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Maggie Nerz Iribarne


Cover art for the first edition of The Sun Also Rises


A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

I arrived early because I didn’t want to see anyone, even old Phil, the janitor. The hall stretched, long and daunting, the walls surveyed me with hundreds of tiled eyes. Bad knees creaking, I pressed on, struggled to find my own classroom door, almost unrecognizable, decorated with Shakespearean insults: How now, you gleeking, flapmouthed, footlicker.

An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.

All morning, I endured the eye rolls and whispers of students whose names now escaped me. I barricaded behind my desk, ate lunch alone, sipped a vodka-laced smoothie. A flowered post-it stuck to my blotter, Welcome back, Paul. I choked, disarmed by this kindness, reached for the buzzing phone. My sister, Rosie.

Surviving the first day back?

When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say

Cathy, the eighth grade team leader, welcomed me. My hunched colleagues smiled, nodded their heads. I kept my own gaze down, pulled on my watered-down drink. A schedule of to-dos for the spring auction: Missy – parent donations. Ed – brownies. Sherry – balloons. No job for me, the fallen teacher.

Cathy interrupted my Irish goodbye.

“We need to regain the trust, you know?” she said, my various transgressions hanging in her eyes, the corners of her mouth.

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start.

Elizabeth mumbled hello to me in the hall, red hair bobbing. To think this pretty woman had once been my wife.

I returned the greeting, barely audible.

She picked up her pace, click-clacked away.

That final scene reappeared in my mind.

What the hell, Paul? Stolen painkillers in her outstretched palm.

Stuck between buzzed and ill, I turned my face upwards to the ceiling. Painted blue with sky, white with clouds, I imagined myself flying, free, falling.

I had an inheritance from my father, it was the moon and the sun. 

3 PM. Wasting no time, I pushed through the throng to my car, drove directly to the field. From my usual place, I watched him with a hand on a hip talking to the coach. He swung the bat in the air. He tossed and caught. Sometimes I thought he knew I was there. I imagined him approaching, spilling into the car.

“Hey, Dad. I’ve missed you. I forgive you,” he might say.

He never looked my way, not once.

But this was enough, what I’d been waiting for, all day.


About the writer:
Maggie Nerz Iribarne is 54, lives in Syracuse, New York, writes about witches, cleaning ladies, struggling teachers, neighborhood ghosts, and other things. She’s won prizes in contests sponsored by The Jane Austen Literacy Society, Defenestrationism, Zizzle, Honeyguide, Books ‘n Pieces, Dead Fern Press, On the Premises, The Scottish Book Trust, and Re:Fiction.

Image: Cover of the first edition of The Sun Also Rises, the second novel by Ernest Hemingway (1889-1961). (Cropped to purpose.) Jacket design by Cleo Damianakes (1895–1979). Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1926. Public domain.

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