A Depiction of a Teacher’s Inner Life

From “Yurt,” a story by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, in the July 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker (the one with Obama in Muslim attire on the cover):

      . . . didn’t misery imply a wallowing sort of wretchedness? And a teacher had no time for that. The curriculum was always marching on, relentlessly: the ancient Egyptians melting into the ancient Greeks, the blur of check marks and smiley faces, the hot rattling breath of the photocopier, book reports corrected shakily on the bus, the eternal night of parent-teacher conferences, dizzy countdowns to every holiday, and the dumb animal pleasure of rest. One could

    be quite unhappy and never have a chance to know it. Ms. Hempel was sometimes astonished by the thoughts she’d have while walking to work. One morning, she looked longingly at a patch of ice on the pavement and realized that if she were to fall and fracture her leg in several places then she wouldn’t have to go to school. And maybe, if the doctors put her in traction, a substitute would be hired for the rest of the year. Perhaps she’d need a body cast. There was a way out, an honorable and dignified way out. All she had to do was undergo a terrible accident . . .

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