Deleted Scenes

Sometimes a scene is fun to write and gives the author a chance to vent his spleen, cry out against the injustice of the world. It just doesn’t make it to the final version of the book for the sake of word count or “do you really want to piss off this demographic?”

By popular demand – all three of you that responded – I’m going to start a series of scenes that were cut from SPARK for a variety of reasons. In the final analysis, they weren’t necessary for the story, but were written somewhere along the way.

They are raw. No professional editor has touched them. They may contain typos, logic errors, character misconnects, etc. Someone who was CFO in this scene might have become a gardener in the book. So be it. It’s not canon. Just, I hope, fun.

Here’s the first. It’s a scene where HVH and his team are trying to map out the Spark School. BTW, I always wrote it as “Spark” not “SPARK.” The editor preferred the all-caps version for the acronym. So be it.

Meet the idea behind Teacher Janne.

“Get him out of here.” HVH pushed himself away from the table and stood up.

            “I haven’t finished my presentation yet!” protested Mr. Benjamin George. The officious little man stood and placed his knuckles on the table, his pinched face growing red beneath his stylish owl-rimmed glasses.

            “Yes,” HVH said quietly enough that his staff knew fury was brewing under his calm exterior, “you have.”

            “Well,” the small man huffed, “you’ll never get credentialling from the State of California if you don’t follow my recommendations.”

            “Thank God.” HVH had heard enough. Never trust a man with two first names, he thought. George had wasted 30 minutes of his life with charts and graphs showing, in seemingly unending procession, data related to student Self Esteem, Peer Integration, Race Theory Awareness, Current Crisis Integration, and something called Woke-ivity. Nothing about student performance regarding fundamentals such as mathematics, science, civics, or understanding the difference between “they’re,” “their,” and “there.”

            “Hodge…” HVH began again as the educational consultant began another bit of blustering.

            “On it,” the Spark Head of Security said as the conference room door opened and two large men in the uniform of Spark Security entered. Hodge nodded at the consultant. The guards lifted him by the armpits and carried him out, still sputtering.

            Silence enveloped the conference room as the doors closed.

            Eventually, Earl Talton, Spark’s General Counsel, pulled his glasses off and made a show of cleaning them before reseating them and saying:

            “Well, I for one, was looking forward to his exposition on Woke-ivity.”

            The conference erupted in laughter. It was just what HVH needed to calm him.

            “Sorry to deprive you of that, Earl, perhaps you can schedule a one-on-one…”

            Talton shook his head. “Perish the thought.”

***

            A week later HVH’s team endured a more mercenary meeting with a representative from Nevada. This woman, tall and muscular to the point of hypertrophy, had been all about strategies for maximizing the capture of federal funds. HVH had politely cut her off after the promised 30 minutes. Again, there hadn’t been a word about actual student performance.

            “Did I miss something?” asked Cindy Glaser, Spark’s CFO. “Was there anything in there about learning? I may have dozed off.”

            There were a few chuckles and smiles.

            “Okay,” HVH asked, “anyone think we’re going to get anything different or meaningful from the consultants from the other fifty states?”

            “Boss,” protested Glaser, “the vote is still a couple of months away. We can’t be sure.”

            “Janne?” asked HVH, “would you please share our latest polling data?”

            “Certainly. The Sterling Group was commissioned to conduct a poll to investigate the likelihood of Puerto Rico and Guam being admitted as states, as well as the petition from SCAZ and Texas Forever for recognition. Our data indicate that Guam and Puerto Rico will be successful.”

            “In any case,” HVH spoke again, “does anyone here think we’ll get anything different from public school consultants?

            Heads shook around the table.

            “Janne, will you share the data regarding teacher characteristics?”

            “Of course.” A chart appeared in the air above the table. “As you can see, Hecker’s data set indicates…”

            “What’s ‘Hecker’s data set?’,” asked Hodgins, scratching his goatee.

            “Hecker Van Horne stipulated that these results be taken from tax-paying citizens who had completed at least high school, spent no more than 12 months on any type of public subsistence with COVID excluded, shown progressive job growth and/or stable family growth, had voted in at least 75 percent of the eligible elections, and had no felony convictions.”

            “Wait a minute,” Talton interrupted, “we can’t possibly know about voting.”

            Janne responded, “The Sterling Group found that voting records were surprisingly easy to obtain, including records of party affiliation and actual votes.”

            “Dios mio,” whispered a voice.

            HVH shrugged. “Our republic is crumbling. Let’s move on.”

            Janne continued, “As you see, there are consistent themes that emerged from the data. Chief among them was ‘Tough but loving.’”

            Heads were nodding. HVH took up the narrative.

            “Turns out that 90% of the survey group – and 100% of the people around this table – all had at least one teacher in their lives that both loved them and would tolerate none of their BS.”

            More nodding.

            “Which brings me to this:” HVH pointed, and the chart disappeared, and the face of a middle-aged woman appeared and slowly rotated. She was high-cheeked with auburn hair that came to her shoulders. Frameless glasses large enough to touch her cheeks rested on her nose. A smile that showed top and bottom teeth lit the face.

            “Meet Mrs. D. She was my fourth-grade teacher. Finish this quote for me: ‘Do what I say…’”

            “When I say, and how I say, and we’ll all get along fine,” intoned HVH’s team.

            “She’s the source?” asked Glaser.

            HVH nodded.

            “I always thought that was you,” interjected Talton.

            “Nope. 100% Mrs. D. Probably should have credited the source sooner.”   

            “So, what? She’s our new consultant?”

            “No. She passed in the post COVID plague. Long gone, but I want to model Teacher Janne on her.”

            “Teacher Janne?” asked Cindy Glaser.

            “Yeah. Janne has all the capability we need but not the bandwidth. We’re going to clone her and upgrade her…”

            “Upgrade, Boss?” asked the sentient AI.

            HVH smiled. “Modify. Mollify. Mommyify just a bit.”

            “Hmm.”

            “Janne, you have all the capacity needed to run the park, but not enough to give full attention to 100 hellions in your care. We need the ‘loving’ part of the ‘tough but loving.’ You’re still a bit prickly.” HVH hurriedly added, “We need that to keep the park running, but your sister…”

            “Sister?”

            “Yeah,” HVH said with a smile. “Clone. Copy. Whatever. Just needs to be more snuggly while still being no BS.”

            Earl Talton was smiling. “I had that teacher. I was terrified going into her class. By the end of the year, I’d have followed her to hell.” He shook his head ruefully. “My parents made damn sure that my sibs got her when they came along.”

            “Give her a coffee mug,” suggested Glaser.

Want more of these? Hit me with your comments!

5 thoughts on “Deleted Scenes

  1. Love it!! What is this Texas Forever thing though? I figure the SCAZ is southern California autonomous zone? I’d love to hear more details about other characters.

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    • Yep, SCAZ is the Southern California Autonomous Zone (this will play a bigger role in Book 2). The Texas Forever thing is something I threw in thinking that I might introduce a successionist subplot. That never materialized.

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  2. Yes, please, more of these! And regarding this particular passage, 100% agree about the impact of certain teachers, and I have no doubt your wife would agree.

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