Fiction | Short Story

When Teachers Have Guns or The 15 Minute School Day

Mr. V., are you drunk? Or are you just really unqualified to teach?

When Teachers Have Guns or The 15 Minute School Day

A one-act play by Jay Kettering


Mr. Vansickle:Teacher at Lincoln Junior High, 30’s

Paige:Student, age 13

Chad:Student, age 13

Nick’s Son:Student, age 13

Setting:A classroom

Time:The near future

It is the very near future inside a Lincoln Junior High classroom, located in Anytown, USA.Three students enter and take random seats in a room filled with otherwise, empty desks. They plop down their backpacks and begin working their smart phones. The school bell rings, as the teacher, MR. VANSICKLE, enters. The teacher puts his brief case on his desk, opens it and removes a thermos. He pours liquid into the cap/cup of the thermos and drinks it down in one gulp, grits his teeth and inhales with a loud hissing sound while slapping the desk with his hand. He then musses his already mussed hair and stares at his students.

MR. VANSICKLE (exhaling loudly): Okay then. Come on up front . . . to the front row, where I can see you . . . come on, let’s go . . . .

The students reluctantly make their way to the front and sit.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Ah, that’s better, thank you. Welcome to Lincoln Junior High. Are you all excited to be starting the seventh-grade!?

The students stare at their teacher in silence.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Great, that’s great, I’m excited too.

PAIGE: Where are the other kids?

MR. VANSICKLE (looking around): I guess you’re it.

CHAD: There’s only three of us?

MR. VANSICKLE: It’s the new law of the land. I’m sure you’re all aware that attending school after the sixth-grade is now voluntary. I guess that makes the three of you, real . . . go-getters!

NICK’S SON: I’m just here so they don’t send me away and put me to work on the farm.

CHAD: Me too. I sure miss the migrants.

PAIGE: Yeah, and I miss the child labor laws.

MR. VANSICKLE: That’s great. Just great. Let’s get to know each other, shall we? I’m Mr. Vansickle, just call me, Mr. V. In accordance with the new policy, I’ll be your all-subjects teacher.

MR. VANSICKLE points to Paige.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): And what’s your name young lady?

PAIGE: Paige.

MR. VANSICKLE: Paige . . . cage . . . rage . . . sage . . . Paige . . . got it. And you young man?

CHAD: Chad.

MR. VANSICKLE: Chad . . . cad . . . bad . . . sad . . . Chad . . . got it. And you sir?

NICK’S SON: Nick’s son.



MR. VANSICKLE: You were named after our thirty-seventh president?

NICK’S SON: No. I’m Nick’s . . . son.

MR. VANSICKLE: Yeah. The only U. S. president to ever resign the office.

NICK’S SON: No. My dad’s Nick. I’m his son.


PAIGE: I think he means, he’s the son . . . of Nick.


MR. VANSICKLE: Oh. That’s really what your dad named you?


MR. VANSICKLE: Okay, I’m just going to call you, Thirty-Seven. It’s a little memory trick I use. So . . . who wants to help with school policy and recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

Pagey . . . ?

PAIGE sighs, stands, and puts her hand over her heart and the others follow her lead.

PAIGE: I pledge allegiance to Trump Tower of the huge States of America, and to our Extreme Ruler for which it stands, one Trump under God, indivisible, with blah, blah, blah, America is great again.

MR. VANSICKLE: Good enough, thanks Pollination.

PAIGE: The name’s, Paige.

MR. VANSICKLE: What? You sure?

PAIGE: Yes. Rhymes with rage . . . .


The school bell rings.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Ah, there’s the first subject bell, let’s get started . . . .

CHAD: Mr. V., I need to go to the bathroom.

MR. VANSICKLE: It can wait.

CHAD: But . . . .

MR. VANSICKLE: Don’t worry, we’re on Trump time. Class will be over before you know it. First up, English. Take out your text books and turn to chapter one.

NICK’S SON: But we don’t have any textbooks . . . .

MR. VANSICKLE: I know. I was just kidding.

PAIGE: Why don’t we have any textbooks?

MR. VANSICKLE: Because, Plague, this is a public school. You want textbooks so bad, go home and tell your parents to get a better job so they can send you to a charter school, better yet, one of those precious private schools, preferably overseas.

PAIGE: (sighs): Are we going to learn how to write in this class?

MR. VANSICKLE: Probably not, why?

PAIGE: I want to be a writer.

MR. VANSICKLE: That’s stupid. Being a writer is pointless and pathetic. It will only bring shame to your family.

PAIGE: But, Mr. V. . . . .

MR. VANSICKLE: But nothing! You want to spend the next thirty years toiling over your novel only to see it get rejected again and again and again!? You want to go from rehab to the night shift at 7-Eleven for years on end just so you can afford to get your teaching certificate so you can barely make enough to pay the rent so you can keep working on your goddamned novel while you’re trapped in a box trying to teach Shakespeare to a bunch of hormonally-charged primates!? Is that what you want?


MR. VANSICKLE (calming, then getting worked up again): That’s right, no. No, what you want, Peachy, is to be a famous writer. Famous writers get million-dollar book deals, adulation, vacations on the beach, and adoring fans, and on top of that, sometimes those adoring fans like to get, extra adoring, if you know what I mean.

PAIGE: Okay. How do I become a famous writer, then?

MR. VANSICKLE goes to his desk and pours another drink from his thermos and quickly downs it. He stares at PAIGE. The school bell rings. He brightens.

MR. VANSICKLE: Next subject, arithmetic!

NICK’S SON: Ah, man, I hate math.

CHAD: Yeah, why do we need to know math anyway?

MR. VANSICKLE: I’m glad you asked me that, Chip. I’ll tell you why we need to know math. We need to know math because . . . because math makes you a better person.

CHAD: How does it do that?

MR. VANSICKLE: Well, math is very mysterious, like God.

Long Pause.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Let’s say you and I were at a cocktail party and you saw God from across the room. You’d want me to introduce you, right? You’d be nervous, but you’d work up the courage to tell him you’re a big fan, maybe ask for an autograph. And after a few drinks, you might even ask him if he could do something about your eyesight so you could lose the glasses, am I right? So, why wouldn’t you want me to introduce you to math?

The bell rings.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Ah, saved by the bell. Next subject, Music! Now that’s a subject everybody likes, right?

The students nod in unison.

PAIGE: Yeah, but let me guess, the school has no instruments, right?

MR. VANSICKLE: We don’t need instruments to sing.

NICK’S SON: Oh, I can’t sing.

CHAD: Me neither.

PAIGE: Ditto.

MR. VANSICKLE: Not a problem, I know the greatest song ever written for non-singers. Follow my lead.

MR. VANSICKLE begins to sing, Louie Louie, by the Kingsmen.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said, Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go . . . join me!

The students begin singing along, repeating the chorus.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.), PAIGE, CHAD, NICK’S SON (together singing): Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said, Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go . . .

They all laugh.

CHAD: Whoa, that song made me feel drunk . . . I mean, not that I know what that

feels like . . . .

MR. VANSICKLE: Nor do I, Baghdad, nor do I.

MR. VANSICKLE goes to his thermos for another quick drink. The bell rings.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Next up, history!

NICK’S SON: Jeez, Mr. V., way to go from an upper to a downer. I hate trying to remember all that stuff that happened a thousand years ago.

MR. VANSICKLE: I hear you Tricky Dick, I can barely remember what happened yesterday, but the curriculum is the curriculum (drunkenly mispronounces “curriculum” as ka-rick-a-lie). That said, history does repeat itself, right? So why do we talk about it? Why do we study it? Why do we try so hard to learn from something in the past if it will inevitably just happen again, whether we like it or not. No matter our good intentions, it apparently can’t be stopped. Why don’t we just brace ourselves and deal with the past when it again becomes the present?

The bell rings.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Here comes Science! You know, when I was a kid I used to think that the Flintstones, a modern stone age family, were just another cartoon created for my amusement. But if I am to believe our extreme ruler, I must now look upon it as documentary. And now everybody thinks they can get a job in construction, riding up on top of that brontosaurus crane.

PAIGE raises her hand.

MR. VANSICKLE: Yes, Pageantry?

PAIGE (sighing): What are you talking about?

MR. VANSICKLE: The Flintstones are like climate change, you have to decide for yourself. Is it real, or not?

CHAD: But don’t we need science to make that decision?

MR. VANSICKLE: Yes, that’s exactly right, my Old Sad Dad! And all you have to do is find a scientist you really like. And when you really, really like a scientist, and they tell you something astonishing, you can believe them.

MR. VANSICKLE goes to his thermos for another quick drink. The bell rings.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Up next, Art!

As MR. VANSICKLE speaks, he takes off his suit coat, revealing that he is wearing a shoulder holster containing a snub-nosed .38 Revolver. He then removes his tie and begins to unbutton his shirt.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Get out your paper and pencils, boys and girl. It’s time for life drawing! They say if you can draw the human body, you can draw anything.

MR. VANSICKLE stops undressing and points at his students.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Ha! If you could only see the looks on your faces! You really thought I was going to pose nude. Priceless! Oh, snap out of it. I know that would’ve been inappropriate—probably. But still, priceless! Did I tell you that I used to be a house painter? No? Well, every time I painted a house, you know what it looked like? No?

The students shake their collective heads.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): It looked just like a house, exactly like a house. That’s what you call realism.

MR. VANSICKLE goes to his thermos for another quick drink.

PAIGE: Mr. V., are you drunk? Or are you just really unqualified to teach?

MR. VANSICKLE: How dare you, Petrified Forest! Of course I’m not drunk. And no, you can’t have any.

MR. VANSICKLE now drinks straight from the thermos and drains it.

NICK’S SON: Hey, Mr. V., how come you get to wear your piece, and we have to go through the metal detector?

MR. VANSICKLE (tapping his holster): School policy. I don’t make the rules, Son of Sam, I just follow them.

The bell rings.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Final subject! Health!

MR. VANSICKLE pulls his chair from his desk and takes a seat close to his students.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): When a boy meets a girl, or a when a boy meets a boy, or when a girl meets a boy who’s becoming a girl, or when a boy who’s becoming a girl meets a girl who’s becoming a boy, no matter what category you fall into, it doesn’t matter. At some point in the relationship, you’ll want to show each other your guns.

PAIGE: Guns? What do guns have to do with our health?

MR. VANSICKLE: Everything, my dear Low Wages, and I’m here to answer everything you always wanted to know about guns, but were afraid to ask.

CHAD quickly raises his hand.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Yes, what’s your question, Big Chad Leroy Brown?

CHAD: Does the size of my gun matter?

MR. VANSICKLE: Ah, the number one question! Every gun owner is plagued by doubt. Is my gun big enough? Is my gun long enough?

PAIGE: I see your packin’ a snub-nose, Mr. V.

The students giggle.

MR. VANSICKLE: That’s okay. I’m secure enough in my firepower not to take it personally. Besides, it’s not the length of the barrel that matters, it’s the caliber, and this is a .38 special. You don’t need a cannon to deliver a bullet. Any other questions?

NICK’S SON: Sometimes, when I get excited, my gun goes off before I even pull the trigger.

MR. VANSICKLE: That’s not really a question, Nicks On My Chin, but don’t worry, it happens. You should check your safety.

CHAD: What if you can’t find anyone to share your gun with?

MR. VANSICKLE: You guys need to relax. Look, you’re all going through the changes. Your hormones got you all juiced up and crazy, but don’t let Mr. And Mrs. Puberty fool you into thinking you have to rush into anything. You’ll find that special someone to share your gun with soon enough. In the meantime, there’s always target practice.

CHAD: But I heard that if you do it too much, it’s . . . it can be bad for you.

MR. VANSICKLE: Just another myth. You can target practice all day and all night for that matter. You can target practice till the cows come home and you’re not going to go blind or grow hair on your knuckles. Trust me, I know.

CHAD and NICK’s SON examine their knuckles.

PAIGE: This is ridiculous.

NICK’S SON: Shut up, Paige, some of us are trying to learn.

CHAD: Yeah, Paige, shut up.

MR. VANSICKLE: Okay, okay, settle down. Are there any other questions? And remember, there’s no such thing as a dumb question.

CHAD: I got a question. Is it okay to shoot someone on your first date?

PAIGE: Wow! That blows your theory about no dumb questions, huh, Mr. V.?

MR. VANSICKLE: Not at all. That’s a great question, and the answer is this: it depends. Some people like to wait for the third date, and I’ve known people who have waited until they got married to start shooting.

PAIGE: This class is revolting.

MR. VANSICKLE: Hmm . . . I think it’s time for an exercise. Time to put into practice what you’ve learned and apply that knowledge in a real-life situation.

MR. VANSICKLE pulls a box out from under his desk and holds it up in front of his students.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Go on, take one.

CHAD and NICK’s SON reach into the box. They each pull out a handgun.

NICK’S SON: Whoa, right on, Mr. V.!

CHAD: You said it, I got a new favorite teacher!

PAIGE: Hold on! The school has money for guns, but not for textbooks!?

MR. VANSICKLE: She’s a fast learner, ain’t sheboys?

The boys laugh.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Okay now, Watergate, you stand here, and I’ll stand over here. You and I are going to have a gun fight.

MR. VANSICKLE and NICK’s SON face one another with about 15 feet of separation.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Now what’s the most important thing to do in a gun fight?

NICK’S SON: Uh, making a mean face when you stare down your opponent?

MR. VANSICKLE quickly pulls his gun from his holster and shoots. NICK’s SON falls to the floor groaning. PAIGE screams and CHAD begins peeing his pants.

MR. VANSICKLE: Wrong! The most important thing to do in a gun fight is to shoot the other guy first. Okay, Chad Finger, you’re next. See if you can go to school on your classmate’s costly mistake . . . ah, hell, boy, did you just pee your pants? The last thing you want to do in a gun fight is to pee your pants.

CHAD: I . . .I . . . couldn’t hold it any longer . . . I’m . . . I’m sorry . . . .

PAIGE: Leave him alone, you insane sadist!

MR. VANSICKLE: Oh, yeah, almost forgot about you, Pushing Up Pages. In the interest of equal rights, I’ll let you square off with the human urinal. Pick your weapon.

PAIGE: I don’t think so. Guns aren’t part of my philosophy, Mr. V., I’m a practicing Buddhist.

MR. VANSICKLE: A Buddhist? I’ll be damned, why Buddhism?

PAIGE: I’m seeking enlightenment.

MR. VANSICKLE: Hmm . . . I’ll admit, enlightenment would be cool, but not as cool as having a gun. Now choose a weapon or I’m going to shoot your parents.

PAIGE: What did you just say!?

MR. VANSICKLE: I said, choose a weapon or I’m going to call your parents.

PAIGE: That’s not what you said.

MR. VANSICKLE smiles and shrugs. Like a flash of light, PAIGE grabs a gun out of the box and shoots the gun out of her teacher’s hand.

MR. VANSICKLE: Damn, girl, you’re a mighty good shot for a Buddhist!

PAIGE: I wasn’t always a Buddhist.

PAIGE approaches her teacher and puts the gun to his head.

PAIGE (cont.): Chad, get Nick’s Son to a doctor, now!

CHAD assists the limping NICK’s SON off stage.

MR. VANSICKLE: What now, Punky Brewster? You going to kill me in front of all these people?

PAIGE: What are you talking about, you psycho? What people?

MR. VANSICKLE: The ones watching on the hidden cameras.

PAIGE (looking around): Cameras?

MR. VANSICKLE: You see, Paige Fighter, we saw how reality TV worked for our Extreme Ruler, and as a public institution, we have to get creative with our fundraising, so we thought, why not give it a try.

PAIGE shoots MR. VANSICKLE in the foot.

MR. VANSICKLE (cont.): Ow! Jeez that hurts! Why d’ya shoot me in the foot, huh, Page From the Past? You mad about me shooting, I Am Not A Crook?Come on, I just grazed him . . . I made sure not to hit any vital organs . . . he’s going to . . . .

PAIGE: Shut up. I’m not talking to you.

PAIGE addresses the audience.

PAIGE (cont.): Hello America. You like this? Is this what you want? Or perhaps you’d you like me to get a little more graphic? I’ve got plenty of bullets. Just let me know, because, like Mr. V. here said, I’m a fast learner, and I too, am willing to give it a try.

Lights fade to black.

End of Play.

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