He hates that it's last minute. He never likes to be rushed. If it weren't just the chance he'd been waiting for, he might have turned them down. But it was "Now or never, Mr. Snyder. We've had our eye on you for a while, but there are other candidates." People with power always jerked you around like that. With them it's always "like it or lump it". But he could leave this nowheresville for good, have his own school, run the way he wanted. The way it should be. So short notice or not, he'd be on that plane tomorrow.
It's not like it was going to be hard to pack up and go. He never owned anything here. It was all rented or cheap enough to leave behind without a thought. He always knew this was a backwater, a temporary place for him. Two suitcases would be all he'd need to move his life.
So far, those two cases aren't even filled. He threw away some clothes. What he wore when he was trying to drill world history into thick heads or keeping packs of pre-teens from devouring each other in lunchrooms isn't good enough to take with him to California. A new start deserves new shirts. Besides, it might take him a while to find some place that stocked his sizes in a new town. He needs enough good clothes to tide him over.
He's feeling light and liberated as he enters the mall. He blew off work today; he can't remember ever doing that before, but he has some things to wrap up. Not so much goodbyes to say as bills to pay and accounts to close.
He's not planning to spend much time shopping. He knows where the small sizes are kept. He knows which clothing lines fit him. It's a shame he can't pick up a new suit or even a jacket. Those always need alterations, a little shortening here and there but there's no time for that.
Snyder looks at the available short-sleeved shirts, but there's not much on offer. It's winter here and what's selling is long-sleeved flannel and jersey. He almost sighs in satisfaction, knowing he's done with being cold for months at a time. Under his breath he hums California Dreaming.
He wanders around the store. He's fierce to the salespeople who approach him and turns them away. He has it in his mind that they see him as an easy mark, that they'll try to pawn something shoddy off on him. As he's searching through some clothes racks almost as tall as he is, Snyder looks around at the sound of some loudish voices. Two teenaged boys are walking towards him. They're oblivious, laughing, shoving each other. Horseplay, Snyder thinks in loathing.
One of them, the taller one, sees him, stops and smiles uncertainly. Snyder recognizes both of them. Halpert and Czar...Czarnecki, that's it. They were in his history class, he babysat them in detention, he suspected them of being guilty of a couple of "pranks" he couldn't quite pin on them. Snyder hasn't seen these two in a couple of years, but he knows them. Halpert is much taller than before but looks even more ungainly. (Snyder never saw what some of the other teachers called his "dreamy and sweet" side. To Snyder, Halpert was always a slacker with a smart mouth.) And Czarnecki looks, if it were possible, even dumber.
Halpert says, "Hey, Mr. Snyder."
"Well, well, Halpert and Czarnecki. Cutting class, I suppose? Why am I not surprised?"
"We're not cutting, Mr. Snyder. A frozen pipe burst and flooded the furnace room in the school, so they let us out," says Halpert
"Yeah, they wouldn't even let into the gym," chimes in Czarnecki.
Snyder shrugs. "Well, it's not my business, anyway. You juvenile delinquents aren't my concern anymore. And I'll never have to worry about frozen pipes or snow days again. I've got a school to run in California." Snyder's not sure why he's telling these little snots anything about his job. But it feels good to talk out loud about it.
Both boys speak at once. Halpert says, "Like a junior high?"
"Like in Malibu, with hot chicks and surfer dudes?" Czarnecki wants to know.
Snyder gives them a sour look. "The town is called Sunnydale. And it's a high school." Lunkheads.
Halpert smiles at him. "On the fast track, eh, Mr. Snyder? I mean, wow, substitute history teacher to vice-principal. And now principal. In where did you say? Sun...Sun..."
"Yeah, wow, in California. Cool."
"It's what happens when you have a plan, Halpert. You wouldn't know about that. You drift, Halpert, always have, always will."
"No, no, I've changed a lot, Mr. Snyder. I just daydreamed a lot in world history 'cause it was, you know, boring.'
"Everything was boring to you, Halpert, unless you were making trouble. You think I don't know who TP'd my car that Halloween? Or who rolled up that poster of some rock band in the map I used in class?"
Snyder moves closer to Halpert, shaking an indignant index finger at him; the boy loomed over him so that Snyder's head is at an almost 45 degree angle to his body. "The other teachers might have bought that big-eyed innocent act, but I never did. You're a trouble-maker, Halpert. In my school, I'm going to nip your type in the bud."
Halpert steps back a foot or so and fidgets with his backpack strap. "Ok, ummm..."
Czarnecki, who'd been quiet for a while, suddenly looks around and says, "Hey, Mr. Snyder, how come you're in the boys' department? You got kids?"
Snyder sees Halpert give his friend a kick in the ankles. He says, "Don't you juvies have a food court to go? Go clog your arteries with junk" He turns away and busys himself with winnowing through a table filled with half-priced shirts.
"Hey, yeah, that's right where we were going." Czarnecki smiles in anticipation.
Halpert says, "Yeah, well, good luck in California, Mr. Snyder. Don't get swallowed up in, like, an earthquake or something."
Snyder turns back and says, "People make their own luck. It's all about seizing the opportunity. I doubt if you'll remember that, Halpert, but it's what separates the men from the boys. "
"Hmm, okay," says Halpert. He and Czarnecki shuffle around for a moment and then, in unspoken agreement, turn and lope off toward the food court. Snyder watches them.
If it were up to him those two would have been expelled long ago. Kicked out on their asses. Snyder smiles to himself. He is in charge now. From now on, it's his way or the highway.
He takes the shirts he's buying and walks to the cashier. Anybody watching his progress would have said he had a jaunty air about him.