"Let us thank Dr. Hodgins for visiting our class today," the teacher over enunciated, wary of a non-relative invading her dominion. He knew her kind far too well. He'd shown up slightly rumpled, distinctly Middle Class-ian, his beard growing out again, lab coat unwashed, looking like the second day of sobriety after a weekend binge. Why he had even considered subjecting Parker to all of this- even if blitzed according to Booth- was beyond him.
He breathed in deep, headed toward the head of the class. "So." Opened wooden shadow boxes, propped them on the teacher's desk "I'm Dr. Jack Hodgins from the Jeffersonian Institute, and I'm a coworker and friend of Agent Booth, Parker's father." He started to ramble, tendrils of ice crawling up the back of his neck. "I'm also his second cousin," he added for good measure. "I'm sort of Parker's godfather pro tem during all of this." Too much information, but Jack wasn't good in crowds. Especially in crowds of kids. The boxes display various specimens of Lepidoptera and Gromphadorhina portentosa, blowflies, beetles, dirt collections, and lastly bottles of different types of goo.
"I'm a forensic entomologist; I deal with insects and soil particulates at crime scenes."
Everyone was lost.
"I study bugs and dirt on dead bodies."
The class ewwed and ahhed. The girls squelching, the boys grinning as their upper class aloofness melted away.
Jack talked as he passed around vials and different tools of his trade (even a butterfly net). Everyone was thoroughly grossed out and entertained. Jack felt a little 'job well done' when discussing different places (bathrooms, trash cans, ponds, more landfills than he'd realized) he'd ended up over the years.
Parker was eating it up.
And then it was over. Jack hadn't failed, hadn't said an obscene word, had been moderately successful at entertaining six year olds for ten minutes. As he packed up, sat down in a too-small chair, he watched ruefully as a lobbyist for the ADA managed to spit and suck the life right out of the room.
It was the second week of school for the first graders. They'd already started averages and French verbs and international internet pen pals. St. Micheaux didn't fuck around.
As the other parents filtered out, Jack remained in the back, observing Parker interact with the kids. The kid beamed, made jokes with his friends, was probably the most well-adjusted person Jack had ever known. Then the boy disappeared as the class broke into pods. The science session started: students watched amoebas dance on their own personal microscopes.
The day passed from one pod to the next with Jack still in his undersized chair ("I'm paying this much in tuition and I get the Little Bear Chair?"), watching the curriculum, how Parker dealt with others much, much richer than himself.
Class finally ended- children filing out as Parker lollygagged like a six year old. "Kid," Jack finally ordered nonchalantly, "why don'cha wait outside?"
Parker pokey-ed around with an eraser, smiled, and headed out the door.
"So, how's he doing?" Jack asked, coiling around his chair.
"He's doing well, considering," the teacher stated, 'as well as to be expected. Granted, I find your presence here to be rather unorthodox."
"I'm a close friend of the family."
She finally nodded, "I received the letter from Agent Booth asking for this conference. I am uneasy about this, but given the circumstances..."
"I really don't care," Jack shook his shoulders. "I'm not just a friend, I also represent the Acorn Foundation. We have a vested interest in Parker's future."
The teacher pursed her lips, rocking back and forth in thought. "The transition to St. Micheaux has been hard for him. Being on a scholarship program can make integration with the other children difficult, especially since he's only attended public schools. Several of his classmates are already learning their third language or second musical instrument. And since his father's illness, his test scores have plummeted. I recommend extra tutoring, but I also don't want to overload him with even more stress."
Jack grew paranoid.
Haha, Jack being paranoid. Good ol' cliché. But this conversation tore into him, gnawing away self control and rational thought.
Was she dumping Parker? Did they all think the boy was beneath their social status? Was his own money (and the Hodgins name) not good enough to buy some Middle Class kid's way into the school? Who were they to judge and find Parker less?
Jack gave himself the mother of all rubber band snaps.
"Holy Christ!" He yelped, rubbing his welted wrist. Looked at the teacher, blushing pink and yellow. "Sorry," he apologized, "now, back to Parker…"
"He's doing fine," the teacher smiled. "Tell Agent Booth that Parker is acclimating better than I had expected. With some encouragement and tutoring- but not too much- he should catch up to the others in no time."
Jack was relieved, believed in the system (okay, not really), that Parker would shine at the school. More than shine. He would be their greatest student ever. A boy of humble beginnings given the chance to do great things- Abraham Lincoln, Harry Potter, King Arthur. Okay, two of those people weren't technically from "humbled beginnings," and one didn't exactly exist.
So it was ludicrous. Jack let the teacher drone on as he tried to recapture a sense of reality about his contribution to someone other than himself. Parker could have more than succeeded on his own. Booth had risen from an even lower social strata. And without any help of a really, really well-connected friend of the family. Parker was just a normal kid.
The teacher smiled, signaling that the meeting was over. Jack grabbed his boxes, collected his specimens, as he headed out into the hallway. Parker came up next to the man, head bobbing to an unmade song he babbled.
"Hey, Parker. Want some ice cream?" Jack didn't know what else to say or do. Ice cream seemed rather benign.
"I want baseball icecream." Parker grinned. "Dad loves baseball ice cream. I love it too. Do you love baseball icecream?"
"Sure, let's go."