"All Girl's School"

Created & written by Mr. Toasty (Al Kristopher)

"Roll Call"

She looked like she had come out of somebody's nightmare, or else one of those dark Wiccan cults that people have shuddering thoughts of. Truth be told, though, she didn't care what people thought, not even on the first day of her last year in high school. First impressions be damned; she was wearing what she wanted and there wasn't an authority alive that could say otherwise. Of course, it was a little harder being rebellious since the school didn't have a strict dress code--a surprise indeed, considering it was a girls-only school--but apathy struck even rebellion and thus, she didn't even care if she wasn't rebelling.

She looked at her watch again. Of all the things… This had been one of those rare times she actually came to class early, and of course, nobody else was there. It would start in ten minutes, too--surely somebody would pop in, perhaps one of those goody-good honor students or a cheerleader clone that oozed sickening perfection, the kind that just had to show up early to give a good impression. The only girl in Ms. Madsen's Literature and Writing class would've vomited out of illness had she not eaten such a delicious breakfast.

Finally, people started coming in, and lo and behold, not a one of them yet seemed to give the poor girl a case of Linda Blair spews. There were three, four, five of them, and more coming in, and they all ignored her. Then again, she didn't recognize any of them either, so she kept quiet. They all kept quiet, until one of the girls recognized the other.

"Vicki!"

"Hi, Janine! Sleep well?"

"No way," sighed the girl wearily. Her eyes looked like they had missed seeing Slumberland for the third time. "I didn't get a wink. Can't really blame me after that party we had."

"I slept fine," noted the one called Vicki.

"Well you weren't up as late as I was."

"Yes I was! Just not as late, and you were doing more partying than I was."

"Yeah, I guess. Ugh, I'm gonna feel crappy all morning long. Why," she lamented as she crashed into her seat, next to her friend, "does school always have to start so early?"

"Because teachers are cruel and mean people," said another girl, clear out of the blue. Vicki snorted out a laugh, and the sleepy one called Janine moaned in agreement.

"Yeah. Hey, uh, has anybody in here ever had Ms. Madsen before?"

"No," came several responses. One girl had an addition to her answer.

"I heard she's real rough--gave two tests in one day."

"Two tests?! You're kidding me!"

"It's just what I heard," she replied nonchalantly. Janine hissed.

"That's not right! Now I wanna transfer outta here!" A few girls smiled and laughed, and things seemed to quiet down. The classroom filled slowly, until it seemed everyone who would be in it was in it. The bell rang, the first class of the first day of school began, and yet there was no teacher before them. A few began to mutter. One snickered. Then the door opened, and finally she came in, whistling the theme song from The Magnificent Seven. She stood at her desk, laid a folder of papers down, and smiled warmly. She was gorgeous.

"Good morning," she said clearly. Nobody spoke. The woman blinked, frowned, and repeated herself a little louder. "Good morning." Again, nobody said anything. She skillfully went to her folder, plucked a piece of paper that had the names of her students on it, and muttered loud enough for everyone to hear, "Minus ten points for everyone for not returning my greetings."

"What!!" shrieked the girl that had came early. "No shit!"

"And minus fifteen points for foul language," she added cruelly. The girl gawked in surprise.

"Fuck!!!"

"Another fifteen!" snapped the teacher angrily, nearly puncturing the paper with her pen. "Young lady, I do not tolerate rudeness or foul language in my classroom. You will be severely disciplined if you deviate from these rules, is that clear? …Is that clear? If you don't answer me, I will deduct ten more points from your score."

"Y-yeah, yeah…" she murmured, her pride shot down and humbled bitterly. All the other ladies looked pale as they turned their attention from the exasperated girl to the harsh-looking woman that stared down at them like a vulture to its prey. She shifted back to the friendlier version of herself and smiled, though not quite as warmly.

"Now… let's try this again. Good morning."

"Good morning," chimed the class.

"Thank you. My, what pleasant students I have this year." Oh, she was good. Like putting salt on a wound… "My name is Miss Madsen," she continued, less coyly, "and I will be teaching Literature and Writing, which is not to be confused with English. We are not in England, and unless some of you are foreign, I don't need to teach you how to speak. In this class we will go over all kinds of literature, as well as education on furthering your writing skills. Unlike most courses, the things you will learn in this class actually have a use outside the school!" Miss Madsen smiled wittily, as if that came as a shock to the students, and a few gasped in mock surprise. Little miss potty mouth rolled her eyes.

"I'll now be taking roll, but I'm going to do it differently than most other teachers. I want everyone to come up to the front of the class, introduce yourself, and tell us some things about you. That way, everybody knows everybody and all the ice that's formed around this first day will be broken. Everybody will be required to come up, and this looks like a small class size, so don't think you'll somehow slip out of this. Now, who would like to go first?"

"Me!" A hand raised up almost the second Miss Madsen asked for volunteers. She grinned warmly and looked to her names list.

"Thank you, young lady. You will receive five extra points for volunteering first."

"All right!" The excitable young woman almost bounced to the front, where she gave the whole class a cheerful grin and wave. She was pretty, plainly Irish from her looks and name, and seemed like the kind of person whom anyone could like.

"All right! Top o' the mornin' to ya lasses, as they'd say in me country! Name's Gabrielle O'Shannon, and I don't think I need to tell ya where I'm from!" A few girls smiled at the obvious statement. "All right--first, I'm sixteen years old, and I love spendin' time with me friends, just like we did last night--right Vick, Janine, Liv, Blakie?"

"Yup!"

"Stayed up to the wee hours, we did!" boasted the redhead. "And feelin' dam' well tired from it!"

"Language, Miss O'Shannon," murmured Miss Madsen quietly. She privately marked off one point from the girl's name.

"Oh, right--sorry. Anyway, there ain't much to tell bout' me, cept' I love feedin' birds, layin' out in the sun, and playin' with me gerbil Muraki. I can't read too well cuz' a' dyslexia, so I don't think I'll do so well in this class."

"You'll do fine," assured Miss Madsen. Gabrielle smiled weakly.

"Yeah, well, I ain't no James Joyce. Anyways, that's about it."

"Oh, come on, Miss O'Shannon!" said Miss Madsen encouragingly. "Surely there's more to you than just an Irish dyslexic who feeds birds! What are your dreams, your hopes, your fears?" Gabrielle turned red and faltered, appearing uncomfortable to share such intimate information to so many strangers. Her face turned dark pink as she managed to squeak something out.

"Well… I always had in me mind this image of a romantic day in Paris. I… well… I like aprons."

"Go on," said Miss Madsen, ignoring some of the girls' giggling. Gabrielle sighed.

"I… I also hate heights. I ain't too good with em'. Got sick in Disneyland once on account a' high ride, and I ain't been that far up since. I don't suppose now's a good time to say I was forced into the gym class, and with my luck, there'll be rings and high bars and ropes everywhere."

"…I see," said Madsen after a thoughtful pause. "Thank you, Miss O'Shannon. For your homework tonight, you are to read the first two chapters of Moby Dick, wherein you will then report on it the next morning."

"What? Homework already?"

"Yes, Miss O'Shannon," said Madsen firmly. "I know it's the first day of school, but it's never too early to start. You should be so lucky that I'm unaware of any books that have to do with acrophobia for the moment. Get to it, Miss O'Shannon--you have 24 hours." Gabrielle glumly faltered and trudged back to her seat, not expecting to have to do something so hard so early. Moby Dick! Of all books for the teacher to choose! She hated that book.

"Next?" said Madsen. One of the people that Gabrielle pointed out during her introduction rose up and made her way to the front of the class, smiling and waving politely.

"Hi, I'm Janine Bautista. I'm friends with Gab. I'm a little younger than her, and--"

"Excuse me, Miss Bautista," said Madsen suddenly. She then turned to the class and remarked coldly, "Ladies, do any of you not greet anyone when they greet you? Miss Bautista clearly had the courtesy to do so; what withholds you from the same?" Some of the girls desperately blurted out their helloes, but it was too late for them. "No, I'm sorry, it's too late. Minus one point for everyone who didn't receive Miss Bautista properly. I am a teacher of students, ladies--not apes or dogs who have no manners. I'll not have twenty-five rudelings enter and exit my class as they please. Now," she gestured to Janine, "continue." Janine swallowed.

"Yikes," she managed, giggling coldly. "Well, uh, like I said, I'm one of Gab's friends. We went out on the town last night as a sort of last hurrah before school started, and I didn't get too much sleep. Anyway, about me--I love clothes and I love to wear lots of accessories, as you can see. I've got lots of friends, most of em' in here, and I also like sports and the arts."

"What kinds of sports and arts?" asked Miss Madsen.

"You know, like dancing and acting, and I also play volleyball and badminton, and I'm on the cheerleading squad."

"Great. Please continue." Janine paused.

"Um… well… all I can really say is that I'm a mixture of foreign powers. I'm Filipino, British, and Chinese, but I don't know a lot of the languages there--except British!" She laughed politely, then seemed at a loss for things to say. Miss Madsen seemed eager to prod.

"Is that all?"

"Um, for the most part. My parents are really protective of me and I guess I'm a bit spoiled and naïve. There's not much else."

"I don't believe that for a second," whispered Miss Madsen gently. "Miss Bautista, for your homework this evening, I'd like for you to begin a hobby or activity that has nothing to do with anything you've said you're good at. It can be anything at all, just as long as it's not related to the arts or sports you mentioned. Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am," she said, nodding. Madsen smiled.

"Good. You may be seated. Next?"

"Victoria Grissom, but my friends call me Vicki."

"And what are some things about you, Miss Grissom?"

"First," said Victoria through a grin, "I'm not related to Gil Grissom from CSI. I get that a lot."

"I'll make note of it."

"Second," she continued, "I like doing activities that challenge me, like crosswords and puzzles. I'm actually in the habit of making up games on my own and, um, testing them out with my friends. They seem to go along with them when they have the time, so I guess they're okay. I'm not really that talkative; I just tend to observe things going on. I'm pretty perceptive. I do weird things sometimes--I guess I'm not a normal person, cuz' it seems sometimes I live in my own world, and that world can spill out anytime without me knowing it. Like, for instance, my love of bugs and spiders. I've got a pet tarantula at home."

"Do you now? That's unusual!" remarked Madsen. Victoria smiled.

"That's just the beginning, but it's not a bad kind of weird. I'm also allergic to cats, but my sister loves them. I've got a big family, so sometimes it feels like I'm overlooked, being the middle child and all. I've got bad timing, as well. I think it was a miracle that I got to class on time!" She laughed softly, as if her own sense of timing was a bad joke.

"I really think you need to work on that more than anything, Miss Grissom," stated Miss Madsen firmly. "You do tend to ramble a bit, but I think it's healthy for a person to express themselves, especially if they are normally quiet. For your homework today, and every day Miss Grissom, you are to arrive ten minutes before class. Do you understand?"

"I'll try," she managed, sounding unsure. Miss Madsen shook her head coldly.

"No, you will not. It's just like Yoda says--either you will or you will not."

"…All right," she squeaked after a pause. "Then I guess I shall just have to do my best."

"Now that I accept," Madsen added with a smile. "You may be seated, thank you. Who would like to come next?" A hand shot up, and the girl was summoned to the front. She kept looking from left to right, sizing up the class and its instructor on her journey to the front. She spoke after getting another observation.

"Hi, I'm Blake Freda Baum, how are you?" The girls, somewhat fearful of Miss Madsen's indignation, each answered accordingly. "Great. I'm doing swell. Listen, I, uh, wrote your all's names down on a sheet of paper so I can remember, but if I forget, try and remind me, all right? Um, my birthday's coming up around Thanksgiving, though I guess since this is August, I'll be 15 for awhile. I didn't take my meds today so I might be a little off-key."

"Your meds?" parroted Madsen. Blake Baum nodded.

"Ah, yes, I'm ADD. Anyway, I've been told I ramble on, so forgive me if I keep talking about nothing instead of what I should be talking about. Uh--wait a sec." Blake suddenly looked up just as the air conditioner kicked in, noticing the small crank noise it made. She grinned slightly, and pricked her ears up higher as the sound of passing Canadian geese penetrated the walls and ceiling.

"…Miss Baum, please continue," said Madsen patiently. Blake Baum snapped out of her fascinated trance and apologized.

"Yeah! Um, I've got lots to tell, but I guess you only need to know the important stuff. Well, ah, first of all, I'm on track and I love it--it's kind of my passion, my goal in life, um… I'm probably going to be an Olympiad when I graduate. Also, uh, I'm not exactly interested in showing my boobs or my legs because, ah… well, it's just not proper, I think. I'm kinda embarrassed by it but things haven't changed since I was in fifth grade, so--"

"You are starting to ramble, Miss Baum," interrupted Miss Madsen politely. Blake Baum snapped out of her trance again.

"Oh, gee, uh… I'm sorry! Well, anyway, to sum it up, I'm not normal, I'm very sloppy--I can't even write that well and my typing skills are questionable--and I'm also Jewish. My family's got some history behind it. Do you think that's good enough, Miss Madsen?"

"Quite, Miss Baum. Your homework, I'm afraid, shall be by far the easiest. I just need you to remember to take your medications, okay? Try not to forget." Blake Baum stuttered, frozen for a second as she thought of words to defend herself by.

"I, I, I, I know I'm supposed to, and I'm sorry--I, I, I'll promise to bring my bottle tomorrow. Oh, um, I'm gonna need a slip saying that it's okay for me to bring my meds to school, cuz' sometimes I take them in the middle of the day. Is that okay?"

"It is indeed. You may be seated."

"Good." Blake Baum waved to the class, smiling eccentrically, and added, "Later, loveya, bye!"

"I'm May Tramble--I was named after the month I was born in. My sister, who's not in this class, is June Tramble--also named after the month she was born in. We're twins."

"And how is that possible, Miss Tramble?" asked Miss Madsen, though anyone could see by the look of her face and the sound of her voice that perhaps, she might've already known. May answered quietly.

"I was born May 31st, at 11:58 at night. My sister was born June 1st, 12:02 in the morning, so it makes sense."

"I see. Please continue."

"Well, we were born and raised just a few miles down the road--we've lived in this state all our lives, and we've never been out of the country or even very far from home. I've always wanted to see Italy, Israel, and Japan, though I'd settle for New York and California. I'm very good with details, plus I'm pretty fast, though I'd never join any of the sports they have here."

"And why is that?"

"I'm just not into them, I guess," she shrugged, making an apathetic face. "Um… I've got a pretty good sense of direction, and the people I love most in my life are my parents and sister. I'm kinda slow on the thoughtful side--I'm not dumb or anything, just not a quick thinker. I really don't have any friends, though, and I can get kinda pessimistic at times. Oh! And I love music from the 80s!"

"Thank you, Miss Tramble. For your homework, I'd like for you to write an essay on the beautiful side of the world. It can be any length you choose, it just has to be positive." May smiled humbly, having already figured out Miss Madsen's angle.

"Yes, ma'am." She went for her seat, and soon another volunteer came up to introduce herself. Her name was Ivory Tran, she was Viet-Chinese, and from the moment she stood up in front of everyone, Miss Madsen knew she was going to have a challenge. Ivory was a snobbish, stuck-up, egotistical, intimidating imp, the kind that people outwardly detested and inwardly cheered for. She was an athletic woman, too, and narcissistic to the point of being dull. She had piercing, sharp eyes, and proudly boasted of having being shot by a gun twice in her life.

"Your introduction," said Miss Madsen icily, "was not so much informative as it was a declaration of your Self. Miss Tran, for your homework tonight--for the next week, let's say--I want you to volunteer your time at an elderly home."

"WHAT?!"

"You heard me," Madsen bit. "I also want to see documentation of your activities, else I'll give you a very nasty failing grade. One way or another, Miss Tran, I shall humble you into being more of a lady and less of a louse."

"You…" Ivory snarled and made a nasty face, but Miss Madsen clearly had all the advantages. This was a figure of authority that would not be messed with, neither by man or beast, and one who would mold--sometimes with great harshness and cruelty--her pupils into ideal, if not civilized, ladies.

The next volunteer was--

"Mira van Dijk."

Her name made a few girls snicker. She was tall and built well, a mixture of fat and lean.

"I am from Holland, so sorry if my English is no good. I speak Dutch."

She was a redhead that hated dresses. She was deep into politics--an easygoing, open-minded socialist--one that loved Warhammer, South Park, anime, coffee, and Terry Pratchett books. She wore a Utena shirt.

"I'm going to major in chem-bio."

She had a bad temper, but it didn't show. She unashamedly admitted to being stubborn, and a procrastinator, but had been inspired to volunteer after watching Blake's introduction.

"I'm not a vegetarian. I love beef and pork, and seafood and also poultry. I even love a few insects, like crickets."

She also admitted to having a "loves the ones she hurts" problem, the kind where she both teased and liked blondes.

"I may as well settle the rumor now before it becomes ugly," she stated, her accent thick yet endearing. "I am what you think I am, but not a bad person nor one closed to the opposite."

"And what does that mean?" asked Miss Madsen, enthralled privately. Mira told her right out.

"I am a dyke, Miss Madsen, as name suggests. I am attracted to women."

"And also unafraid to say such things so early in the year," added the teacher. Madsen smiled, then concluded with, "Miss van Dijk, for your homework tonight, I want you to make a meatless salad, eat it, and write a small report on your experience. I know it may seem silly," she explained out loud amidst a scattered laugh, "but to Miss van Dijk, it's as great a challenge as any of your all's problems. Overcoming what we hate, dislike, or dread is a part of growing up. Thank you, Miss van Dijk. Would anyone else like to volunteer?"

There came the Franco-Teutonic Zane Klein, whose passion was making her own clothes. She was a multilingual, quick-learning, generous and delightfully odd young woman, though slowish in certain areas. She was one who found it easy to become lost in thought, and her grades reflected as such. Rumors had already spread about her; in her senior year at school, more people talked about her than anyone else, and she tired of it. Sleep didn't come easy to the insomniac Klein, nor did patience. She admitted to a love of Bluegrass and chocolate, one which many girls empathized with. She hated math and school, though, so Miss Madsen gave her several tough math problems as homework.

A beautiful young woman named Olivia Johnson volunteered next, but she tended to ramble though she was the taciturn sort. An audience, apparently, enthralled her deeply. The dark-skinned bored-looking woman had a bad habit of fixing her glasses a lot (they slipped), and plainly boasted that she would get high grades in the class because of her love of Literature and Writing. Miss Madsen knew she couldn't go easy on Olivia; she would be even harder to "crack" than troublemaking Ivory or the woman that showed a foul mouth. Sickly, miserable, uncoordinated, flaky, and perhaps too serious for her own good, Olivia would be a greater challenge by far--the perfect example of Human, wherein a great deal of flaws resided.

"I guess you could say, really, I'm the epitome of typicality."

Miss Madsen told Olivia to spend the night at Victoria's house so she could get acquainted with the girl's pet tarantula. Olivia shuddered; Victoria nearly laughed.

"I see there are a few still left that haven't volunteered," sighed Madsen, loud enough for everyone to hear quite well. "Ladies, for those of you left, we will not leave this room until you have introduced yourselves. I want no strangers in this class; everyone should know everybody. These girls that have preceded you were brave enough to bare their souls in front of you, so you don't have the right to deny them your own company and history. Please, step up and reveal yourselves, or else I'll deduct points from your score--or worse, I'll call on you at random. You there, I saw that you came in early. What's your name?"

"Me?" The girl who came in early, nightmarish and silent, pointed to herself.

"Yes, you. I saw you, you know. Please, step up, and try to refrain from bad language." Several girls giggled--rather rudely, no doubt--and the "early bird" grumbled as she forced herself to step up. She crossed her arms and tried to appear intimidating, and it would've worked wonders had Miss Madsen not set such a strong precedent.

"You may begin now," she said. The girl shrugged.

"All right, all right. Just call me X."

"No, no, no--what is your name?" X grumbled.

"X Walker."

"Your full name." X snorted.

"Alexandria Walker, ya happy?"

"Not at the way you're talking back at me, but I'll let it slide. Something about yourself, Miss Walker?"

"Yeah," she grumbled apathetically, "I'm a fuckin' jock."

"Language, Miss Walker." Madsen deducted ten points from X's name. She snorted.

"Shit. Um, I mean… uh, shit. Whatever. Anyway, I like sports. I've never had sex and I wanna climb a mountain. I dunno. I wanna do something dangerous and stupid at least once in my life."

"And why's that?" asked Madsen, very interested. X shrugged.

"I dunno. So it feels like I did something fun in this life. I dunno. Anyway, I don't have any friends, and I don't really want em', so don't bother. I'm not saying anything else." X trudged off to her seat, leaving Miss Madsen in what appeared to be a mild shock. She was far from it, though--always in control no matter what, it seemed--and rubbed her chin with the rubber stub of her pencil before giving her verdict.

"Miss Walker," she said quietly, "for your homework assignment, I want you to write down what you dream. Not in your sleep--I mean what have you always wanted to do. Write down your deepest, wildest, most intimate fantasy--it will not be seen by my eyes. I want you to bring it to school tomorrow, show it to me briefly, and then I will tell you what to do with it. Do you understand?"

"No!" she admitted snottily. "But I guess I'll do it anyway. Not like it's hard or anything."

"I'm glad to hear of your spirit," said Madsen with a warm smile. "Oh, and… thirty points extra for being early to class. I will do my best to reward good deeds, even if they seem miniscule to you. Keep up the good work; coming to my class early on the first day gave me a good impression of you, Miss Walker, despite what you may say or look like. Now, it seems there are only two of you, unless one is invisible or hiding, or else playing hooky. I don't tolerate any of those actions, ladies--not a single one. You will find that my mercy can stretch far, and my forgiveness is bountiful, but there are things I will not--should not tolerate. Well, which of you two will come up here?"

Neither of the two females volunteered. Miss Madsen clicked her tongue.

"I will have to deduct points then. You, with the silver hair--come forth." The girls turned their heads, staring at the two who had sat in the back. Neither looked like they belonged in that class, or even in that school. One was albino, haunting and pale; the other looked wicked and cold, like something that had dredged itself up out of the murky poles of the world, or else the sinister realm of Pluto. Miss Madsen was brutally curious about both, but she called the albino up first. When she walked, she walked like a rooster amongst chicks.

"Guten tag," she greeted in a rich, smooth German voice. The class greeted her back. "I am Lilian Nachtheim, from Deutschland. I requested a transfer into this school from a private one so that I might be seen as a… normal girl. This is not an easy thing for me to do," she murmured in dark conclusion.

"I don't believe there's such thing as 'normalcy' anyway," said Madsen in support. Lilian nodded.

"Ja. In this class, I will express myself, so you will probably be offended by what I say. That is really all to me." Lilian started back for her chair, but was stopped by Miss Madsen.

"Hold on, Frau Nachtheim. There's got to be more to you than just that."

"Nein, Frau Madsen," she sighed. Madsen frowned in disappointment.

"I don't believe that for a second. Here, come here, right next to my desk. I want you to do something for me." Lilian did as her instructor asked, not sure what was going to happen. What came next was weird, even bizarre, but altogether an enjoyably fresh and different experience. Madsen asked her to close her eyes, her gorgeous hypnotic ruby-red eyes.

"Now," she whispered softly, "picture an idyllic place. Look deep inside your imagination and tell me what you see. Tell me what the best place in the world would be."

"That's easy," replied Lilian with a smile. "It's the countryside in Vienna. I visited there many times when I was young. It was a beautiful place, free from pollution and noise. The air was always clean and easy to breathe, and it always had the sweetest aroma imaginable--like fresh clothes from a drier, and sometimes as warm and comfortable."

"Good," murmured Madsen gently. "Now what else do you see? Don't stop, you're doing good." Nachtheim grinned shyly and blushed.

"I see Sturm und Mond, my pets. I can see myself playing with them now, rolling in the field with innocent daffodils around me. The sweet buzz of bees tickle my ears; the pets are mewing and barking with such joy! I'm all alone but I couldn't be happier; they are all my need, my greatest friends, my closest companions!"

"And what else? What do you feel? What do you see?" Nachtheim nearly giggled.

"I can see the mountains, the Alps! Ach, I am everywhere, but I don't seem to care--I can fly! I have always wanted to fly, and now I can! My body is floating through the clouds, getting wet yet laughing on, keeping in hand both Sturm and Mond, who can sing like the sunrise over wet dewy grasses!" As Lilian described her paradise, as the whole class became enraptured with what she saw, Miss Madsen invisibly turned on a CD player she kept hidden in the class, and the joyous tunes of Wagner's overture to "Lohengrin" crept out in lilting waves, resonating along with the beauty of a rich, spoken word. Lilian shivered and kept talking.

"Oh, each and every heavenly smell is perceived by my unworthy nose! Every sense blinded as the great wind puffs by my eyes, forcing them closed until rapture overtakes me and I weep from the happiness and the wild breeze! Then I descend, deep through the bold blue sky, landing with quiet grace on top of the great snowy peak, feeling the life of Gott emanate through me as if it were lava! I can hear the strains of mankind's music coming up to the very top, and when it reaches me, I tumble down and down until at last I come to rest in the foothills, my pets beside me, breathless and tearful from everything and everything."

The music ended. Lilian opened her eyes out of her own accord, and blushed with embarrassment as she realized what she had said right in front of the entire class. Miss Madsen gave her a loving smile of support, touched her shoulder, and whispered.

"Don't forget this. You may be seated." Shaken, and stirred to boot, Lilian managed to tremble her way back to her seat. People stared at her as usual, but with respect and awe, not fear or disgust. She managed to breathe normally after a minute.

"Hey, what's Lil's homework?" blurted Blake. Miss Madsen smiled craftily.

"Miss Nachtheim, can you draw?"

"A… a little," she muttered.

"Then I want you to draw what you saw in your imagination. I don't care if it's good, I just want it to be true. All right?"

"J… ja."

"Good. Well, looks like we have one left. Young lady, please come up. We're all wondering who you are and what makes you tick." The last girl--if she could really be called that--sunk lower in her seat and gave Miss Madsen a very ugly, very defiant face.

"I got two words for you, bitch," she spat: "Fuck you." And she stuck her middle fingers up to boot, both of them at once. The class became as deadly silent and cold as the frost of a sunless world void of cheer, life, or interest. Miss Madsen, they knew, would retaliate brutally.

"Please, step up here. I'm asking you nicely; I expect courtesy to be repaid with courtesy."

"Suffer me the pain of repeating myself," snorted little miss freak rebel sarcastically. "Fuck you. Fuck you, miss Masterful bitch-fucking queen of puss. Fuck… you."

"My, what a… tedious vocabulary you have!" remarked Madsen dryly, keeping her cool like only she knew how. Heads jerked from the elegant instructor to the lousy, depraved wretch slouched in the furthest corner, like they were watching a ball bounce from one end of the room to the other.

"Why don't you fucking go to hell, bitch?"

"Because I'm not dead yet, and I have no desire to enter that place. Please, come up."

"Forget you! I'm fucking leaving." Miss potty mouth stumbled out of her chair and walked away, but Miss Madsen moved like a river and intercepted the girl easily. She growled and tried using force, cussing and spitting like a rabid dog.

"I will not allow you the discourtesy of leaving this room early, young lady," she said coolly. "And you will not force your way out, either. I am much stronger than I look." The girl flared her nostrils like a wild horse and tried to make a break for it, but Madsen proved her words to be true, and grabbed the girl with a mighty hug. She literally lifted the girl off the ground a bit and towed her to the center of the class, where she kept her locked.

"Your name, young lady!"

"FUCK you!"

"I don't accept that as an answer! Now--your name!"

"I said fuck you, damn bitch! Now lemme go--OW!!! I'll sue the fucking shit outta you if you don't let go! Fu--OW!!!"

"Your name," sang Madsen quietly. The girl screamed, either from pain or humiliation, and tried stepping on Madsen's feet. The woman must've had steel for shoes, because she didn't even flinch.

"My name," roared the girl angrily, "is fucking Furious Hail, all right? You got that, bitch? Fucking Furious Hail! Now put me the fuck down or I'll kill you!"

"I don't reward threats, Miss Alexandra Blair," stated Madsen icily. Furious Hail--a more apt name than anything else--wriggled wildly in shock as she realized Madsen already knew her. She flung her hands and legs around like a wild puppet, but the marionette was very much in control, and kept her pinned until she was satisfied.

"Now," she said in a scathingly calm voice, "Miss Blair, you will tell us about yourself, and you will tell us in a calm, civilized, ladylike manner, just like the rest of your peers did."

"They're not my fucking peers, slut!" Madsen suddenly pinched the back of Hail's hair and pulled it down, causing the girl to shriek and nearly submit.

"Well, they bared their souls to you and shared some of their deepest secrets. I think you can extend them that same courtesy, don't you?"

"Fuck you--"

"Don't make me paddle you in front of everybody," she hissed sharply. Hail froze as her own teacher, beautiful and deadly and strong of will, held her tight. She seemed utterly serious and very ready to take out some aggression. Hail snorted and calmed down, just a few notches. Being spanked in public, of all things, was the ultimate humiliation.

"All right, jeez. Keep your panties on, bitch. Sheesh. Jeez… anyway, I hate this school and this teacher, and I hate all of you. I go to parties and get stoned cuz' I hate my parents, too, and I had my tongue pierced so I can give good fellatio and cunnilingus. I'm a fuckin' bisexual druggie dyke and I've beaten up people before, sent em' to the hospital and everything. So what, you expectin' some fucking perfect miss princess here? You know what? Fuck all of you." Hail flipped both birds and started to stride out the class again, but was stopped by Miss Madsen.

"Thank you, Miss Blair. I appreciate your insight; we all learned a lot about you. Your homework tonight--and for the rest of this week--is to volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Maybe you and Miss Tran can team up or something."

"I already do," she countered bitterly. She then smiled wickedly and added with pride, "Haven't you heard? I'm the fucking patron saint of the poor, downtrodden, and otherwise unloved freaks of the world." Miss Madsen smiled quietly.

"Then I want you to make friends with Miss Tran. Well, that seems to be everybody! You all have your homework, and since we seem to have some minutes to spare, you may talk amongst yourselves until the bell rings. Just remember--keep your manners and use no foul words."

"What about that girl over there, Miss Madsen?" pointed Victoria.

"She has a name, Miss Grissom."

"Oh, uh, yeah. Um, what about Miss Blair?"

"What about her?"

"Aren't you going to take off points from her name?"

"No, but I will take some off yours for being too nosy."

"But!!"

"Do you want more taken off, young lady?" Poor Victoria sighed miserably and shook her head. Perhaps, she thought, Miss Madsen wasn't so easy to figure out after all.

"No, ma'am."

"Good. Enjoy your conversations, ladies. I look forward to seeing each and every one of you tomorrow morning, bright and early."

And to her mild surprise, nobody groaned. Not a one of them.

Some did roll their eyes, though.

Victoria, Gabrielle, Blake, Olivia, and Janine huddled up.

"Nice cast of characters we got in here," whispered Janine. The others agreed.

"Aye… not exactly the usual assortment o' freaks and geeks," added Gabrielle. "We've got a well-rounded bunch here."

"I hope you're not thinking what I think you're thinking."

"I think you're thinking that I'm thinking about what you're thinking about, I think."

"I think you are both nuts," muttered Olivia. They laughed.

"Aye, nuts we are, and a special breed, too! Mixed nuts! I'm an Irish peanut, hey-tolly-ho!"

"I guess that makes me a cashew," suggested Janine. "And Vicki, you're an almond." Victoria just smiled.

"Soy nuts," said Olivia, referring to herself. "Blake, on the other hand," she sighed, "is a bonafide coconut."

"The kind that swallows carry?"

"By the husk, my dear." Blake grinned and cheered, completely proud of her "status". Olivia groaned soon after, though, and considered her homework.

"I cannot believe my fate lies in hanging around Mary-Jane Watson here," she lamented. "Nothing personal, Vicki, I just detest that filthy arachnid of yours."

"But Dick Tracey is such a sweetie! I promise you'll love him!"

"Dearest friend," she bit, "I don't even love the comic book Dick Tracey! What makes you think I'll make exception for your damnable pet?!"

"Miss Johnson, I heard that!" exclaimed Miss Madsen suddenly. Olivia flustered.

"Da--uh, shoot. Man, we've got a tough teacher!"

"Well, I like her!" exclaimed Blake. "She's got a good, tough heart. You see the way she handled that one girl--um, excuse me, Miss Blair?" (Miss Madsen secretly smiled as she overheard Blake's correction; Furious Hail didn't hear a thing)

"Yeah, that was awesome! She put that girl in her place! I thought there was gonna be trouble, but she handled it like Fonzie! If I don't respect her after that, I never will!"

"It's what she wanted to establish from the very beginning," added Victoria quietly. The others became quiet as they listened to their hushed friend. "She wanted us to respect her, to recognize her authority, and to behave like civilized people. From day one, she begins teaching. What a woman!"

"I'll say!" exclaimed Gabrielle, craning her head around to get a good look at the beautiful Miss Madsen, who was currently engrossed in a Hercule Poirot novel. "Too bad she's way too old for me, and she don't look like the type to wear an apron…"

"You and that da--uh, weird apron fetish!" remarked Olivia. "I swear… one of these days, one of us should just wear one of those things and nothing else, just to see if you'll shut up about it!" Gabrielle blushed, but smiled like a frisky weasel.

"Believe me," she admitted, "if one o' you did that, I'd shut me trap and more. Course', it'd be hard o' me to feel like that for me friends, but I could sure give it a shot." The girls chuckled or else rolled their eyes, and before they knew it, the bell rang. Everyone filed out, some saying farewell to their new teacher, and left to attend the rest of their classes in E.C. Stanton High. X Walker was the last to leave.

"You don't get any points for leaving late, Miss Walker," said Miss Madsen. X shrugged.

"All right, just checkin'. I gotta take as much as I can. Seeya."

"Good day." Miss Madsen smiled as the last of her students passed through the door, wondering what the following day, week, month, and school year would bring. Certainly nothing she and Hercule Poirot couldn't handle.