I didn’t attend the best of high schools as a teen. Detroit isn’t known for its exceptional educational system. But I was a decent student, when I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I was almost held back in eleventh grade. That year I was engaged in hanging out with friends rather than studying. To make up for it I was given the opportunity to attend summer school so that I would pass to the next grade.
Summer school was held only three days per week and a few classes taught. Most of the three-storied high school was empty, save for the few students that attended and a handful of staff that ran the place.
The worst students went to summer school. I had gotten myself stuck with them that year. The class was filled with the likes of drug dealer and member of the Latin Kings, Arturo Sanchez. There was Darnell Williams who was in and out of juvenile for selling drugs, breaking and entering, and car theft. Tamika Simmons was once arrested for prostituting her little sister. Tamika was extremely violent and once stabbed a girl in the park (the girl survived with minor injuries).
Some of the teachers at West High were abused by these thugs and most of them who were, quit. Can’t say that I blame them. However, there were some teachers like Mr. Fosse who taught algebra. He was one of the few educators who thought he could make a difference. What a pipe dream. He was a mild mannered man, short, and wore bifocals that were too large for his pudgy face. Mr. Fosse always treated me well and I liked the guy.
I sat in the back of math class in the row next to Tamika. As Mr. Fosse attempted to explain the equation, spit balls and paper airplanes zipped across the room. Excessive profanities and laughter were uttered through out the class.
Tamika was obnoxiously loud that day, louder than everybody else. She was gabbing something to Jennifer Mosley about her ex-boyfriend. Mr. Fosse, on more than one occasion, addressed her. “Tamika, please quiet down,” he asked. She would comply but less than a minute later start chattering again. This happened three or four times and I could see Mr. Fosse becoming more frustrated as his chubby face turned red.
Arturo decided it was a good time to rise from his desk and with pride, throw up gang signs with his hands. “Arthur, please stop that and sit down,” Mr. Fosse insisted. Arturo paid no attention and continued display of urban sign language.
Typically soft spoken, it was rare that Mr. Fosse would raise his voice but he repeated his demand with greater fervor. Arturo ended his demonstration then walked to the front of the class and wrote “f**k you” on the black board with loose chalk. Some in the class chuckled at the disrespect. I think that’s when Mr. Fosse began to lose it.
“Get out of my class, Arthur!” Mr. Fosse roared. Arturo didn’t blink or bother look at the instructor then swaggered back to his seat.
“Arthur, I said get out of this class room! Do not come back! Pack your things and leave now!”
Arturo casually looked up at the teacher. “What are you trying to say?” he sarcastically replied, resulting in more snickers from the class.
“Get out! Right now!” Mr. Fosse demanded.
“I’ll leave when I’m ready, puto,” Arturo said defiantly. He remained in his seat and began to roll a joint.
That’s when Tamika and Darnell started making out at the back of the class at a small table.
“Tamika! Darnell! Do that on your own time! This is not the place for that type of behavior!” screamed Mr. Fosse. They continued the little love affair without pause as Tamika lifted up her right hand and gave Mr. Fosse the bird. Mr. Fosse walked toward the back of the room to confront them. “Cut that out right now!” They stopped kissing but Mr. Fosse had to take a break from the class. He stepped outside of the room into the hall and shut the door. I could see him pacing through the door window, trying to get his bearings together. Everyone in the class continued in their disarray.
“I think Mr. Fosse is losing it,” I said aloud to no one in particular.
“Who cares,” Darnell said. “F**k him.”
Moments later our instructor stepped back into the class seemingly a little more relaxed and began to finish the equation on the board, after erasing Arturo’s words of course.
Not soon after, Darnell and Tamika went at it again at the table at the back of the room. Darnell had his hand up Tamika’s shirt, in front of everybody. “I told you two to stop that! That’s inappropriate behavior! ” said Mr. Fosse as he walked over to them. “Stop that and get out of the class!” he said, grasping Tamika and Darnell each by the shoulder separating them.
Tamika didn’t appreciate Mr. Fosse’s move. “Get your dirty, white hands off me!” Tamika screamed as she stood up from the table. “You don’t ever touch me!” she screamed, retrieving a small knife from her purse. Unexpectedly, she jammed the blade in Mr. Fosse’s neck. He gripped it with both hands as blood spurted from the wound. Mr. Fosse plummeted to the wooden floor, a grimace of pain on his face. The class fell silent.
I was taken aback momentarily but came to my senses. “Call 911!” I yelled. Not one person responded. I left my cell phone in the car. “Come on! Somebody has a phone! We need help!” Again I was ignored and the class began about its business as Mr. Fosse lay on the floor bleeding. “Help me, please,” Mr. Fosse managed to verbalize, begging for help.
Everyone in the class carried on. Tamika sat back down and could be heard screeching, “He put his hands on me!” No one bothered to help the man as he lay dying on the floor. Everyone watched with indifference. Nobody cared, except me it seemed.
The nurse was on the second floor of the building, if she was in. I got up from my desk and ran out of the class into the hall. I turned right around a corner to a stair well, ran up the steps to the second floor and burst into the first room on the right.
Ms. De Jesus, a school counselor stood there in the middle of the office, speaking with Mrs. Almyer, the nurse. I’ve had a crush on Ms. De Jesus since ninth grade; all the boys did. She was a gorgeous woman with a nice figure and wore thin framed glasses.
“What’s wrong?” Ms. De Jesus asked.
“Tamika! She stabbed Mr. Fosse in the neck!” I said. “He’s on the floor bleeding!”
“What? What room is he in?” Mrs. Almyer asked, frantically.
“103,” I said. As the three of us raced down the flight of stairs, Ms. De Jesus called 911 on her cell. The police and an ambulance were on the way. In Detroit, that could take a while.
Back on the first floor, Mrs. Almyer prevented Ms. De Jesus and me from entering the classroom. “Stay out here,” she said. “I don’t want to cause too much commotion in the class and make sure Tamika doesn’t leave.” Shockingly, Tamika had not skipped the scene; her arrogance and stupidity caused her to believe she had the right to do what she did. Mrs. Almyer went into the class and shut the door behind her. I watched through the window; Mr. Fosse lay on the floor motionless.
Ms. De Jesus and I stepped about fifteen feet away from the door. “Javier, explain to me what happened,” she asked as we stood in the empty hall.
I explained how Arturo threw up gang signs and wrote on the blackboard. How Tamika and Darnell were making out and when Mr. Fosse physically broke them up, Tamika went nuts and shanked him in the neck. Ms. De Jesus listened, clutching her red purse as her large, brown eyes began to water.
“I knew it,” she said softly. “I knew that this would happen eventually. They would kill one of us in the end.”
She had a point. Events at school could cause one to believe that a teacher’s eventual murder be caused by a student. Julio Rodriguez punched Mr. Klooney, an English teacher, in the gut. Mr. Shoemaker was struck in the jaw last year by Jimmy Burton. And last semester, crazy Sean Ferrister hit Mr. Cavallero, the music teacher, with a chair. He even threatened to come to school and shoot some of his street rivals.
I continued, explaining that no on in the room tried to help him, except for me. I told her how they didn’t care that a man lay there was dying. At that moment the classroom door opened and strutting out with Darnell at her side was Tamika. “That’s her,” I whispered to Ms. De Jesus.
Immediately, Ms. De Jesus pulled a small silver gun from her purse, a silencer at its tip. She pulled the trigger and let three rounds in Tamika’s stomach. Before Darnell could flee Ms. De Jesus gave him two in the chest. Both of them fell dead on the hard hallway floor.
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say or do but I wasn’t scared.
The door opened again and Arturo walked out wearing his white wife beater, showing off his tattooed arms and neck. He immediately saw the two bodies on the hall floor. “What the f**k?” he said. Before you knew it, Ms. De Jesus shot him twice in the gut. He fell on the floor near Tamika and Darnell but kept moving. She shot him one more time for good measure.
“Arturo Sanchez,” Ms. De Jesus said under her breath. “If there is ever a drug deal on the street corner you could find him there. How many lives has he helped ruin? How many babies born addicted to crack because of him?”
Just then Mrs. Almyer walked out of the class room crying, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Mr. Fosse is dead,” she said, voice trembling. Ms. De Jesus concealed the gun before Mrs. Almyer could notice.
“Oh God!” Mrs. Almyer screamed. “What happened? Who did this?”
“Sean Ferrister!” I responded instantly. “He shot them! Sean came in here and shot them like he said he would!
“He ran down the hall towards the east side of the building!” Ms. De Jesus added.
Ms. De Jesus called 911 again to report the crimes committed by crazy Sean Ferrister. Soon after, the authorities arrived, removed the bodies and asked all kinds of questions. The other students in the class and I testified that Tamika stabbed Mr. Fosse. None of them saw what happened out in the hall. Ms. De Jesus and I corroborated each other’s story. Sean was responsible for the student’s deaths. He managed to enter the school somehow through as side door. Ms. De Jesus and I saw him coming down the hall wielding a gun so we hid around the corner. When Sean’s targets came out of the class he took them out and fled the scene.
Turns out Sean Ferrister was shot and killed during a drug deal gone sour the next day.
That horrific event went down as statistical, urban high school violence. I never went to summer school after that and graduated the next year. Eventually I finished college and got a job as an engineer. Ms. De Jesus left West High soon after the ordeal. I was told she moved to Puerto Rico but I haven’t heard anything about her since. That was fourteen years ago. Wherever Ms. De Jesus is, I hope she’s in a place where she doesn’t have to carry a gun in her purse.
Copyright © Abel Ramirez