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(Excerpt)

Ginny thought about doing a search on the Internet, but in the end, finding Mr. Hennessey was as simple as calling her old high school and speaking to the secretary—the same woman from whom Ginny used to procure late slips on account of the bus—God bless her, she actually still worked there. Arthur Hennessey lived in western Massachusetts now, had stopped teaching ten years ago. His address was 49 Holmes Road, Pittsfield. She had a phone number on file but wasn’t sure it was current.

Arthur. It was strange to think of his first name. He’d been what, maybe thirty-five when she was sixteen?—which would make him fifty-four now, give or take. She wondered what he’d be doing, why he would have left teaching; it seemed like he’d been born to teach. Perhaps he owned a bookstore or had started some sort of nonprofit. Or she could picture him as a ski instructor; he’d always been the chaperone for the school-sponsored ski trips. Would he be married, with a family? He’d been a perennial bachelor back then: tall, dark hair, broad-shouldered—practically the bachelor from Central Casting. It was often rumored that he was engaged, or had a girlfriend, but he never seemed to actually get married. He’d sometimes had a little B.O., she remembered, which Ginny’s adolescent self had found sexy in a strange way. Mainly, though, he had the peculiar beauty of a person in love with what he does.

“Never listen to the world,” he announced one sunlit morning in the middle of June. It was the last day of school. “The world gives terrible advice. In fact, more often than not, do the exact opposite of what the world says.” This was her final memory of the man, her favorite teacher. She couldn’t locate him in the crowd at graduation, couldn’t find him afterward to tell him about her college choice, thank him for his recommendation. But he had inhabited her consciousness all these years. Of course he had. And now she had his address.

~This story may be read in its entirety in the Winter 2007 issue of the North American Review.~

 

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