Locked Down

— Barbara Saxton

This is not a drill. Repeat:
This is NOT a drill.
Teachers, lock your doors.
Close your mini-blinds.
Block entryways with cabinets or shelves.
Collect all cellphones (And good luck with that!)
We’ve been informed
a shooter is on campus.

Holy fucking shit! Christ, no!
Holden Caulfield’s drink-fueled angst
cannot compete with this!
First instinct: Run like hell! Escape!
But duty drives my trembling hand
to click the classroom’s Columbine lock,
trapping us inside. I creep around on all fours,
helping halfbacks wedge their hefty selves
beneath the small sled desks.

Eternities of nervous waiting start
and, for a while, sheer shock
keeps the students quiet, until novelty
wears thin and the first unbidden fart
dissolves the silence into titters.
You’re gonna get us killed!
a young nerd hisses, precipitating giggles, snorts
and whines. Students trade whispered
bits of trivia: how many wads of gum
are under your desk? I counted thirty!
Is that a booger,
or a fossilized Milk Dud?

Taciturn administrators seem to have forgotten us.
Meanwhile, every hallway sound
elicits tiny yips and cries. One girl crouching
near a window thinks she hears
some tapping on the pane. She whimpers,
seeking comfort I’ve forgotten how to give.

Am I really going to die
beneath a table littered
with C+ essays on
The Catcher in the Rye?

In dreams, I’m lurching down the hall
intent on tackling our assassin, bloodying
his ugly nose, then flinging his revolver
at the glass Sports Trophy Case! Applause erupts
as my posterior plumps down on his chest pack
of undetonated bombs.

For fifteen year olds, ten minutes
last a year. Half an hour beneath a dirty desk
is an eternity. The spark our brush with death inspired
cannot be fanned to full-on terror fire.
New mutterings reveal the new class goal:
to liberate their cell phones
from the top drawer of my desk!

They’d rather go down texting.
JD Salinger would’ve SO approved…

Before classroom mutiny can prevail,
the PA crackles once again to life.
False alarm, a counselor
(whose name always escapes me) squawks.
Someone phoned a hoax.

Class dismissed! Some nervous cheers
go up, and reunited with beloved phones,
students storm the unlocked doors.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss
the most important thing we learned
within these walls all year:

Together, we survived.

2 thoughts on “Locked Down

  1. I remember the hallway we crouched in. The teachers remained standing, patrolling, cautioning to be quiet, as though the enemy could hear us. After the all clear, we stood and left – the hallway filled with candy wrappers and orange peels. At night we went home to heavy drapes on the windows that made us feel buried, and oleomargine that we had to beat together with yellow powder that was supposed to take the place of butter and good times. Your recollection is maddeningly accurate, but we did survive, didn’t we. Thank you.

  2. I remember my Ohio high school’s civil defense drills (you know, what we might actually do in the event of a nuclear attack), which involved, among other nonsensical things, kneeling in the hallway with our heads in our (opened) lockers. Under unpleasant ways to die, substitute “smelling one’s three week old gym socks” for “reading C+ essays on CATCHER” and you get the drift. Thanks for your comment, which is a bit poetic in itself!

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