“So I’d be like a real teacher?”She smiled. “In a way. I am afraid it only means a fifteen percent increase over the regular substitute rate.”
Not exactly a featured player Equity contract, but it would put me into three digits a day. For me these were giddy financial waters.
Principal Natalie seemed to mistake the cause of my hesitation. “I know it’s probably not what you have been hoping for.”
“It’s great!” I said. “I get the theatre department at my old high school. That’s about as good as it gets.”
“It is just for the rest of the semester you understand. But if things go well it could work to your favor in securing a regular contract.” She took a small stack of papers out of her desk. “And since the compensation does not include any provisions for the extra time and work involved in extracurricular activities, of course you would not be required to direct the fall play.”
“The fall play?”
“Mrs. Daviot had auditions scheduled for, let’s see.” She tapped on the keyboard and checked the monitor again. “Tuesday. That’s tomorrow. I know it is short notice to call it off, but from what I understand there was a strong possibility she would have had to cancel anyway. There has been an unfortunate decline in student interest the past few years.”
“What play was she going to do?”
Again a glance at the computer. “It looks like she was planning on doing Twelfth Night.”
No, Mr. Numbnuts, Neil Simon’s Twelfth Night.
“I believe so, yes.”
“And she didn’t know if she would have enough kids for the cast?”
“That is my understanding.”
“There must be at least some who come out for the plays. It would be a shame to cancel on them.”
“I imagine a few students would be disappointed, yes.”
Disappointed? When I was in high school I lived for the two plays staged each school year. Straight play in the fall and a big musical each spring.
“If I can get enough students to put together a decent cast, will you let me do the play? You won’t have to pay me one nickel extra.”
“That is very generous of you, but I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.”
“How can Shakespeare not be a good idea?” I grinned a confident grin. I’ve got a good grin. It’s not exactly compensation for no discernible pecs and crappy income prospects, but you go with what you’ve got.
“It would mean a lot of extra work. And I’m afraid the performance schedule had already been cut from three to just one. We have the Manitoba Winter Road Show renting the auditorium the rest of the week.”
“Manitoba Winter Road Show?”
“They apparently have grown out of the performance venue at Golden Vistas Mobile Home Estates. It’s a very popular event and we can use the rental funds. Are you sure you want to take this on? There does seem to be the very real chance you won’t have enough students.”
“Then we’ll do Zoo Story.”
“I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that one.”
“Two characters, not much in the way of scenery.” She still looked puzzled. “It’s not important. Just give me one day with the kids in my classes and I guarantee they’ll not only show up but they’ll bring their friends.”
“You are quite confident, Mr. Baer.”
“I’d just like to try to pay good ol’ Westview back for some of the best times of my life. Is it a deal?”
She hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “I suppose it would be all right.”
“Then you’ve got yourself a permanent substitute. Where do I sign?”
For all the attention I paid to the contract she slid across the desk I could have been renting out my soul or buying a house with adjustable rate financing. All I cared about was that for the next several weeks I was going to be getting a regular paycheck doing something that was at least peripherally associated with my life’s passion. And as a bonus I was bound to come up with some very plausible excuses to get myself invited back to the principal’s office. Just because I had sworn off relationships didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy some spectacular scenery.
I put a flourish on my signature, the one I’ve practiced for decades just in case somebody asks for my autograph.