Travis feels superiorly out of place walking through the halls of Stanton Elementary School. He is filled with a sense of dominance over the little tykes awaiting him in the classroom. He wears a tight suit that accentuates his genitals to the point where it could be considered inappropriate. This is his first day as substitute teacher, filling in for the bedridden Ms. Buckwheat, who, for some unknown reason, was forced to take extended medical leave.
He is sporting cool shades and a leather briefcase, sipping at a Capri Sun pouch like he is cock of the walk. He spots a sexy prepubescent girl at her locker down the hall a ways. Travis approaches her briskly and with the utmost confidence.
“Eighteen yet?” he asks her without shame.
“What?” she says, recoiling upon noticing how dangerously close his face is to hers. He slams her locker door closed and leans in so close that he can lick her eyeball, were he so inclined. She can smell the heavy scent of wine on his breath.
“Friday night, you and me- movies, popcorn, Twizzlers, sodas, we’ll divvy up the cost. Pick you up at your house at eight?” He flicks his shades down to the tip of his nose and studies her face like she is a bad girl.
“I have history class now,” she says nervously. The young lady turns in disgust and fear as Travis smiles after her.
“Yeah, go on,” he coos. “Don’t want to be late for classy-class. If you ever need to be tutored, I can offer you my assistance.” He bites the air in front of him suggestively and tosses the Capri Sun pouch over his shoulder.
The bell rings, and Travis pulls out a spoon from his back pocket. He looks at his reflection in the utensil. Travis licks both his forefinger and pinkie and runs them across his thick eyebrows. “Showtime,” he says, as he feels the itchy fabric against his bulging genitals.
He walks into the classroom across the hall and drops his briefcase on the desk. He opens the briefcase and sees it filled with porn magazines and a Milky Way bar. “Oops, wrong briefcase,” he mutters to himself, closing it again.
Travis examines the sea of young students sitting before him. “Hello, little boys and girls,” he says perversely. “I will be your substitute teacher while Ms. Buckwheat enjoys whatever time she has left on this earth as her biological clock winds down.”
“Is Ms. Buckwheat dying?” a concerned student asks.
“I don’t know,” Travis says, “but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for her to just kick that damn bucket. You see, kids, elderly people do not really serve a purpose in society, and all they really do is slow us down and complain that the sidewalks have not yet been shoveled.”
The students fall silent, and Travis is grinning from ear to ear. “What subject am I teaching here?” he asks.
“Math,” a young boy in the front says.
“Ok,” Travis says, “everyone take out your textbooks.”
All the students do so and flip to the page they had left off on with Ms. Buckwheat. Travis slides through the rows of desks and looks down at the lesson in front of them. “What are we learning here?” he asks.
“Order of operations,” a boy says.
What the fuck is that? Travis thinks to himself. He scrunches up his face in thought as he realizes that he never learned this, and if he did, he does not remember a lick of it.
“Oh, ok,” he says, completely unsure as to how to approach teaching the unknown. He scoops up one of the student’s textbooks, right out of his hands, and takes it back to his desk. He picks up his comically large glass of wine, swirls it (spilling a quarter of it over the edges in doing so), and downs the rest in one gulp, hoping that this will calm his nerves.
Travis copies a problem from the textbook onto the chalkboard which reads as follows: 2+ (14/7) x5. He writes an equal sign and wonders where in the world he is going with this. Beads of sweat stand out on his forehead, and his hands tremble fiercely. Travis lifts his leg up and emits an angry fart, but tries to cover it up by clearing his throat at the same time.
He turns towards the class and asks, “Who thinks they can do this?”
A number of hands go up, and he picks on one girl sitting in the middle of the cluster. “Why don’t you come up here and do it on the board, baby?” he says.
He intentionally tosses a piece of chalk over the girl’s head so she is forced to turn around and bend down to pick it up. “Yum-yum,” Travis says as he admires her do this. She takes the chalk and makes her way to the front board.
“Very good, take a seat,” he says.
“Don’t you want me to go do the problem at the board?” she asks, confused.
“Oh, yeah, go ahead,” Travis says.
The girl, Rwanda, walks up to the board and writes the number seventy-two next to the equal sign. Seeing no work, and thus no proof as to how she deduced that to be the correct answer, Travis smiles sexily and nods. “Very good, sit down,” he says.
Rwanda smiles and assumes her seat in the middle of the classroom. “Ok,” Travis says, clapping his hands together, “I think that’s enough for one day. Everybody just put your heads down and don’t bother me.” He walks around to the other side of the desk and takes a seat.
“Excuse me, sir,” one student pipes up. “Seventy-two is incorrect. It should be twelve.” Many of his classmates nod in agreement.
Travis kicks his feet up on the desk and puts his hands behind his head, interlocking his fingers. “Well, well, well, I see we have a rebel on our hands. You don’t even know me, kid. So just don’t even go there if you know what’s good for you. I have so many detention slips here I don’t know what to do with them.” This could not be any truer. “I got my eyes on you, jack-weed.”
Travis takes a Penthouse Forum out of his briefcase and starts to read the Letter of the Month.
The bell rings after an agonizing forty-five minutes of total silence. The students file out of the classroom one by one, mumbling among themselves.
“Good work today, guys,” Travis says. “We learned a lot, didn’t we?”
Travis gets up from his desk and walks towards the door. He pats the last student out on the back and says, “Good work today,” fastening a Kick Me sign he had made during class to his shirt with tape.
Travis goes home, feeling very accomplished about the day’s work. Unfortunately, he had several more math classes to fill in for later in the day, but he is unaware of this until the principal calls and chews his ass out.
Upon his arrival home, Travis reclines in his La-Z-Boy with his comically large glass of wine filled to the brim. He swirls it and takes a healthy gulp. Another day, another fucking dollar.
On the second day of school, Travis arrives early and walks into the teacher’s lounge on the second floor. Already occupying the room are three teachers and the principal, Dr. Stacy Janelle.
Travis frantically searches the cabinets without so much as looking at any of his colleagues. They notice his anxiety, and one of them, Mr. Hill, asks, “Do you need something, Mr. D’Angelo?”
“Where’s your wine at, Poindexter?” he snaps. He slams the cabinet door shut and growls like a grizzly bear.
“Alcohol is not allowed anywhere on the premises,” Principal Janelle says.
“No, worries, sugar-baby,” Travis says. “I got a whole box in my briefcase; I just figured I could use another to hold me over for the rest of the day. I’ll have to go back home on my lunch period and grab another.” He hurries to the door.
“You know, you are not allowed to talk to me like that. That is extremely inappropriate, and highly unprofessional.”
Travis hustles out the door, ignoring everything she says, grabbing a powdered donut from the box on the counter while on his way out.
On his way to class, Travis spots a young girl- probably in the eighth grade- reaching for a book on top of her locker. Her shirt riches up, exposing a very sexy, intricate tattoo on her lower back. He stops in his tracks like a deer caught in the headlights and simply admires this beautiful sight.
“Damn!” Travis screams, his dick springing up like a jack-in-the-box. He has to hold his briefcase in front of his genitals, even though he doesn’t give a damn whether or not people know he has a penis.
The girl turns and looks at Travis; he immediately looks away and whistles hard, his face reddening like a beet. The warning bell sounds, and kids begin to flood the hallways and head for their first class.
Travis takes the powdered donut and shoves it in its entirety into his mouth right before entering the classroom. He wipes away at the powder that has clung to the side of his mouth as the students file in. Travis brushes his dirty hands on the lapel of his pink suit and starts to giggle.
“Cum-stain,” he says to the kids through a mouthful of donut, pointing at the white blotch like it is a badge of honor.
Travis takes a VHS tape out of his briefcase and walks to the back of the room. “Alright, today we are going to learn something useful, for a change,” he says, approaching the television in the back. “I have in my hand last week’s Eagles-Patriots game, our boys having won by a field goal. We’ll do a play-by-play analysis and hold various discussions on team strategy. We will then split up into groups and everyone will make those cool paper footballs and we’ll try to flick them through each other’s finger goalposts. Now, you can tell I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, so let’s try not to fuck it up. Everyone turn your desks around.”
“I can wheel the TV up front,” a student says helpfully.
“Ok,” Travis says merrily, “that’ll be a one-week suspension for Mr. Diarrhea of the Mouth over there for not being able to keep his mouth shut.” Travis rushes back towards his desk. “What’s your name, dick-wad?” he asks, grabbing a disciplinary slip.
“Billy Marshall,” he says.
Next to Name, Travis writes Billy Marshall, then adds Faggot in parentheses, and underlines it vigorously. Under reason for demerit, Travis writes being a smartass, except he spells smartass with two Z’s. Under Date, he writes the word today.
Travis goes back to work on the TV while the kids noisily turn their desks around. “Alright, stop making so many ruckuses,” he says. He attempts to put the tape in the DVD player and fails gloriously.
“It won’t fit in there,” a student says.
Without looking back, Travis owns his bitch ass and says, “That’s what your mother said to me last night. Face.”
Travis finally figures out where the tape goes. He puts the tape into the VCR, but nothing happens. The screen remains blank, and Travis is consumed with holy rage. He smacks the side of the TV repeatedly, hoping that something good will come from his anger.
Travis bites into a corner of the TV set and throws his arms about like a monkey. He spits on the screen and tells the inanimate object that it will never amount to anything. Finally, on the verge of tears, he screams out: “Somebody fix this fucking thing!”
He stomps back over to his desk and pours himself a comically large glass of wine and downs it in one gulp. One of the students goes over to the television, plugs it in, and hits the power button. The game appears on the screen.
“Hey, get away from that!” Travis shrieks. He bounds over to the television again and shoves the young boy out of the way. Travis pounds on the side of the TV once more and then turns to the students. “Hey, I fixed it. You all suck.” He wipes away the tears that stain his face.
Travis and the students start to watch the tape. At certain pivotal points, he pauses the video and makes many marks on the television with a Sharpie while screaming at the students things like: “This is what I like to call suckily-executed play action.” He also yells at the TV, saying things like: “I can do better than that!”
Travis tells his students, “I could have gone professional if I wanted, if it weren’t for my bad knee.” This is a flat-out lie because Travis’s knees are in tip-top shape, having never injured them or so much as bruised them his entire life. “I always wanted to make it big time, but I will say this much, and I really want you guys to pay attention, because this is coming from the heart: do not have children. It’s my biggest regret. They are a waste of time, and it costs so much money to raise them and keep them happy. So, trust me, when you guys start to get nasty, double-bag the D.”
As Travis is saying this last part, Principal Janelle walks in and looks at the marked-up television paused on the football game. “What’s going on here?” she says.
At this Travis jumps in surprise and inadvertently spills some wine on his pink suit and his crocodile shoes. In his anger, he attempts to flip over a desk with a young boy still in it, but the boy overpowers him and keeps it down on the ground. “Look what you made me do, you bitch,” Travis says. He stares at the principal and the confused, shocked look on her face, knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he got her, that he has won.
Travis sits opposite Principal Janelle in her office, trying to balance his wine glass atop his head, spilling much on her important papers in the process. He sighs. “Déjà-fucking-vu,” he says.
“What?” the principal asks.
“Just forget it,” he says, frustrated. “What’s this about? You interrupted a crucial lesson I’m teaching my shit-stains- I mean, my students.”
“Well, Travis,” she begins, “frankly, your behavior the past two days has been appalling. And I think it’s fair to say that it stems from the alcohol problem. Something has to be done.”
As she says this, Travis holds up a finger for her to wait, and chugs the rest of the wine from his comically large glass. “I agree that there is an alcohol problem,” Travis slurs. “The teacher’s lounge seems to have a serious shortage. What do you propose we should do?”
“There seems to be a misunderstanding, Travis,” she says. “Your alcohol consumption is the problem, not the lack of it on school grounds. To continue substituting for Ms. Buckwheat, you have to start attending AA meetings.”
Believing this to be an auto repair class, confusing AA with AAA, Travis lights up at the prospect and enthusiastically agrees. He takes a purple crayon from his back pocket and touches the tip to that of his tongue. “Where do I sign?” he says.
“There is no need to sign anything yet, I’ll set it all up,” she says. “Most people aren’t as willing to comply when confronting their problem.”
“Well, I’ve needed to get this spare tire problem fixed for a while now,” Travis tells her.
Thinking he is talking about his stomach, she nods in agreement. “This could potentially help you lose weight if you cut out the drinking.”
Travis is too preoccupied with her chesticles/funbags to realize what she is saying and simply smiles and nods at her. Travis walks out of the room without saying another word, and heads for home, leaving his fourth grade math class completely unattended for the rest of the period. He also misses his others classes again and only realizes his error after the principal calls once more to chew his ass out.
Another day, another fucking dollar, Travis thinks to himself. He is completely unaware that he had signed an agreement with the school stating he would volunteer to help substitute class Monday through Friday, utterly free of charge, as opposed to his believing he is earning some kind of salary.
Several days later, Travis awakes to the sound of his alarm clock (which has been going off for the past twenty minutes) from his drunken stupor and fuzzily realizes that he has to attend his auto repair class. “Shit!” he yells as he put his socks on over his hands. He gets out of bed and acknowledges the pounding headache where his thoughts should reside. He is obviously hung-over this Monday morning at 3 P.M. from his Shit-Face Sunday (or, as Travis likes to call it, Sunday).
After showering and dressing, he goes downstairs and gathers his tool bag, giddily excited for the imminent fun. He grabs his never-before-used hard hat off the coat rack, springing a boner as he realizes with pride that his buying it at that yard sale was not a total waste of his thirty dollars. He can finally put it to good use, even though one does not really need a hard hat for an auto repair class, even though it is not even an auto repair class.
Travis arrives at the Church after hitting only several cars in his dazed drunkenness on the way over, a record low. So proud of this accomplishment, Travis jots it down in a notebook he keeps in his breast pocket, labeling it a PR. He wonders only for the first time why an auto repair class is being held in the basement of a Church. But his wonder is quickly replaced by stark bliss as he realizes the awesomeness of it as he recalls sweet memories from his boyhood when he would distribute wine to the adults as an altar boy at Sunday Mass. He figures there has to be an ass-load of the stuff in back that he can get his hands on.
Travis walks into the Church and finds a room off to the side where the meeting is being held, in which he sees a small group of men sitting around chatting. They take notice of his Bob-the-Builder costume, and suddenly all eyes are on him.
“What’s with the tool bag?” one of them asks, pointing.
Travis, feeling some hostility from the other group members, not realizing that they were simply referring to his bag of tools, decides to break the ice a little. He sets his bag down and from it extracts a large bottle of Merlot. “Anybody thirsty?” he asks.
They all keep their gaze on him, everyone a bit more serious now. “Hey, why don’t you give me that?” another man says, taking the bottle from Travis. “Listen, you’ve come to the right place,” (no he hasn’t) “and we’re all here to help.”
Travis is hesitant to give over the bottle, clinging to it like it is a precious memento. But he eventually does so, figuring the nice man has a corkscrew with which he will open the Merlot. Travis sits down on a metal folding chair among the other group members. “Where are the cars?” he asks.
And then it hits them all, simultaneously, each member staring at him sympathetically. The irrelevant questions, the foolish workman’s costume, the overexcitement- the tell-tale signs of a poor soul with mental retardation. They all feel sorry for him, in their own places.
“My…name…..is…..Dave,” the man who took the wine bottle from him says, slowly, so that Travis can keep up with him. “What……is……your……name?”
“Travis D’Angelo,” Travis says. “I’m ready to drink wine and fix some cars.”
“You brave man,” Brett, another member, says. “Nice to meet you, Travis,” he screams, believing that increasing the volume of his voice will make him understand. “We are going to do introductions and go through the twelve steps tonight. And you just follow as best you can.”
Travis is only half-listening, his eyes darting about the room like a child with ADHD. He is anxious to get his hands greasy, to fix some cars. It makes him feel manly every time he does so. Even though he hadn’t liked being a car salesman, he’d managed to learn a few things while on the job.
The men go around the circle and introduce themselves. Travis realizes that this must be a class for beginners, because they are all talking very slowly and loudly. He doesn’t feel he belongs in a class with ‘people who just don’t pick up on stuff as quickly as I do,’ as Travis likes to refer to them as, but maybe going over the basics again will help out, seeing as how he has not done this kind of work in a long time.
They finish with the introductions, and move on to the twelve steps. Step one: admittance of dependence on alcohol. Step two: acknowledgement of a higher power. And so on and so forth.
Travis realizes, as they hit step nine, that these men keep referring to alcohol, and not once does anyone mention anything about cars or the fixing thereof. He begins to wonder whether or not this really is an auto repair class.
Travis starts to look around the room again. He spots a small plaque leaning against the wall on the far side of the room. Something is inscribed on it, but he cannot understand it because it is either in another language or every word is misspelled.
“Travis,” one of the men shouts. “Why don’t you take this opportunity to officially acknowledge your problem with alcohol?”
“Problem with alcohol?” Travis says, baffled. “I don’t have a problem with alcohol. I mean, sure, I like a glass of wine maybe once every couple hours or so, but I would hardly call that a problem. I like to think of alcohol as more of a solution in my life. A way to escape, you know?”
“Ok, fine,” Travis acquiesces, just wanting the guys to stop hounding him about alcohol for one fucking second. “I have a drinking problem, alright? Hey, what does that sign say over there?” he asks, pointing.
“That?” one of them says. “That’s a Latin phrase. Ego sum via, veritas, et vita. It means, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ Jesus said that.”
Travis nods and decides to himself that Jesus, though he may have been a bit egotistical, must have been a pretty cool guy. And, with that kind of confidence, he probably got a lot of girls. He also thinks to himself that that quote is very applicable to his own personality. And in a split second, he makes a life-changing decision.
“Guys,” Travis says, standing, “I have just now made a very important decision in my life. After seeing that sign and using my superior intellect to translate it into English all by myself and with no help from anyone else, I have reached an undeniable truth.”
The men await what he has to say, eager to hear him truly and genuinely acknowledge his alcoholism.
“I need a tattoo on my lower back!” Travis proclaims. “The other day, I saw a young female with a humongous bomp-ba-de-bomp-bomp-bomp, and on her lower back she had this really hot tattoo. Ever since that day I have been thinking of what I want to get put on my own lower back, and now I have decided. I will get that Latin phrase tattooed right above the cheeks!”
The men all stare at him, stunned. Travis smiles from ear to ear, exposing a slightly yellow (okay, okay, very yellow) set of teeth, in need of some serious daily flossing. “Thanks you, guys; this has been the best auto repair class I have ever been to. And I’m glad we were able to nostalgically recall fond memories that our deep love for alcohol have caused. Now, who has my wine?”
Travis is annoyed when the men refuse to tell him where they put the wine. In his rage, he tears apart the entire room in search of the Merlot, throwing about sacred objects like they’re baseballs. He finally stumbles upon Communion wine and, though knowing that this is not what he brought with him, decides that it is good enough. “Jackpot,” he says.
He takes the large jug and cradles it in his arms with more care than he had ever held his children as infants.
“Travis,” Dave says, the other members huddled around him. “Just put the jug of wine down, and nobody gets hurt.”
Travis stares at them, wide-eyed, his heart thudding against the wall of his chest, his lips quivering in anticipation of tasting the sweet nectar of the Gods. In a panic, Travis turns the wine upside down and wraps his mouth around the neck of the jug. Though the jug holds several gallons of liquid, Travis polishes it off in a mere several minutes.
The other members are too shocked to do anything. They stand frozen in place as Travis drops the jug to the ground and walks past them, slowly making his way out the door, feeling somewhat dizzy, his eyes glazed over.
Travis arrives at the tattoo parlor, at which he had gotten some work done before. He spots Charlie, the artist, in the back of the shop. “Hey, Charlie,” he says.
“Oh, shit, it’s Travis,” he mumbles under his breath. He trudges over to him, completely unwilling to have any kind of interaction with him. “What can I do for you, Travis?” he asks, feigning kindness.
Travis turns to the nonexistent customer on his left and throws his thumb at Charlie, as if to say, Can you believe this faggot? “How crazy is this?” Travis exclaims. “I come into a tattoo parlor, and it just so happens I need a tattoo! How serendipitous!”
Charlie frowns, discouraged by Travis’s brashness. “Ok, what do you need?”
“Something better than what you did last time, cock-eater,” Travis says, proud of this new word that he thinks he just invented. “You know, that was the worst skull and crossbones I’ve ever seen.”
“But you asked for a knife piercing a heart,” Charlie says.
“Utter shit,” Travis says. “It just looks like a huge mole on my ass.”
“But I put in on your leg.”
“Irrelevant,” Travis says. “Now, here’s what I want. I need a Latin phrase on my lower back. To be delicate, right above the buns of steel. Try not to fuck it up too royally this time, ok?”
“What’s the Latin phrase?”
Travis scoffs. “I don’t fucking know. Just get on your computer and type this into Google Translate. ‘I am the light, the world, and the way.’ Or, something to that effect. That’s a quote straight from the mouth of Our Almighty God, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Ever heard of him, airhead?”
A tear dribbles down Charlie’s cheek, and he says, “Yeah.” He finally finds what he thinks Travis is looking for. “Here, I found something. ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ Is that it?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Travis says. “That doesn’t sound right, but I don’t have time for this shit. So let’s just go in back and get it over with.” He starts to unbutton his pants and wiggle out of them as he walks to the back room.
“Travis,” Charlie says, “you don’t need to take your pants off for this.” But by the time he has finished this statement, Travis has already taken his pants off and lost them.
Travis lies face down on a padded table, his cheeks fully exposed. Charlie grabs the tattoo gun and tries to mentally prep himself for what he thinks will be an unpleasant task when he realizes, with tingly excitement, that he can have some fun here. He grabs one of Travis’s buttocks and steadies the gun over his skin.
“What are you doing?” Travis asks.
“Be calm, bitch,” Charlie says, smirking like a pedophile. “Just relax, and let me take you away to a magical land full of candy canes and lemon drops.” He takes a remote and with it turns on his iPod on the other side of the room, which plays ocean waves crashing softly against a shore.
“That sounds nice,” Travis says. “But, ouchy, that hurts.”
“What, the gun?” Charlie asks, prodding his ass several times. “That’s normal.” (It isn’t.)
Charlie contemplates whether or not this cruel joke is really worth it, what with the tattoo being permanent and the removal of which would require costly and painful surgery.
“Hey, princess,” Travis says. “Hurry up so I can get out of here and doink your mom.”
At this Charlie realizes, with intense certainty that, despite any repercussions that may result from his actions here today, it is worth it one hundred percent.