Ms. Peterson turned and looked at the line of squirming children snaking behind her. She rubbed her temples and grabbed a boy’s hand before he could pull his neighbor’s hair. She had dealt with all twenty-three of these kids all day at the museum without a parental chaperone or teacher’s aid to help. Her eyes looked more tired than usual when, for the thirty-seventh time that day, she mentally catalogued and counted each grubby face until she got to the end, and came up with twenty-two. She had shepherded them through six hours of hands on exhibits and kid sized hidey holes, she was not about to lose one now.
“Where’s Johnny?” she asked the class at large.
One of the little girls directly behind her, Sara, raised her hand and shouted, “I know!”
“Yes, Sara,” Ms. Peterson said trying to keep the disgust at the child’s fawning out of her voice.
“In 1972 a crack commando unit-”
“Sara, stop quoting the opening to the A-team. Where’s Johnny?”
“Trying to hitchhike to LA.”
“And why would he do that?” Ms. Peterson asked, as soon as the question was out she regretted it.
“Because he’s got a problem – no one else can solve – if he can find them maybe he can hire: the A-team.” Sara said and added machine gun sounds for effect.
Ms. Peterson sighed. “Your father was a child of the 80’s, wasn’t he?”
“Never mind. What’s Johnny’s problem?”
“He really, really had to pee.”
“He needed to hire the A-team for this?”
“His zipper was stuck.” Then Sara began to sing, “Dun dunun dun, dunna dah dunnn, Dun dunun dunnnnnn. Dunna da dun dun. Dun dah da dunnnn…”
Ms. Peterson put her hand to her temple again. “Sara, stop that this instant. Where’s Johnny?”
“I told you. Hopefully he’s half way to California by now. He really had to go.”
Ms. Peterson asked each child in her line where Johnny was. And each gave her the same answer, the A-team theme and “Hopefully halfway to California. He really had to go.” By the third answer, Ms. Peterson’s eye started to twitch. By the sixth rendition of the theme song, complete with machine gun sounds, she stopped waiting till they finished and moved on through the ranks.
Several museum guards, hearing child after child sing a song and make machine gun sounds began watching Ms. Peterson and her class. Ms. Peterson reached Leroy, the last child in her line and her last hope of an answer. She grabbed him by the arms and shook. “Where is Johnny?” she shouted.
“Ms. Peterson,” said a calm strong voice. “Lavinia, what’s going on here ?” It was Mr. Schrader, the principal.
“I was just… I was looking for Johnny…”
“Johnny Zeigler? Why he’s right here.” Mr. Schrader pointed to a boy who stood behind Leroy. “Seems like he’s been here all along.”
“Where did you go!?!” Ms. Peterson shouted. “Don’t you lie to me. You tell me where you’ve been, this instant!”
Johnny turned to Mr. Schrader. “I don’t think Ms. Peterson feels well,” he said.
“Don’t you play any tricks, Johnny Ziegler. Where were you?”
“Alright, Ms. Peterson,” Mr. Schrader said. “Why don’t you come with me?”
Mr. Schrader led her away from the group. He motioned to another teacher to take over Ms. Peterson’s class and led Ms. Peterson out of the room.
Johnny walked up to Sara and gave her a fist bump. “Nice work,” he said. “She’s howling mad, Murdoch”
Sara smiled. “I love it when a plan comes together.”