Testing for Sheep

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: Test
Via Daily Post


     The safety pin pierced her lip without objection. The sensation of the needle pressing into her finger cued her of success; her lip numbed from a trip to the dentist earlier that day removed the potential for a pain hurdle. The mirror reflected the small, gold pin jutting from her lower lip. Her initial reaction had a tinge of fear, she had never imagined carrying out this type of act before. But as she examined the golden metal and the slight curve of her lips, she realized she was smiling. She was seventeen, she was making a choice, and now she looked pretty bad ass.
     The act of teenage rebellion had resulted in many tests to follow. The first being the fine line of support and discipline from her parents. When her mother noticed her lip for the first time, she had yelled at her daughter to remove it, not to return to the dinner table until she had taken it out. Her daughter missed a meal that night. 

     Her father chose not to get involved, hoping his wife would be able to figure out the situation. Communicating with a teenager – let alone a recently relocated, depressed one – wasn’t an easy task to take on. Instead of words he merely presented his daughter with looks of disappointment, which were met in return with a broody glare from the girl he felt he no longer recognized.
     After a week of contemplation, her mother informed her daughter that they would not attempt to enforce her new choice of jewelry. She told her daughter that she understood the search for self expression, and that she and her father wanted to offer support. If leaving the lip ring in was what her daughter wanted to do, she could. But if her daughter wanted to take it out, she didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Her daughter chose to leave it in.
     Summer soon came to an end and before the girl knew it, she was walking through the rural town’s high school doors to attend the first day of her senior year. Over the summer one of her other classmates had pierced his eyebrow. They were the only two students in the uptight farming community with new statement pieces. As she walked down the hall, once oblivious classmates now stared in her direction. But their eyes focused on her lip, never meeting her defiant gaze. By lunchtime the principal had called a ‘special’ assembly for the senior class.
     The frigid bitch of a principal stood before the senior class. Even as a clueless teenager, the girl knew that the principal was a slimy leech that thrived on power. The woman was a tyrant, ruling with an iron fist of absurd rule enforcement, that never seemed to apply to any of the children with generational last names. The girl had been a target since transferring to the school the previous year.
     “It’s come to my attention that I may need to review some of the new school policies with the senior class this year,” she began.
     The girl sat in the bleachers along with her other classmates, but empty spaces remained on each side of her. Although she had been at the school for a year, her peers had never taken to her. She was weird. She was different. She was a nerd. She didn’t deserve their attention. Strangely enough, though, she seemed to invite the principal’s undivided attention.
     “This high school does not allow facial piercings of any kind. So if you have them, you’ll be removing them,” she continued.
     The girl stared passively from the bleachers, listening to the disgusting waste of space blow her hot air into the room. Her classmates were turning to stare at her and the one other pupil with the pierced eyebrow. He was just an unfortunate casualty. The girl knew that this ruling was completely aimed at her. Her lips remained pressed together, she tongued the inside of the ring within her mouth, wishing her hate for the principal would cause the woman to burst into flames.
     “That’s it, I’ll be checking in with the teachers to make sure everyone is conforming to the rules. We can’t have distractions at our school, we have high standards here,” she finished and walked out of the auditorium.
     The girl waited for her classmates to file out, ignoring their glances over the shoulder and low voices followed by laughter. Vacating the bleachers, she headed to her next class, Geometry.
     As she walked in the door the teacher spoke up, “Take it out.”
     The girl paused in the door way, head cocked to one side in disbelief.
     “Take out the ring, it’s not allowed in this classroom,” the teacher reinforced.
     The girl smirked and turned, walking back out the door. She made her way to the counselor’s office and requested to drop Geometry. Thankfully she had already completed the two years of math necessary for graduation requirements.
     The girl met no more resistance in the rest of the classes for the day. Her teachers didn’t look twice or persecute her in front of her classmates. She felt a sense of relief that perhaps this new rule would just blow over, and she could fade back into the distance. As her final class came to an end, her teacher beckoned for her to stay behind.
       She obeyed. Mr. C was one of the four teachers that she had respect for in the school. He truly loved being a teacher, and cared about his students. He had grown up in the rural town, attending the same school he now taught at, the proof evident in a yearbook at the library; parachute pants and neon shirt included. Mr. C motioned for her to take a seat at the desk nearest his, so she did.
     “Do you know why she’s doing it?”
     She looked at Mr. C, almost seeing him in a new light.
     “Because she hates me.”
     “Because you aren’t a sheep.”
     She tilted her head and furrowed her brow, “I don’t get it.”
     “You don’t follow the flock. You don’t conform to the norm. You are a lone wolf. You are a threat.”
     A smile spread across her face, the thought of being a wolf gave her a renewed sense of confidence. Mr. C’s voice interrupted the revelation.
     “But there’s a problem with being a wolf at school. Think of us teachers as the shepherds that have to tend to the flock. If we can’t keep the sheep in order, our jobs can be put in jeopardy.”
     The girl watched Mr. C intently, trying to understand how his analogy applied to her situation.
     “But if I’m not part of the flock, why does it matter to you?” she asked.
     “Because if I know there is a wolf and I openly encourage her to remain a wolf, I will get fired.” he replied.
     “But you think I should stay a wolf?”
     “You should. But you should take out the ring. I know you are trying to make a statement. I know you are trying to put up a fight. But this is a battle that you can’t win, and will only have bad results.”
     The girl let out a long sigh, considering what her teacher was saying.
     “Your statement is like a giant flag declaring you a wolf. A wolf can’t hide among the sheep with a flag,” he smiled gently.
     She returned the smile, sliding from the desk and standing. She turned to leave but paused as he spoke again.
     “Some day, you’re going to look back at this, and you’ll probably be angry. Because it isn’t fair. But I hope when you look back you remember that you have teachers here that know you are bound for greatness, and this is just a small snag in the grand scheme of things for you.”
     The girl turned to face her teacher, tears welling in her eyes. She dragged the back of her wrist across her eyes, forcing the emotion back down, “It means a lot, Mr. C, thank you.”

Not surprising, I would be nominated as “Most Unlikely to Conform” in the yearbook that year. And yes, I still have the lip ring. I wore a clear stud during the day, and swapped my beloved ring back in at the end of each day, attending school functions to my principal’s dismay with the pierced lip that apparently meant I was a ‘sex fiend’. It’s really sad what a close minded person in power can do to those around them.

On the other hand, it’s really amazing what difference an extraordinary teacher can do for a kid who just needs some support. Mr. C, you made high school bearable. Thank you for your encouragement to remain true to myself.


4 thoughts on “Testing for Sheep

  1. Archita Mitra September 30, 2016 / 2:35 pm

    Great story. I loved it. I wanted to be a wolf too, but its a very lone existence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • crazykatya September 30, 2016 / 2:37 pm

      This is true. The beauty of being a wolf though, is that there are others, and you can form a pack of awesome when you find them. It’s never too late to shed the wool!


  2. Melissa October 14, 2016 / 10:45 pm

    I really did not realize the oppression you felt, that unrelenting bitch helped a lot of students feel unworthy. I’m so glad that you took a stand, it made life so much easier for those that came after you. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • crazykatya October 14, 2016 / 11:36 pm

      Haha! I’m not laughing at your comment, it’s just I love that you describe her as I would. Thanks for that!


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