Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Glenn G. Coats: Directions

On Saturday morning, the rear entrance to the corner building is locked, so I enter through the front of the coffee shop. It is early and no one is sitting around the small tables that look out on Third Street. Someone from behind the counter calls out , “Good morning,” but I don’t stop. Their coffee is strong and leaves a bitter taste that lingers for hours. The building was once a bank, and I walk quickly past the first vault with its heavy door left open—a manmade cave. I push open the door that reads Emergency Exit Only and pass the elevator that I will not ride and climb two flights of metal stairs that are dirty and spotted with coffee stains. I click on the hall light several times to get it to work and check to see if the restrooms are locked.

on the second floor
homeless stir

Wood is peeling from the door to room 2C, and the doorknob feels loose as I turn it. There are no windows in the office that now serves as a classroom for adults learning how to read. Two gray tables line up like roads coming to a T, and donated pictures hang on the walls. I settle into a heavy wooden chair and read over the story I will be teaching, asking myself about names and places that might confuse a new reader. I wonder about her experiences, has she ever gone camping, does she know what the surf sounds like? The door is open and I listen for feet tapping up the metal stairs. I know it will be my first student wanting to understand a few more words so The Holy Bible will begin to make sense to her.

morning classes—
through air ducts
the smell of burnt toast

by Glenn G. Coats
Prospect, Virginia

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