TITLE: The View from the Top
EMAIL: It was wonderful to be principal—even if it was over a bunch of slack-jawed, demon-bait knuckledraggers.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of them, I just enjoy visiting.
They were all gunning for him. Students. Faculty. Parents. Nobody gave him any help, but he didn't expect any. It was lonely at the top.
The greats always were lonely. Napoleon. Howard Hughes. Roy Cohn. Great power brought great responsibility, and only the strong could endure it. Besides, the alternative was being friends with these people.
There was something strange about this town. He could see it in their eyes, fixed and vacant, like they'd been hypnotized or lobotomized or both. The students were the worst of all—they had something up their sleeves. He didn't know what it was. He didn't even want to know, but he'd find out. He'd been damned if he let a bunch of future gas jockeys ruin his kingdom. He'd make the students straighten up and fly right even if it killed them.
He didn't have a lot of allies on the staff. You think they'd want to help him; he was just trying to keep order, dammit. The adults in this town were just as stupid as the kids, and the stupidest always seemed to become teachers. It was a fact of life. He'd assume it was Sunnydale, except this wasn't his first school. Teachers were the same all over, lazy and uncooperative. And secretly allied with their students against authority, a position he found deeply disappointing, but no longer shocking.
You'd think at least the librarian would help him. Librarians were supposed to be persnickety. And an Englishman to boot? But no, he had the librarian from hell. He didn't know what was up with him, but he was always giving Snyder strange looks and holing up in that library with a bunch of kids, usually including Summers. God, he didn't even want to know what was going on with those two. If he didn't know, he couldn't be sued.
The sad fact of it was, he was alone. The entire school was aligned against him. The school board was worse than useless, the smuggest bunch of blowhard petty bureaucrats he'd ever met. Thank god for the mayor. He was Snyder's guarantee, his ace in the hole. If the mayor liked you, you were in. Didn't matter if the school board didn't like you, didn't matter if the superintendent looked at you like you was something on the bottom of his shoe. When you had the mayor behind you, you were set. There was something about him—he was a born politician. He could placate anyone. And if he didn't, he just had his henchmen kill them.
"He could help a little with the budget, though," muttered Snyder. The budget for the next school year had just been released, and there was a five percent reduction to be made. As if the school just had a big pile of money in one of the closets that he could pull out if things got tight, which he was almost sure it didn't. Although he did avoid the broom closet on the second floor south, since the Mayor had suggested that its door was better left locked.
But after tomorrow, he'd be swimming in money.
Tomorrow, at precisely 10:15 a.m., inspectors from the State Committee for Excellence in Education were arriving. They were going to have a tour; they were going to have lunch; and they were going to attend a matinee of the school play. And then, so help him, they were going to shake his hand and tell him how happy they were to recommend Sunnydale High School be recognized as a California Model School. And that was guaranteed money, good as gold to the saps in the PTA. They'd raise so much money he'd even be able to hire a replacement computer sciences teacher. By god, the school was going to get that award if he had to kill every man, woman, and undecided in this craphole excuse of a town.
Snyder shut his eyes and took a moment to appreciate the school. It was at times like this that Snyder loved the campus best—when it was dark and everyone had gone, the teachers weren't bitching and moaning and the students had shut their yaps.
It would be perfect if he could suspend the entire student body for the duration, but the district's counsel told him that was legally imprudent. So instead Snyder had done all he could to ensure the day would be as student-proof as possible, up to and including disabling the fire alarms in case any smart aleck got a bright idea for a prank. He'd arranged to have Summers's biology class take an overnight field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so he felt fairly confident the school wouldn't be catching fire.
Snyder paused in his inspection. There was a funny smell coming out of the cafeteria, but Snyder decided not to look into the kitchen. He didn't hesitate about much, but something about the cafeteria scared him. No matter how tightly he held the reins, that lunch lady was alone back there, putting god knows what into the food. Sure, she could say her costs were high, but for all he knew she was inflating them and pocketing the difference. Those cold, dead eyes of hers … he liked his employees to have their spirits broken, but that was a little much. He could go into the kitchen, or he could eat the food. Period.
Maybe they could put those little bowls of granola on the tables. Potpourri. Smelled like hell, but still better than that decaying … something smell, whatever it was. Or pipe some Lysol through the air ducts. Nothing said clean like Lysol.
He rounded the corner and halted, staring at the cluster of young men hunkered down in the student lounge. All dressed alike, all holding odd instruments. A gang fight! he thought wildly. He'd caught it just in time. "What do you boys think you're doing?" he demanded.
The young men stood up hastily. "Science project," said one of them respectfully, raising a Geiger counter or something. Good, that was better, thought Snyder.
"It's for extra credit, sir."
Snyder narrowed his eyes and stared at the boy. Tall, clean-cut, kind of stolid. "You're on the basketball team, aren't you, Mr.—"
"Finn," said the boy a little nervously. Good, Snyder liked the children to be a little afraid of him. Or a lot. It signified respect. Only idiots wanted to be loved.
"Finn. You boys clear out, I don't want you in here after school hours. Especially not tonight," he added. The boys apologized and hightailed it out of there, taking their equipment with them. "That had better not be school property," he called after them. He was pretty sure it wasn't, though—it was a little too shiny and new-looking.
Well, maybe not all the kids were bad, Snyder thought with atypical approval. Those boys had seemed a cut above most of his students. Maybe he'd have his secretary find out Finn's schedule tomorrow, and he could be hauled out of class as an example of the kind of fine young student Sunnydale High was producing. He was getting a little tired of showing off Willow Rosenberg every time he wanted to impress someone. She hung out with some unsavory influences, there was no telling when she'd turn bad.
Snyder peered into a dim classroom, tested the doorknob, and nodded. Shut, locked, neat. Just the way they should be. No punks dealing drugs, no students fornicating, no Summers sticking her nose into everything. Things were looking go—
Why was there a light on in the theater?
Snyder cursed and edged closer to the door, and pressing his ear to it.
"Come on, sweetheart, just like before … yes, that's right…"
Snyder barreled into the room. "What the hell's going on in here?" he brayed, startling the blond boy and his … "Are those chimpanzees?"
"Monkeys," said the boy breathlessly, herding them back into their cage.
Snyder squinted at the animals. "What's on their backs? They look like—wings?"
"Costumes!" the boy babbled, nudging the last monkey back in the cage and latching the door behind him. "I'm teaching them to dance for the talent show next month. So they're going to be dancing happy monkey with costumes. Not wings!"
Snyder's blood pressure was rising. He could feel it. His left eye twitched, and he fought for patience. "Let me get this straight. You've brought exotic animals on campus—"
"Not that exotic—"
"In the middle of the night, in costume?"
The boy thought about it for a minute. "Umm … yes."
"Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I'm getting them used to the auditorium, so they, uh, don't become frightened and refuse to perform during the show," the boy rushed out. "Monkeys are very sensitive about things like—"
"Go home," Snyder gritted. "Before I call your parents. Or the police. Or your parents and the police."
The boy's jaw dropped. He grabbed the wheeled cage and hurriedly pushed it out of the auditorium, the door banging shut behind him.
Snyder stayed where he was and counted to ten before releasing his breath. My kingdom, he mused of the now hopefully empty school. I hope I reign over it as long as it stands.
And if he didn't get that award, he deserved to be eaten just like that miserable Flutie.