by Brooke Reynolds
Jessica Derby slipped into room A19 just in time. It was her first PTA committee meeting. She had no idea what to expect having just moved here from Pennsylvania. She promised her husband that she was going to make an effort at being involved in her kid’s new school. She slid into the last remaining open seat next to a woman revealing way too much cleavage for a weeknight school related function.
The cleavage stood to address the room. “Alright, everyone. It’s 6:37 pm and officially time to start the September 2016 PTA committee meeting. I’m Chelsea Langhour, your current PTA President. We’ll get started with attendance. If everyone could please make sure that they sign the sheet.” Chelsea handed the sign-in sheet to Jessica to be passed around. “Diane Fairmore, our secretary again this year, will be recording the minutes. Principal Slater, do you wanna start the meeting off this evening?”
Andrew Slater stood and adjusted his tie. “Thank you, Chelsea. I’d like to start by saying that the new school year here at Bentridge High School is off to a great start. I anticipate great things from our students this year. The senior class is a stellar group of kids and they are sure to get our college acceptance rates up.” Principal Slater turned toward the door as Custodian Jerry backed into the room whistling along to his music. “Can I help you, Jerry?”
Jerry spun the mop bucket around and went into a full on air-drum solo.
Jerry jerked his head up and pulled his earphones out. His face flushed as he was greeted by a room full of blank faces. “Yes?”
“Jerry, we’re having a meeting here.”
“Sorry. I’ll just grab this trash bag here and slip out the way.”
“Thanks, Jerry. Now, where were we? Ah, yes. I want to bring up the lovely new sign out front that was donated by the Class of 2015. What a great addition. Oh, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in the bake sale. Chelsea, I don’t believe we saw you at the bake sale this time.”
“I had a prior commitment that evening.”
Diane raised her hand. “I motion to create an award for all those who refused to participate in the bake sale. The winners will be forced to take weekend baking classes for one month. The ‘I have no desire to be Betty Crocker’ award. All in favor, raise your hand?”
Jessica looked around the room as all hands shot up except for her’s and Chelsea’s.
“I resent that. I can cook. I was just unavailable. And besides, at least no one developed the gawd awful food poisoning we had at the catastrophic Spring Bake Sale.”
“Motion accepted,” answered Diane.
“You are not the President. So you cannot motion anything, Diane.”
“Now, now ladies. Let’s try to keep this meeting as professional as possible.” Principal Slater gestured toward Diane and Chelsea who were seated next to each other. “You remember how quickly the last meeting spiraled out of control.”
Diane and Chelsea both mumbled their apologies and gestured for Principal Slater to continue with the meeting.
“Now I think we need to address the attendance issues we’ve been having lately. We’ll create a finite number of excused and unexcused absences before penalties are involved such as missing extracurricular activities. Diane, this particularly applies to your son.”
“And what exactly do you propose we do Principle Slater?” Diane massaged her temples in a clockwise fashion.
“I’m not saying anything just yet. Maybe we decide on a number like after five they better have a good excuse or we start banning them from after school activities. And Diane, maybe you can have another talk with Trevor.”
“Yeah, okay.” Diane started doodling in the margins of her meeting minutes. Chelsea raised her hand. “I motion that we create the ‘Bad Mothering Initiative’ for all mothers of students that miss or are tardy for more than five days. Any member will be forced into cafeteria duty for one month. All in favor raise your hand?”
No one raised their hand besides Chelsea.
Diane sneered at Chelsea. “I see what you’re doing here. Motion denied.”
“Moving on.” Principal Slater flipped through the stack of papers laid out in front of him. “We need to address the new and improved policy on ‘No Place for Hate’.”
“Sorry, what was that again?” Chelsea yawned.
“Late night again Chelsea,” asked Diane.
“Coach Fenway had me out late again. But I’m not complaining.”
“Back to the meeting ladies. ‘No Place for Hate’ is our new no tolerance policy, Chelsea. It falls under the anti-defamation league. We will not tolerate any form of bullying, cyberbullying, or any demonstration of hate. I assume we are all in agreement on this policy?” Principal Slater scanned the room and was met by a sea of bobbleheads all in agreement.
“Weren’t we going to do something about the new students?”
“That’s right, Chelsea. Thanks. We had decided that each new student at Bentridge High will be assigned one peer mentor as well as one adult mentor. This should help the transition.”
Chelsea stood for a brief moment and turned toward Jessica. “While we’re on the topic, are there any new parents here this evening?”
Silence fell upon the room while all eyes settled on Jessica. She kept her eyes glued to her busy hands as she continuously rung her fingers. She could feel the stares burning into her. Finally, she lifted her head to acknowledge the sea of eyes. She cleared her throat as she fought to find her voice. “Heh, Hello everyone. My name is Jessica Derby and I’m an alcoholic.” Jessica immediately regretted the lame excuse of a joke the moment it escaped her lips.
Jessica continued. “Okay. Not that type of meeting. Well, thank you for having me this evening. We just recently moved here for my husband’s work and I promised him that I’d be more involved in our kids’ school, so here I am.”
Chelsea tapped Jessica on the arm. “Is your husband Paul Derby?”
“He works with my husband. He mentioned the company was hiring a new CEO.”
Principal Slater smiled. “Thank you, Jessica. We are happy to have you and to add some fresh ideas. You will be particularly helpful when we get to the fundraising portion of the meeting.” The door opened again and Custodian Jerry burst through, belting out a melody. “Jerry!”
“What’s up Principal?”
“We are still having a meeting here.”
“Can you just come back when all the other rooms are done.”
“Already done chief.”
“Well, find something else to clean. We got at least 20 minutes here yet.”
“Sure thing boss. Hey, Chelsea. Looking good.” Jerry smiled as his eyes gave her the once over.
Diane looked back and forth between Chelsea and Custodian Jerry. “Seriously? Him too?”
“Oh Diane, that was years ago. But I’m hard to forget.”
Principal Slater shooed the custodian out of the room and turned back to address the other bored faces scrolling through cell phones. “Anything else I’m forgetting?”
Diane interjected. “The transportation initiative. Weren’t we going to discuss that?
“Ah, yes. Thanks. The driving initiative. Basically, we need to start taking some steps to create a safer environment for our young drivers. The usual stuff. Seat belt safety and texting while driving. Maybe we can add a special segment either to driver’s education or gym class.”
Chelsea raised her hand. “Principal Slater. I can ask Coach Fenway this evening if he would be interested in taking on that project.”
Jessica shook her head. She thought this Coach Fenway must be some good looking guy considering how much the cleavage bragged about him.
Chelsea noticed Jessica shaking her head. “Excuse me? Did you want to add something?”
Jessica startled at being noticed. “Nope. I’m good.”
Principal Slater continued. “That would be fine Chelsea. And on that note, I think I’ve covered everything that I have. Chelsea, do you wanna continue?”
“Will do. Moving right along.” Chelsea pulled out her sheet and started flipping through. “I have someplace to be this evening so we will just skip to fundraising and wrap this meeting up early. We have some leftover funding from last year and need to decide which programs could benefit the most. I, for one, know that the cheerleaders could use new uniforms.”
“Didn’t they just get new uniforms,” asked Principal Slater.
“That was last year. New season, new uniforms,” answered Chelsea. “The girls have got to look their best for the competitions. After all, they did place third at last year’s state competition.”
Jessica raised her hand. “Shouldn’t we direct funds toward the groups that have the most immediate need?”
Principal Slater turned toward Jessica. “Why don’t you tell us which groups you think those are?”
“Ummmm…well,” Jessica mumbled. “One of my kids is in the band and their uniforms are pretty tattered. Most have holes or pretty bad stains.”
Chelsea scoffed. “Nobody cares about band geeks. Nice try Jessica, but clearly you don’t know where the priorities stand in this school. I’m not even sure why we have a band but I guess they do play music for the cheerleaders to dance to.”
“Well, they are actually quite good,” answered Jessica. “My daughter told me that last year they won second place at Nationals.”
“They have competitions for band geeks? Clearly, they must not be as prestigious as cheerleading competitions.”
Diane raised her hand. “I vote we set aside some funds for the theater department. The auditorium really could use some better seats.”
Chelsea pounded the table to emphasize her point. “Why would we waste money on the theater? They aren’t winning any competitions.”
Jessica raised her hand. “Maybe we could just split the funds evenly amongst all the extracurriculars.”
“Sorry Jessica. I get you’re new and all. But that is a terrible idea. And besides, clearly, we should also be using the funds left over from the cheerleaders to help the football team. They bring in the most revenue. I’ll just ask Coach Fenway what they need.”
Diane groaned. “Look Chelsea, we get it. You’re having an affair. You don’t need to keep flaunting it, nobody cares.”
“Woah, Diane.” Chelsea turned toward her and placed a hand on her hip. “Do you got a stick up your ass tonight or what?”
“Nothing is up my ass. We get it. You’re a slut.” Diane turned toward Jessica while pointing at Chelsea. “She could never let go of that head cheerleader mindset.”
“You’re just jealous. I see the way you look at Coach Fenway.”
Diane rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Yeah, give him my number. What I wouldn’t give to have a beer gut receding hairline has-been sweating on top of me. Oh, yes, yes, yes.”
“At least I know what I want and I do something about it,” snapped Chelsea.
“Yeah by cheating on your husband. Mike is a great guy and you are off blowing the football coach. When my husband was still alive, I never dreamed of cheating on him, especially with some sleazebag.”
“Ladies, please,” Principal Slater interrupted. “What is up with you two this evening? I thought you were friends?”
Chelsea placed her arm around Diane. “Diane and I have known each other for years. We are practically sisters.”
Diane shoved Chelsea’s arm off of her. “Best friends.”
“Don’t you push me.”
“Then keep your slutty hands off me.”
“I motion we nominate Diane for the ‘I can’t take a joke award’.”
“Yeah? Well I motion we nominate Chelsea for the ‘I sleep with everyone because I have no self-worth.’”
Jessica stood to sneak out of the room. This meeting was too much for her. As she left the room, she was greeted by Custodian Jerry standing just outside and performing an air-guitar solo with his mop. Jessica tapped him on his shoulder. “I think you can finally head in there. Those people are crazy.”
Jerry nodded in agreement. “Tell me about it. Few meetings ago a fight broke out between them women and I hadda stay late to fix one of the chairs they busted up. Made me late to my gig.”
“Well, I think they are headed in that direction again.”
Shouts were overheard. “Even with fake tits and enough Botox to poison an elephant, it still takes a man several drinks before he’ll engage in a sexual act with you.”
Jerry dropped his jaw in shock from the insult. “Oh man. I best be getting in there. You have a nice evening young lady and keep away from them women.”
Principal Slater hustled after Jessica with sweat dripping from his brow. “Jessica, err Mrs. Derby, please wait. I’m sorry for all this. Our meetings are usually much more organized.”
More shouts could be heard through the doorway.
“Diane! Don’t you walk away from me when I’m talking to you.”
“Then don’t disrespect me.”
Principal Slater winced, then turned toward Jessica and smiled. “I really hope that you come back and decide to be a permanent member of the PTA.”
Jessica knew she would not be back. These types of women were the ones she constantly avoided at the last school her kids attended. “Thanks, Principal Slater. But I just remember that I have another meeting at the same time so I don’t think I’ll be able to make it.”
About the Author:
Brooke Reynolds is a veterinarian from Charlotte, North Carolina. When she isn’t saving animals, she enjoys writing fiction. Her stories have appeared at such online and print markets as The Scarlet Leaf Review, Massacre Magazine, Fantasia Divinity, The Airgonaut, The Literary Hatchet, Ghost Parachute, Riggwelter Press, and Every Day Fiction. Her story “Dr. Google” won 2nd place in the 2016 Short Story Contest for Channillo. For more information, check out her website reynoldswrites.org. You can follow her on twitter @psubamit