The Fire Carl Saw in the Principal’s Office

Principal Harwood’s face froze the night I walked into his office to tell him about the fire.

Who was going to save his ass? Me, the kid voted most likely to be a gas station attendant; the kid they were too incompetent to know was dyslexic; the butt of every mean Senior Class prank.

The Principal looked in shock. I didn’t miss a beat. I told Harwood about the Seniors’ out of control bonfire, now a raging brush fire behind the stadium. That fire threatened his career. Until I walked in to tell him, that fire threatened his career more than any other thing.

Fire burned in Principal Harwood’s helpless, dying eyes, as I named names: Ralph Samson, Senior Class President; Bonnie Walters, Greg Harlan, and all those popular monsters who had made my life hell. I had them now.

I looked that excuse of a Principal in his weak eyes, and I looked at the scene behind him. I knew we had an understanding. He picked up the phone. He called the Fire Department, and then the Police as I stood there. I walked to his desk and grabbed a memento.

Things went easier for me at school after that. No one mocked me any more. Tardies were excused, hall passes given. Harwood greeted me with respect – as Mr. Williams – until the day I graduated.

I had left Harwood’s office that fiery night with a new sense of who I was. I had also left the Principal’s office with Mrs. Henderson’s bra. It smelled of their shame, and my new, victorious self.

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