Two of my co-workers, Mrs. J and Mrs. A, are brave women. They are the ones who take our students through the lunch line so they can get their food. It is not an easy task, and one must remember to place oneself behind some students and before others in order to best facilitate their food needs.
Mrs. A is of the mind that Mr. Cheek should have the opportunity to experience the lunch line like his classmates. Usually, Mr. Cheek stays back at the table with me, while I wrestle with a recalcitrant wheelchair tray. Today, he got to go through the line for the second time.
Mind you, the first time she took him through, she swore it would be the last. He got very excited and wanted EVERYTHING. EVERY. THING.
ALL. THE. THINGS!
Having taken leave of her senses (it is, after all, Friday), she took him through again. After I prepared the table, I went back to putting the tray back on the wheelchair. Hearing an familiar noise, I looked up from my temperamental tray to see Mr. Cheek running toward me, crowing his happy song, his face beaming, holding out a paper boat (a small tray) containing a chicken patty sandwich. At first, I wasn’t positive it was a chicken sandwich, because by the beatific look on his face, I thought it had to be the holy-fucking-grail. He dropped it on the table.
No, it was a chicken sandwich.
Ok, to me, it was a chicken sandwich, but to him, it was indeed the holy grail. Mr. Cheek loves his food. A lot.
I took the tray from him, but cutting up his lunch would have to wait a couple minutes. The wheelchair tray had fallen off for the third time, so I ushered Mr. Cheek to his seat and went back to my trials and travails of public-school mechanics and McGyver-ism fasteners. No, I can’t insult McGyver like that. At least HIS fasteners would have worked properly.
Anyway, Mr. Cheek was annoyed that his holy grail was getting cold while I ignored it and he voiced that annoyance with wild abandon and a scattering of utensils, napkins, and wet wipes. He struggled to stand, but found it difficult with my feet planted squarely against his chest while I leaned across the table toward the wheelchair. The tray was finally almost secure enough for me to let go with two hands, while I used my third hand to keep things from flying off the table and my third foot to re-set the wheelchair brake. At that point, another co-worker, Mrs. J, came up carrying two food trays and set one down.
“Who’s is that?” I asked, pointing to a familiar set of food items. Pizza, fresh tomatoes, watermelon, and oranges.
“This is for Mr. Cheek. It’s his usual.”
“Then who’s is this?” I asked, pointing to the tepid grail.
“I don’t know. Where did it come from?”
“Mr. Cheek brought it.”
“Maybe it’s for Mrs. A,” she said, referring to the other co-worker.
“She doesn’t eat that stuff, but I don’t hear any screaming, so I don’t think he took it off anyone’s tray. Maybe Mrs. A got it for someone else.”
We cut up the food and had things ready by the time Mrs. A showed up with her charges and their food.
“There you are!” she said to Mr. Cheek. “He kind of took off, and I couldn’t do anything because I had these guys to take care of.”
“Is this your sandwich?” I asked, pointing to the cold patty.
“Uh, yuck. Where did you get it?”
“Mr. Cheek,” the other co-worker and I said together. The three of us looked at each other, then at the purloined entrée.
“Well, we can’t take it back, he’s already thoroughly fondled it,” I said, hastily burying it under extra napkins.
“Maybe we should tell someone in the kitchen.” We three looked over at the cranky women working the hot food line. One of them glared at a sassy-mouthed 8th grader and the kid almost burst into flames.
“Ok, or let’s not say anything right now,” I said, handing the bundle of napkins and camouflaged sandwich to Mrs. J, “just take it back to the classroom and stick it in the freezer. We’ll let him have it next week.”
“Yeah, that sounds a lot safer.”