Andrew’s car shut down quietly as he and his lawyer crossed the school parking lot. At the entrance, he placed his hand against the lockplate. “Should we be running?” he asked.

“No.” The lawyer set the pace, her heels clicking on the tile floor. Andrew followed, a step behind, as she led him to the main office and touched the bell. A section of the wall slid away, revealing a middle-aged man behind a high desk and an inch of plexiglass. “Good afternoon,” the lawyer said, keeping her voice neutral.

“Good afternoon,” said the receptionist.

“My client, Andrew Fasano, received a message that the teachers can’t reach his son at this time.”

“Ah.” The receptionist indicated a reader panel below the bell. “If Mr. Fasano would please verify his identity?”

Andrew looked at the lawyer, who nodded. He placed his hand against the panel, and the man behind the window read his screen. “Very well. Mr. Fasano, please come in.”

A door slid open and Andrew and his lawyer stepped through. On the other side was a spare conference room, completely neutral, the walls bare of even the most non-controversial artwork. “Please wait here, Mr. Fasano.” It was the receptionist’s voice. “Someone will be with you shortly.”

His lawyer did take a seat, placing her tablet on the table, but Andrew just draped his coat over one of the chairs and began to pace. His earpiece pinged softly and he put it in his pocket, ignored. Work could wait.

And it did. For about ten minutes, until three people came into the room and sat on one side of the table. Andrew recognized Miss Rain and Dr. Walling; Rain Nicholson was Marty’s teacher, and Andrew had met Dr. Philip Walling during the extensive interview process he’d gone through to get Marty placed at the school.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Fasano,” said Dr. Walling. “You know Miss Nicholson, and this is Jin Chuan, our legal counsel.”

“Good afternoon.” Andrew placed his hands on his coat. “This is Ana Maria Matejas, who will represent me.” His lawyer inclined her head slightly. Then Andrew looked at the education director—because, as the literature had said, “principal” was an outmoded term. “What took you so long to get in here?” A touch of stress in his voice.

“Mr. Chuan advised us to give him time to review the case before meeting with you.”

Andrew shook his head. “How much time did you spend waiting for Mr. Chuan to arrive?” his lawyer asked.

“Mr. Chuan maintains an office in the building,” the director said. “In case of a situation like this.”

“Situation?” Andrew shook his head again, this time as if to clear it. “The situation, Dr. Walling, is that my son is no longer under your supervision. The situation should be that you and your staff should be supervising him!” He took a couple of deep breaths; his voice had gotten louder toward the end.

Ms. Matejas stepped in smoothly. “Mr. Fasano is upset, and understandably so,” she said. “Section 3A of the educational contract guarantees supervision at all times, except where noted in subsection two.”

“Yes. Well…” Miss Rain was using her teacher voice, though Andrew privately doubted she was legally allowed to talk like a normal person while on school grounds. “There are, of course, certain times when I am not legally allowed to be in the same room as Marty—”

“The student,” Chuan said sharply.

Miss Rain shot him a dark look, which made Andrew respect her a little more. “Marty,” and she stressed his name, black eyes narrowing, “expressed a need to use the restroom on the way back from Music class.”

“And he informed you?” Matejas said.

“No,” Miss Rain said. “He asked Miss Katrina.” She was the co-teacher in Marty’s classroom.

“So. the rest of the kids went back to class,” Andrew said, smiling slightly, “and when Marty didn’t come out and Miss Katrina couldn’t go in—”

“We contacted you immediately,” said Dr. Walling. He sounded bored, put-upon, as if this whole business was beneath him. The school’s lawyer cleared his throat, but Walling ignored him. “As per the rules.”

“Section 7C, subsection four,” Chuan said.

“My client is well aware of the school’s guidelines,” Matejas said, her left hand flicking through pages on her tablet. “As am I.”

“So. He’s still in the bathroom?” Andrew asked.

“Mrs. Gunnarsdottir has remained outside the restroom since the student declined to exit.” Chuan checked something on his tablet. “She has followed all school guidelines exactly as required.”

“Of course, we can’t hold Mrs. Gunnarsdottir accountable,” said Matejas. Chuan immediately typed on his tablet, and Andrew realized that his lawyer had eliminated the possibility of suing at least one person. Miss Rain also relaxed slightly. Andrew didn’t dislike either of Marty’s teachers—he’d had them vetted just as thoroughly as the school had vetted him, and Marty, for his part, loved them.

Andrew was, however, quite certain that someone was going to pay. He didn’t retain Ana Maria Matejas solely because she was pretty—in fact, had that been the case, she herself could have sued him for assault via objectification. She’d done it before. It was how they’d met in the first place.

He looked over her shoulder at her tablet; her notes were in Catalan, which he didn’t speak, but it was similar enough to Spanish that he at least had an idea of what she’d be asking for. He controlled his face and stepped away. “Dr. Walling, why didn’t anyone else go check on Marty?”

“Section 30C, personal privacy, bodily functions,” Chuan said quickly, before the director could reply. “‘No staff member of the school shall draw attention to a student’s bodily functions when performed in the privacy of a restroom.” And also,” he added, “Section 31B, molestation protection: ‘No male-identified staff member shall be left alone with a student under any circumstances.’”

Andrew wanted to laugh. Dr. Walling couldn’t have become educational director of even a government-run school if he had the slightest hint of sexual offense in his history. He was absolutely sure that the director would never directly harm a child. However…

“I think, in this case, you should have made an exception.”

Matejas shot him a look. Chuan typed on his tablet.

“Mr. Fasano,” Chuan said, “the school is prepared to settle with you on this matter: any lost pay, plus time, travel, and legal expenses.”

Andrew nodded to his lawyer. “We accept your settlement,” Matejas said. “Now, please conduct my client to the restroom.”

Andrew knocked on the one closed stall door. “Marty? You in there?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

He sighed. “Marty, why are you still in there?”

“There’s no toilet paper, Dad.”

Andrew went into the next stall, liberated a roll, bent down, and passed it under the barrier. When he felt Marty take it, he stood up and went over to the sinks to wait. A minute later, there was a flush, followed by the appearance of his son, adjusting his jeans. “Wash your hands, Marty.”

Marty nodded and did so, then allowed his father to pick him up and hug him. “Sorry, Dad.”

Andrew shrugged. “It happens. But next time, check the roll before you sit down.”


They left the bathroom. Marty held up his fist and Andrew bumped it, as did his lawyer. A few feet down the hall, Dr. Walling and Mr. Chuan watched Marty walk away with Miss Katrina, back toward the classroom. Marty was shuffling a bit, which was understandable; he’d been in the bathroom for more than half an hour, and his legs probably ached, or were at the very least half-asleep.

Matejas checked her tablet. “It’s 1:45,” she said under her breath, so the others wouldn’t hear. “I think I can get you paid for the rest of the day.”

Andrew smiled. If he got paid, she got paid. And if he got the rest of the day off…

The lawyer smiled too, looking up at him from under dark eyelashes.

“I’ll wait in the car.”

# # #

Section 3A by Josh Roseman
originally published in the Winter 2010 print edition



Josh Roseman (not the trombonist; the other one) makes things on the internet. His fiction has appeared in the Drabblecast, Khimairal Ink, and the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. If you’d like to find out what else he’s writing and where you can read it, visit him online at Josh lives in Marietta, GA, and right now, he’s probably playing fantasy football.

For more of Josh's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


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