The fourth grade teacher in Quilli, Mrs. Johnson, went to her
principal one day and said: "Dornan pulled on me."
Her principal, Mr. Factsampler, a youngish man of
thirty-five, said, "He what?"
"He reached up under my dress and grabbed my
"He'll deny it."
"Has he set anyone's hair on fire lately?"
"Not that I'm aware."
"Then live with it."
"Just a note on his sheet."
"Fantasia - we change his sheet, a copy goes to
the lawyer. You know that."
"But he did it!"
"Did you encourage him?"
"You know how it goes, Fantasia."
WHEN DORNAN CZYCZK STAPLED Honey Tuppercup's eyelid to
the high cheekbone under her eye, the first thing Mr. Factsampler said to Fantasia Johnson
was: "Honey's new in school, isn't she?"
"She's new," Fantasia said.
"Talk to her."
ON ANOTHER DAY, MR. FactSampler asked Fantasia
Johnson if she wanted him to get her an aide for Dornan Czyczk.
"The last thing he needs is help," she said.
"You know what I mean;' he said. "What
happened to your finger?"
"Dornan bit it. He bit my fingernail off."
"Is it okay?"
"It is now."
. . .
FANTASIA JOHNSON WAS WELL liked at Quilli
Elementary. The first, second, and third grade teachers all knew what she was going
through. The third grade teacher, her hair, after the fire, having grown back over the
summer break, counseled her, off the record, to keep a record.
"A separate record?" Fantasia asked.
"Isn't that against federal law?"
"Do it, honey," she said. Fantasia was still
The upper grade teachers tended to believe they
wouldn't have to face Dornan and his disabilities, that something would happen. Fantasia
Johnson said she had felt the same way.
AT HER FIRST PARENT-TEACHER conference with
Dornan's parents (and their lawyer), Dornan's father was blunt, reciting a speech he'd
made before: "So we screwed up the boy. So what? Unscrew him. That's your job."
Mr. Factsampler, as he always did, tried mediation.
"It's not a singular thing, Mr. Czyczk. We're all in this and we need your help. We
need the family. We need the community."
"He needs a good school," Mr. Czyczk
"I think he has that," Mr. Factsampler said.
"He needs good teachers."
"He has those, too."
"Then do your damn job."
Fantasia Johnson wanted to tell them- off the record-
how Dornan had put a pencil all the way through her foot, pinning it to her sandal. (She'd
healed.) She'd been going to tell them she felt like Christ without the perks. Ogden
Factsampler complimented her on her reticence.
"I just didn't get the chance, Mr. F," she
DORNAN WAS AT HIS most unrestrained after the
conferences. The next day, during reading, he walked up and down the rows in Mrs.
Johnson's classroom squirting Super Glue on the other students. As hands and fingers shot
up to cheek or ear or hair to feel out what was happening, they stuck in all those places.
"Dornan," Fantasia Johnson said when she
noticed him and saw what was going on, "come up here."
Like some small gunslinger from another time, Dornan
approached her, a tube of glue in each hand. Dornan, however, had thought of everything.
Beyond protocol, Fantasia Johnson slapped the young
child. Her hand stuck immediately to his cheek-a fact that would later become part of the
record: her record.
FANTASIA JOHNSON, NO DUMMY either (and still in
her late twenties), was offered therapy and accepted the offer. She became nervous and had
a note on that put in her file. There were absences, too, sick days, all supported by
The Czycks, who loved their boy, expressed a certain
smugness over that. He'd had to leave the hospital with a red cheek from the glue remover.
They thought it fine that his teacher was now on notice. Parents had to protect their
PROTECTION, HOWEVER, CAN BE a salty spray. Upon
her return to the classroom, Fantasia Johnson had an incident with Dornan. Her medication
kept her smooth, however, smooth enough that when Dornan thought she was going to send him
to the office she took him aside and said, "No. I'm not sending you to the
"But you said-"
"I'm sending you to the cafeteria."
"So they can cut you up and serve you as
FACTSAMPLER WAS APOLOGETIC TO the
Czyczks, but when Mr. Czyczk said, "Fire her;' Mr. Factsampler said, "I
"She's been under stress, under medical
treatment. It's the same law protecting Dornan. She'll be all right, though."
"Protecting Dornan?" Mr. Czyczk said.
DORNAN, AS EVEN THE students noticed, seemed to
be losing weight. He talked less and the nasty sparkle in his eye of impending horror was
less frequent. Not gone, however. When he ripped the earrings from Honey Tuppercup's ears
she turned on him and shoved a calculator in his mouth that knocked out two teeth.
Honey Tuppercup was expelled for that and had to go to
the Christian school in Quilli for the rest of the year. On another day, though, when
Dornan had spent a good ten minutes during science standing at the blackboard and scraping
his nails across it, Fantasia Johnson turned on him and bit every one of his nails down to
"WE'RE WORKING WITH HER," Mr.
Factsampler told the Czyczks. The Czyczks were worried. Dornan no longer seemed himself.
Factsampler didn't feel comfortable enough with the Czyczks to tell them how refreshing
that was for all concerned.
COMFORT WAS LESS AVAILABLE to the Czyczks, who
entered divorce proceedings in the middle of all of this. They filed several formal
complaints against Fantasia Johnson but Ogden Factsampler (and eventually the school
attorney) said these were health matters and there was nothing they could do. Fantasia
Johnson was a nervous woman, but she was young and they were confident she would move out
"Properly speaking;' he told them, "I'm not
even supposed to talk about her health problems. I just wanted you to know she's not a
. . .
IN THE FOURTH GRADE, however, the gossip was
that Dornan had moved.
"He's living with his mom," someone said, a
fact hotly denied by a child who said Mrs. Czyck lived next door to her and she lived
alone. Another said he was with his dad, but that was countered by another child who'd had
the tip of her tongue pinched off by Dornan. She said his dad was driving a truck now and
was gone for weeks at a time.
SMALL TOWNS BREED MORE hope than truth. The
truth was that Dornan Czyczk never was seen again and Fantasia Johnson got her nerves back
before the school year ended. Ogden Factsampler was happy about that. Good teachers are
hard to find in cold northern places.