Music City Madness: Chapter 20

Principal Hendrix settled her full-figured frame behind the desk in her office and looked across at the student she’d summoned to appear. She had enough on her plate to keep her buried in paperwork for weeks without the added aggravation from Abigail Presley’s flagrant breach of conduct. Always the optimist, she saw potential in every student, no matter how dim the light shined at first.

She fanned herself with a stack of papers and made a note to contact facilities about the air conditioning. In all her years with Davidson County, including her tenure as a local church member and an advocate for children’s services, she’d never met a young woman like Abigail Presley. The girl’s school records revealed only a portion of the story behind the whimsical and highly precocious seventh grader. This morning, she hoped to glean the rest. “I assume you know why you’re here.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” Abby started from her seat with her arm in her lap.

“Where did you get the pepper spray?”

“My backpack.”

“Who gave it to you?”

“My dad’s girlfriend.”

“Does your father’s girlfriend realize pepper spray is illegal for a minor to possess?”

“I didn’t ask her. I borrowed it from her purse.”

Principal Hendrix folded her hands on her desk. “Possession of any weapon on school property is an egregious offense.”

“I wasn’t on school property,” Abby retorted. She leaned forward in her chair. “And pepper spray is not a weapon.”

“Don’t argue with me, Miss Presley. The student you attacked spent two hours in the nurse’s office this morning.”

Abby pointed to her prosthesis on top of the cabinet. “At least I didn’t hit him with my fake arm.”

“You could have seriously injured him or another student.”

“I wasn’t aiming at other students. He was the one shooting spitballs at me.”

“Doesn’t justify your actions.”

“My action should have been a fist in his face. He’s lucky he has all his teeth.”

“You should have waited until the bus arrived at school and notified myself or someone in my office.”

“He’s the bully. Why are you taking his side on this?”

“No one’s taking sides, Miss Presley, but the fact is you exercised poor judgment.”

“This is about money, isn’t it? His parents have more than mine, so he becomes the victim and I get in trouble.”

“This has nothing to do with money. You assaulted another student. As your principal, I bear the responsibility for the safety of every student in this school. By law, I’m required to file a report with the superintendent. At a minimum, this incident will go on your permanent record. You could be facing expulsion.”

“That’s not fair!”

“I don’t author the rules and regulations, Miss Presley. I simply enforce them.”

“What about the bully who shot spitballs at me?”

“The students I spoke with from the bus corroborated his version of events. You got out of your seat and attacked him with pepper spray.”

“He was shooting spitballs at my head! Everyone saw what happened. They’re just too chicken-shit to tell the truth. I hate you, and I hate this school! You’re all a bunch of liars!”

“This is a serious infraction.”

“So is shooting spitballs at me. I think a one-armed girl defending herself against a bully twice her size would make for good news coverage.”

“Miss Presley—”

“And don’t think I won’t do it. My dad knows people.”

“Your first day of school you attacked a girl with your prosthetic arm.”

“Because she broke it off!”

“It was an accident.”

“So was her conception.”

Principal Hendrix leaned way back in her chair and contemplated a different conversation with Abby. One laced with less hostility, geared more toward understanding and less about casting blame. The more she emphasized the grave consequences of Abby’s negligent actions, the more Abby pushed back with sarcasm and insult. “Tell me about your parents.”

“What about them?” Abby shot back.

“Do you spend time with them?”

“My mother’s dead, so that’s a no. My dad and I get along.”

“What does your dad do for a living?”

“He’s a carpenter and a musician. He sings in bars mostly.”

“Does he spend time with you?”

“Sure.”

“Do any other children live with you?”

“Not unless you count his ex-girlfriend. But she doesn’t really live with us anymore.”

“I’d like to schedule a conference with your dad.”

“To talk about me?”

“To talk about a lot of things.”

“My dad already knows I’m in detention.”

“Abby, this issue with the pepper spray notwithstanding, I’m less concerned about where you’ve been and more concerned about where you’re headed.”

“You mean my next school?”

“I mean with life in general. I’m here to enforce the rules, but that doesn’t mean I’m the bad guy all the time. I was your age once. I remember the challenges. I want to see you succeed.”

“Can I have my pepper spray back?”

Principal Hendrix opened her desk drawer to retrieve a handful of plastic cockroaches and a rubber rat. “What can you tell me about these?”

“They look fake.”

“My cafeteria staff thought they were real. I nearly shut down the lunch preparations and called an exterminator. You’re not the only one who’s served detention recently. I don’t believe you left these behind, but I suspect you know who did.”

“I’m not a rat.”

Principal Hendrix squeezed the rubber rodent and pondered the irony. “No need to get theatrical with me. I’m simply asking for a name.”

“Why don’t you ask the students on my bus? They seem to know everything.”

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