands and knees, Ronnie threw a disdainful look over her shoulder and crawled out of the gym, into the hallway. He wondered what the hall monitors would think of her little cat-game. He didn’t much care. Maybe a little old-fashioned schoolyard teasing would snap her out of it, whatever it was.
He turned his attention back to his other students. "Nothing to see kids, game on!"
* * *
The next day, Ronnie was absent from gym class. Mr. Thomas was a little concerned. Had something been really wrong with the child? He’d thought she was just misbehaving, but what if he’d been wrong? Had he ignored the symptoms of some strange and dangerous illness he’d never heard of?
Maybe he shouldn’t have punished her at all. Maybe he should have taken her to the school nurse.
Today was volleyball day, the net set extra low to accommodate the kids’ height. He’d divided the kids up into groups and given each group a few balls, so they could practice spiking them over the net. Most kids liked spiking, and so he was looking forward to a pleasant class.
He watched as the kids approached the net and spiked, with varying degrees of success. Occasionally he’d call out "good effort" or "nice!"or a helpful observation, meant to encourage.
Now Stuart was approaching the net. Mr. Thomas resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Last time, the kid had insisted on doing an exaggerated limbo under the net after his turn, having stuffed two volleyballs under his shirt to create a pornographically large bosom, which he shook with glee, until the balls fell out.
The kid was just not funny, but he never stopped screwing around, trying to make the other kids laugh. Which, to Mr. Thomas’ disappointment, they usually did.
Dreading what Stuart would try this time, he watched, rubbing his temples to ease an oncoming stress headache.
But Stuart didn’t do anything idiotic with the balls this time. Instead, he dropped to his hands and knees.
Some of the kids laughed, looking at Mr. Thomas with naughty glee, getting the reference. Everyone likes to be in on the joke, children included.
"Stuart, that’s enough! Get up and spike the ball."
Mr. Thomas looked at Tanya, who stood on the other side of the net, ready to toss the ball over the net to Stuart. “Tanya, throw him the ball.”
Stuart stayed on his hands and knees, continuing to make cat sounds.
"Mr. Thomas, he’s not ready for the ball," said Tanya, unnecessarily.
"Stuart! Get up right now, or you’re headed to the principal’s office."
For a moment, Mr. Thomas hesitated, remembering the qualms he’d just felt about sending Ronnie to the principal’s office. But he didn’t have those same qualms about Stuart. This was just the kind of thing Stuart did. The kid saw some girl do it yesterday, and now he got it into his head that it would be funny to copy her. That’s all this was.
Stuart went stiff and still. The children watched him. Words aimed at him from all around. "What are you doing?" "Stuart, get up, or you’re gonna get in trouble." "Knock it off, Stuart."
Then Stuart pounced. He landed with a thud that should have hurt him, the floor being as hard as it was, but he gave no indication that he felt pain. Instead he reached out a hand, snatched something off the ground...and put it in his mouth.
"EEEW!" Tanya screeched. "He ate a spider!"
"EEEEEEW!" The other kids chimed in with moans of disgust and disapproval. A couple kids laughed, which was undoubtedly Stuarts’ aim.
"That’s it. Stuart, go to the principal’s office."
Hanging his head, as if ashamed, Stuart crawled out of the gym.
"Now listen up," Mr. Thomas snapped at the remaining students. "I don’t know what you kids think you’re doing, but there’ll be none of this kitty-cat playing in my class, do you understand? If any of you feel like you wanna