Prompt Images

Max Holland had spent the better part of two weeks prepping for his new group of students, set to arrive in about a half-hour’s time. It was the first day of school but the third “first day of school” for him, a relatively new-to-the-profession second grade teacher. He loved what he did, enjoyed the school, and liked working with his students.

Mr. Holland, as his students called him, especially loved the first day of school and everything that went with it: fresh notepads, sharp pencils, clean desks, empty cubbies, and open minds. His new group of students was now getting off the buses and funnelling into the halls. He put a lot of time and effort into making sure his class felt welcomed. In the process, Mr. Holland rearranged the desks a number of times while trying to set up the perfect positioning.

As the kids marched into the classroom, he directed them to their cubbies and then to their assigned desk. He also planned on starting with a fun game to break the ice and get the class introduced to one another.

One of the kids, Malcolm, caught Mr. Holland’s attention quickly as he accidently hip-checked the door to the classroom on his way in. He proceeded to fumble his backpack into the cubby hole, then also walked into a group of desks.

As an added oddity, the boy wandered around the room looking at everything in great detail.

He walked to his assigned desk, but then looked confused as he wandered to the exact spot that Mr. Holland had the desks set up yesterday. He decided to change the U-shaped arrangement to groups of three at the last minute this morning. Malcolm looked at his desk, and then the exact spot where his desk was set up yesterday. He looked back and forth a couple of times, and then proceeded to trip and walk into his desk, dislodging the three desk and chairs fromt their places.

The teacher helped Malcolm straighten out the arrangements. “Are you alright, buddy?” he asked as he pushed the now-sitting child into his desk properly. He was quickly shocked to see multiple other bruises on the boy’s arms and another on his cheek bone. He chalked the immediate clumsiness of the boy up to first-day-of-school nerves, but the bruises were in awkward spots and they were alarming at the very least.

Malcolm looked up at the teacher and only responded with a slow head nod, paused, and responded, “I’m OK, Jackson.”

Mr. Holland was half-shocked; he hadn’t heard that name in a while. He stuttered as he responded, “Ex- Excuse you, now. My name is Mr. Holland and that is how you’ll address me. Do you understand?”

The boy nodded his head again. He was very obviously an introverted kid. He had no idea where the boy got the notion to call him Jackson, he not only introduced himself as “Mr. Holland” earlier but his first name was Max, not Jackson.

Mr. Holland went on with the day trying not to make immediate presumptions but the boy stood out to him prominently. He has had to teach class while distracted before, and the second graders did not pick up on the subtleties of a teacher when his mind was elsewhere. The boy’s actions, bruises, and greeting clearly had Mr. Holland off-kilter for the rest of the day.

The boy was friendly and respectful, definitely introverted, and he didn’t speak up a lot, but he wasn’t shy about sharing when others asked him questions. He was not an aggressive boy. He just seemed overwhelmingly content for his age, like he knew things that his peers didn’t. That his teacher didn’t.

Malcolm’s bruises were consistent, though.

Mr. Holland watched carefully as the first week of school passed. He didn’t want to jump to conclusions but also felt responsible for keeping an eye out for his student. As he saw some bruises fade away and fresh ones appear, he felt more and more pressure to act.

It wasn’t only the bruises, but Malcolm’s actions that piqued the teacher interests and drove him to his final decision to do something. The boy was not “book” smart, but he seemed to intuitively know peculiar things. And there was something a bit strange about how he interacted with the world.

Mr. Holland couldn’t quite put his finger on what was going on inside the boy’s mind.

Malcolm was clumsy, beyond anything Max had seen in other students. He bumped his head and hit his shoulder on anything and everything he possibly could. And after three weeks of watching this, Max thought it was appropriate to do some innocent investigation. He looked up the boy’s address and decided he would stop by his house to introduce himself to the boy’s parents.

One day after school, the same day he had seen Malcolm open his desk too fast and slam it upward on his chin, Mr. Holland made a trip his student’s house with no intention but to introduce himself to Malcolm’s mother and father. He was nervous, as it was only his third year as a teacher, and he had never felt compelled to do anything like this before.

The driveway immediately stood out as he pulled up slowly. It was lined in cones and reflectors. He walked up the walkway and to the door. The front steps were padded on the corners. He wasn’t done second guessing this decision but curiosity got the better of him and his finger rang the doorbell anyway.

Almost immediately as the chime went off, there was a loud crash and the sounds of tumbling. A mumbled yell and a couple curses. Whatever was causing the commotion was clearly making its way toward the door.

One last thought of ditching screamed through Mr. Holland head, but just then the door opened abruptly with a huge THUD. The door slammed right into the center of the man’s forehead. Surprisingly, the THUD of the forehead-door connection was muffled by a pad aligned perfectly on the edge of the door, held in place by duct tape, as if it weren’t the first time this man had opened the door full-force into his head. There was another pad directly below the one he bumped his head on. Furthermore the man acted like it didn’t even happen.

“Hello there,” he said without hesitation. “Can I help you?”

Confused, Mr. Holland introduced himself and lied as he explained that he was going door to door introducing himself to all his students’ families.

“Come on in. And watch your head,” the man more told Mr. Holland, then invited him. “We know who you are and we’ve been waiting for you. I am Dim Quintana and this is my wife Shirley.”

Shirley got up from her seat and approached Mr. Holland offering a handshake, but it was interrupted when she smashed her shin into the edge of the coffee table. After shaking both of their hands, the teacher was speechless as the sight of the living room and even the entire interior of the house.

Everything was padded.

The edge of all the tables. The corners. Everything without a round corner had a soft pad on it and all protrusions were capped with a tennis ball or other soft object.

The couple contently let Mr. Holland observe the house. And as he did, he also became aware of the bruises all over the adults’ bodies as well. The walls were painted dark and everything that wasn’t fixed down was painted in bright fluorescent colors. The whole place smelled like a fresh Band-Aid.

“I suppose you are here to talk about our super-powers?” Mrs. Quintana inquired.


Billy Hafferty

Billy Hafferty is probably still hanging out of the passenger side of his best friend's ride trying to holler at you.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more