The woman kicked in my door so hard the stack of papers sitting on my desk went flying all over the floor. I looked up from my paperwork with little surprise, staring at the woman over the rim of my glasses. This wasn't the first time an angry parent had barged into my office. And it wouldn't be the last.
She had dragged her child in behind her, the death grip she had on his upper arm quickly turning the skin a bright red. The twisted look on the boys face said it all. Part pain. Part bewilderment. Part apologetic. All embarrassment. The typical look of a child with an overbearing white trash mother.
"Mr. Salzar!" The woman screeched. She stepped forward, pointing her finger at my chest, pulling the reluctant boy along with her. As she walked she lost her balance, wobbling on her high heels. Apparently she didn't wear them often. She locked her eyes with mine, her face so close I could taste her breath. I could see the dried white spit that had gathered in one of the corners of her mouth.
"Why in the hell didn't you accept my child into your class?" She pulled the boy in front of her, placing her hands on his shoulders, holding him out for presentation. She tried to hide her scowl with a fake smile
I leaned back in my chair and removed my glasses. "Ms. Gore," I said, inhaling deeply and buying myself some time to let her cool down. I started to clean the glass on my lenses before I spoke. "We here at Northbrook Academy reserve the right to accept anyone we choose."
The somewhat cordial smile she had pasted on her face a second ago immediately disappeared. The scowl was now back. She bared her choppers like a growling dog. I could see she had a bit of lipstick stuck to them.
"What's wrong with my child?" She said. The smile was trying to make a comeback.
I turned to my desk, grabbing the stack of admission forms. I thumbed through them until I found her sons name. William Gore. Or as he was known, Billy.
Of course I had no intention of admitting the boy. And my selection criteria was a closely guarded secret that I never told anyone.
But to make the mother happy I reviewed the paperwork again. Billy Gore. A bit socially awkward. Smart for his age but nowhere near brilliant. Scored high on some aptitude tests, but average on others. His mother worked for a medical billing company. She made enough to put her in the middle class tax bracket, but her career was otherwise non eventful. Her job choice showed a lack of imagination or drive.
The smile was back when I looked up at her from the paper. I had done this for awhile, and the small action of checking the paperwork had always made an angry parent just a bit more at ease as well as putting me back into the dominate role in the conversation. The moment however, would be short lived.
"Nothing is wrong with your child," I said, putting my glasses on and leaning forward. "He shows a number of excellent qualities."
I had used this approach a number of times to turn away children who were unfit. The trick was to convince the parents how great their child was. When they were happy with that, it was just a matter of convincing them how unfit the school was for their child. Judging by the almost genuine smile on Ms. Gores face, I knew she was falling for it.
"Billy shows an aptitude toward mechanics and science." I said, "We focus on business and the arts here. We would be doing Billy a grave injustice by admitting him when there are other schools better suited to his needs."
"But your school is the best in the world. You guys have taught two presidents, and twenty three different CEOs." Her voice now grew angrier, "Not to mention too many prominent scientists and engineers to count."
Damn. She had called my bluff. This woman was definitely a handful.
"While it is true that we do have an unusually high rate of success at our school, it is because of our selection process that this is possible. We are just a prep school. While we do gear our students for certain avenues of development, this does not negate the fact that they still have final choice over their career paths."
"So what does it matter if my child goes here or another school then?" She was not convinced. "You guys have the better numbers."
I sighed. "It's the selection process Ms. Gore. Certain children learn in certain ways. Billy shows that he learns in a more direct hands on approach. We do not necessarily teach that way, and that is why he was not selected."
Mentally I crossed my fingers, hoping she would accept the answer. She stared at me. I stared back. For seconds on end we sat in silence before I turned and grabbed a piece of paper off my desk.
"I have here a list of schools more suited for Billy's needs," I said, "I would be more than happy to write him a recommendation to any of them you wish."
I held the paper out in front of me. Her stare was pure fire. She snatched the paper out of my hand and grabbed the boys arm.
"Fuck off," She growled. She turned and stormed out the door. The poor boy stumbled to keep up before resigning himself to his fate and allowing himself to be dragged down the hallway. We locked eyes as I watched him leave.
I laughed to myself as I scooted back up to the desk to finish my paperwork. Poor kid. And the mother? What a nightmare. No wonder the boy ends up being nothing more than a pencil pushing nobody who never really makes a dent in the world.