An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Summer 2008

The Teacher

Alix Ohlin

Alix Ohlin is the author of “The Missing Person” (2005) and “Babylon and Other Stories” (2006). Her fiction, which has appeared in “One Story” and “Shenandoah,” among other periodicals, has been selected for both “Best New American Voices 2004” and “Best American Short Stories 2005.”

On Doug and Carol’s wedding day, murder was committed in their small town, which they steadfastly refused to take as a bad sign. They were that much in love. They spent their first married night in the Newport hotel wrapped in each other’s arms, gazing into each other’s eyes and so on, but after they’d had sex twice there was only so much more gazing that could happen, and Carol turned on CNN while Doug took a shower.

“Oh, my God,” he heard her say as he toweled off. She was sitting at the foot of the king-sized bed, the coverlet loosely bunched around her skinny frame, exposing the delicate bumps of her spine. She was transfixed. A young man had killed his wife and child, and he was on the run; cameras were holding steady on a blue SUV driving on a strangely empty freeway, headed for the coast.

“I don’t know why you watch this stuff,” Doug said. He sat down beside her and kissed her bare shoulder. She smelled like candy.

“She went to my high school,” Carol said, her eyes wide and round. “Younger though. So young. And the baby. Did you know them?”

“I don’t think so.”

On the screen now was a photograph of the young couple on their own wedding day, red-eyed from camera flash and booze. Carol was a preschool teacher and spent all day long singing songs about bunnies and cows. Sometimes they bumped into her students in the grocery store, and the kids were so freaked out to see her outside of school that they ran away. Other times, to be fair, they got excited and seemed like they were going to pee their pants. In any case, she came home from being with the kids all day, from playing with their brightly colored blocks and vocabulary building cards, and she liked, by way of contrast, to watch violent television–crime dramas or breaking news about murders, kidnappings, disappearances. She was an expert on bullets and DNA evidence. She supported the death penalty and often, just before falling asleep, would shake her head and say things like, “He should rot in hell for what he’s done.” In Jamaica, he’d booked a room without a TV; it was called the “Serenity Suite” and was more expensive than a normal room.

.  .  .

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