Repo Men

It was Dimpy’s third Spatial Studies class. She’d made up the title in a burst of inspiration, or maybe desperation, when her Museum Director’s job was cut from five days to three days a week; she’d needed a way to feed herself and her one-year-old daughter.

She’d heard that Lucerne Valley College had received an Authority grant and was keen to start new courses. They’d accepted her proposal for a course in Spatial Studies, which she’d said was “a multi-disciplinary approach to the element that surrounds and defines material objects.” In truth it was a made up course hoping to fill student’s gaps in knowledge.

Two weeks ago she’d set them a trick question saying only “Your homework is to remember your homework”. Last week however she’d set them a real task.

“Right,” she said, “Who’s done homework?” No hands went up. Oh dear, she thought, they think I’ve set them another conundrum; I’ve created a habit that may be hard to break. Still, I had better continue.

She pointed to a girl who was loud among her peers, but quiet when it came to teacher. “What’s your name? Okay, Simone, where’s your homework?”

“I haven’t done it, Miss Kashi, because my father doesn’t have work, and I don’t have a home. That’s why I can’t do homework.”

Nice wordplay, thought Dimpy, but hardly believable. She stared at Simone and raised her eyebrows. Simone felt pressured, and said, “It’s true, Miss. There’s nowhere quiet to do it.”

Dimpy was embarrassed by her oversensitivity to Tom last week – thinking he was the victim of child abuse, when the cause of his aching arm was dragging around his fat cousin. She wouldn’t be so gullible this time. “Why not?” she said.

“Because we live in one room at the Valley Motel. The television is always on, and my mum and dad are shouting.” Other children were sniggering; it must be a joke. “Why do you live there?” said Dimpy.

Simone became serious and said, “Miss, I’m sure you’re aware of the economic downturn. I know that you have a job at the Museum too; I’ve seen you there. So you have two jobs, that’s great, but lots of people don’t even have one job…”

Dimpy was feeling bad; she’d been wrong about the girl, but she didn’t want to stop her now. Simone continued, “My folks had a tire shop in town. They’d struggled for years, building up debts, and whatever money came in was drunk away by my dad. They lost the tire shop and the bank took our house. The repo men took everything, even my computer. We can only live in the motel because my dad knows the guy there. We’re all looking for work, including me. But while I’m looking I thought I’d do an extra course. I got a grant for it. That’s a good thing isn’t it, Miss, even if I can’t do my homework?”

Dimpy was teaching the Spatial Studies course, but realized that some of her students knew more about spaces than she did. The gaps in their lives were bigger.

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