‘Mr. Sherman’ from Surveillance Pelicana

Mr. Sherman aka berman/Horace Mann

(Editor’s Note: I plan on publishing my creative writing on a regular basis at The Grapevine as a “public” service, and also to acquaint readers with my accumulated writings that have not seen the light of day. These will be posted under the names of dweissmann or Dean Weissmann for clarity’s sake. Enjoy!)

Horace Mann School, Riverdale, N.Y./Horace Mann

Act begins stage right.

A bell rang signifying a change of school periods. The boys entered the third floor classroom.

They sat at wooden chair-desks still excited by the brief freedom afforded in the temporary suspension of school discipline and order. They were impervious, not noticing any particular differences before their twinkling eyes.

Mr. Sherman has drawn a white chalk picture on the blackboard. He sits stage left surrounded, almost obscured, in his chair.

Boys chattered aimlessly until one by one they sensed the need to desist. Mr. Sherman did not have to call them to attention. He psychically willed their motor-mouths to simmering stops.

“Yes. Yes. You are quiet then,” Mr. Sherman noted in his strange turn of tone, a kind of cocktail hybrid of geek with a twist of Marine drill sergeant.

“I call your attention to what I have drawn on the blackboard.” He pointed with a ruler.

“Consider the weeds I have drawn. The weeds that all of you, myself, and everyone you know, and will know, are mired in, trapped like animals, inextricably bound, unable to escape, unable even to imagine escape.”

(Mr. Sherman had a funny way of pronouncing certain words and a masters degree in literature from the University of Michigan to validate his erudition. So, he pronounced Oedipus as Oy-Ay-Di-Puuuus, for example, as the class went Greek from time to time.)

“Oy-Ay-Di-Puuuus is down there.” Mr. Sherman pointed to the ground. “Clytemnestra is down there. Your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers are down there. The smartest person you will ever meet in your life is down there. And yes, even I am down there.

“Now, look above, above up there to the top of the blackboard.” Everyone looked over, under, through the blackboard with X-ray visions blurring. Nothing, sorry.

“That is God or what we call God or what others call what they call the ultimate being,” Mr. Sherman continued monotone unabated. “The beginning and end of time. That is off the blackboard. No one can see it.

“Now, just beneath the edge of the board, but significantly higher than the weeds is this,” continued Mr. Sherman. “Look. Look.”

Mr. Sherman had drawn three white clouds set on the blackboard sea. “This is where one person reaches,” he said. “One person can find this place, a place above the weeds where the vista is clear.”

“He could look down upon the weeds and everyone in the weeds, but there is no need to bother. He does not care what the weeds contain, what the weed persons do with their brief time in the weeds. No. No. Never.”

Mr. Sherman’s voice rose like a reedy flute, piercing the psychic atmosphere marked by half-listening, barely comprehending 16 year old youths.

Mr. er Sherman/

“No. He has made it to a place above the weeds and he can never look back. He is up there,” Mr. Sherman held a hand up to the cloudy picture, “and all of us are down there,” and pointed with the ruler to the weeds.

“You are a dull class,” Mr. Sherman said. “In fact, when they gave me your class they warned me these boys care not to learn. They are stupid boys. They only are interested in becoming businessmen, bankers, lawyers, whatever.

“They warned me. Do not waste your time, your energy with boys such as these. They will not benefit. Simply teach them the lesson and wish them good luck on their way to wherever they are going.

“I have seen you boys for nearly a year and I must agree. You are the worst class I have ever taught. You will live your lives and make what you will of them. That is nothing to me. You are stupid boys.

“But I have drawn this picture and wasted my valuable time all these months for a reason. What reason is this I see you ask with your dull eyes. I will tell you.

“While you and I are stuck in the mud, hidden from the higher truth of order by these wretched weeds, unable to get out or climb above; one of you is exempt from this inhumane status of humanity.

“Yes. Yes,” Mr. Sherman’s thin voice seeming to rise like a fine mist, “look at your classmates. Look to the right and left, behind and in front. One of you is here,” and pointing to the blackboard clouds.

“One of you stupid boys is wisest of all, wiser even than me although he does not realize it. One of you is above the weeds. This boy among all of we weed eaters, this boy who does not realize what he is. For this boy, I have done everything.

“I have sweated at night and prepared these many months of lessons even as you did not comprehend them, perhaps never will, or might eventually come to realize a small portion. But this boy above the weeds comprehends, and yes, understands even, understands all I have spoken, perhaps without realizing it as yet.

At the school blackboard/Bryan Stauffer, The Atlantic

“I have done everything that I have done for this boy, this one boy who will rise above you, above me. I have told only him about Oy-Ay-Di-Puuuus and Shakespeare’s sonnets.

“One boy out of all, and you know what, I will not tell you who he is. You will never hear that from me.

“He might be you,” Mr. Sherman pointed at a dull lad. “Or you, or you, or you,” pointing at different students.

“You must always wonder who he is. It might be anyone. It might be he who none suspect, none of you even vaguely consider.

“Or it might be you,” pointing to Bob Lippman, straight ‘A’  honor roll Mensa student. “Or you,” pointing to Andy Suchin, the worst ‘D’ student one planet earth, “or you or you…

“You must always wonder who he is for you are in the weeds. But this special boy will know the higher order that even I can not possibly understand, nor could I should I live an eternity. He knows this intuitively. He knows this without asking.

“I have done all I can to help him. I have devoted myself to him, this secret boy. I will never utter his name. The rest of you are irrelevant. The rest of you are cattle.

“I only hope this person remembers what I said and what I tried to show him. I hope he has pity on me when he remembers my unworthiness. I hope I have been of some small service to him.

“Class dismissed.”

Initial shock gave way to boys quickly gathering belongings, throwing them into book bags. They feared Mr. Sherman — usually a stickler for detail and punctuality — might change his mind, considering he had dismissed class with 20 minutes remaining on the clock.

Mr. Sherman sinks in his chair scene stopped.

(That was the last lecture Mr. Sherman ever gave the class for he was terminated suddenly, and without public explanation, the next week. Circumstances were unclear although whispers of gay indiscretions refused to die.)

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