Up until the moment Roman sat down at his desk, it had seemed a morning like any other. There was a damp smell in the air and cloudy sky above that signaled coming rain. A typical Fall day. Roman strolled through the dewy grass and newly fallen leaves as he traversed his usual path to school. He was a fifth grader. He was smaller than average, wore sandals and socks year round, and combed his hair with a part on the left side. The hallways were relatively quiet on his arrival. The few kids that were still milling about spoke in hushed tones. Roman took no notice and made his way to class, where all his classmates sat waiting, chattering excitedly and with the same air of secrecy as the students in the hall.
Roman sat down. As he unzipped his backpack the words, “Hall Monitor,” spoken by one of the boys seated in front of him, roused Roman from his peaceful ignorance.
They were the only two words he managed to steal from the conversation between the two boys at the table in front of his, but they were all that he needed to hear to bring on a wave of nervous excitement. Roman had dreamed of being the Hall Monitor ever since he had first laid eyes on one as a kindergartner. He could recall the moment with vivid clarity…
Walking back from recess, he came across an older student, wearing a badge and carrying a notepad. Although a child himself, the boy looked a full seven feet tall in the wide eyes of a young Roman. The vigilant figure stood observing the halls and its occupants as they returned to their classes. Roman was intrigued and impressed by the calm and powerful expression he wore. In an instant, a fight broke out between two third grade students over a trading card. Before the two even had time to wrinkle the small card in their struggle, the towering boy in the badge leapt into action, separating them. He made both go back to class and confiscated the card. They wandered off, looking dejected. The badge-wearing hero turned his attention to Roman,
“Shouldn’t you be getting back to class too?” He posited politely.
“Oh, I will!” replied Roman, “but, who are you?” He questioned with a quiver in his voice.
“Why, I’m the Hall Monitor, of course! Here to protect the halls from the forces of evil!” He announced triumphantly. Although Roman may have imagined that second part, ever since that moment, it had been his dream to become the Hall Monitor.
“What about the Hall Monitor?” He interrupted.
The boys at the desk in front of him paused their discussion, “Oh, we were just guessing who’s going to get picked for Hall Monitor today,” one of them replied.
Today? How had he not known that today was the day that the fifth grade teacher, Mr. Green, was going to choose the Hall Monitor? He had spent weeks campaigning. Attending after school kickball games to hand out fliers, making speeches to groups of kids at lunch, and kissing all the Kindergartners’ baby dolls.
“But I thought that Mr. Green wasn’t going to decide until next week?” Roman protested.
“They’re making him pick today instead,” answered the second boy.
“Who…” But Roman was cut off as the door to the classroom flew open and in walked Mr. Green, followed by a man in a black suit and sunglasses.
“What’s with the sunglasses?” wondered a girl next to Roman aloud, “It’s October.” Obviously she had not seen enough movies. This was someone important.
“Alright kids,” said Mr. Green with an apprehensive note in his voice, “A little change of plans. Instead of choosing the Hall Monitor next week, I’m going to pick today. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think that the best candidate for Hall Monitor is Roman. After all, he kissed way more dolls than the rest of you.”
Roman was ecstatic. He leapt from his seat and gave Randy the finger as he danced with jubilance around his table. Randy had also been campaigning the last few weeks. He had spread a rumor that Roman was a drug addict, making this victory all the more satisfying.
“Woah! Alright, calm down now, Roman,” urged Mr. Green, a little embarrassed, “I have another announcement to make. This is Mr. Earl, from the Department of Defense, and thanks to a very generous donation from him and his office, the school Hall Monitor will be receiving brand new equipment in order to help better keep the halls safe. Isn’t that right, Mr. Earl?”
The man in the suit and sunglasses spoke up, his powerful voice commanding the room’s full attention, “Yes, that’s right. It’s a part of our new program to both better protect our schools and to help schools that are falling below standards to catch up.” He was a large man, with a broad chest and shoulders, around 50 years old. He stood with perfect posture and when he took his glasses off had a look in his eyes that told you roughly how many men he had killed. 13, maybe 14.
“Isn’t that nice kids?” asked Mr. Green a little sheepishly, “Let’s all say thank you to Mr. Earl and the Department of Defense. Roman, why don’t you go with Mr. Earl and he’ll give you everything that you’ll need to be the new Hall Monitor.”
As the class murmured “thank you” in unison, Roman walked with Mr. Earl out the door and down the hall to the gym where a table was set up with several large cases. Mr. Earl walked up to the table and spoke again, “Young man, you have been chosen from among your peers to protect these hallways from all those who would seek to cause harm to this institution of learning. You have been entrusted with the lives of your fellow students and teachers, are you prepared to do whatever it takes to guard the halls of American education, even if it means giving your life?”
“Uhhh….” Is all Roman could get out before Mr. Earl spoke once more, “Of course you are!” He bellowed, “I can tell that you have what it takes to protect and serve. Alright then! I officially grant you full authority over these halls and the permission to use deadly force to maintain the safety and integrity of this school as a paragon of knowledge.”
At that moment, Mr. Earl opened one of the cases, reached in and brought out an M16 and a belt of hand grenades.
“In these storage devices are everything that you’ll need to ensure that this school continues to run smoothly. Do not let anyone hinder the mission of this establishment: to meet the educational standards set forward by the federal and state governments. Good luck!” and with that, Mr. Earl fled from the gym with such haste you’d have thought a hippie had asked him to sign a petition. He apparently had other places to be. Perhaps he had other schools to visit. Roman had not gotten a very good impression of Mr. Earl. He was an enigmatic figure. What were his hobbies? His first name?
“Stefano,” Roman thought hopefully. But that’s not important.
Roman stood there staring at the gun and grenades for a few minutes wondering what he should do. So this was the donation from the government?
“How nice of them,” he said aloud. Roman could tell that they really took school safety seriously, and he appreciated that. After some minor deliberation he decided that if the government thought that he really needed these weapons to defend the school and could handle them, who was he to judge differently? Surely they had charts and statistics and scientists that would tell them what was best. Roman realized that the job of Hall Monitor must be a more dangerous one than he had known if so much equipment was necessary. He loaded all of the weapons he could into his backpack, stowed the rest in the gym closet, and headed back to class. Mr. Green told him that he would start tomorrow as the new Hall Monitor.
The Hall was silent. Roman entered just as the clock struck 9. He was armed and ready to carry out the duties entrusted to him. Although he was still not entirely sure what that meant. The extent of his training was Mr. Earl rambling on about duty and educational success, before presenting him with a veritable arsenal of military grade weaponry and armor. But how complicated could it be? He wore this armor as he now roamed the hallways, in search of the forces of deviance at work. The new ensemble included a bullet proof vest that gave his torso the appearance of a couch cushion, arm and leg pads that would be a challenge for even the most vicious of attack dogs to penetrate, and a helmet with a glass face plate, separating Roman from the rest of the school like a spectator peering into a zoo exhibit, observing the beasts inside with a mix of wonder and fear. Mr. Earl had given him no specific instructions, so Roman assumed that it was part of the job to figure it out for himself. He did possess “full authority” over the halls after all.
His first day went by quietly and without incident for the most part, a few tickets written up for kids with no hall passes, and one for a student who had violated the dress code. The next day passed in similar fashion. It was on the third day of Roman’s reign as Hall Monitor that he was truly put to the test. His regular patrol took him in the direction of the third grade wing of the school. Upon turning the corner, his eyes, behind bullet-proof glass, beheld a third grader spitting directly into the drinking fountain, and then laughing with glee. Roman looked on in astonishment. He had never expected to witness such a vial and degenerate act as this. He stood glued to the spot, unsure of how to proceed.
The perpetrator caught sight of Roman. An initial look of fear spread across his chubby, prepubescent face, but Roman was not roused from his nervous stupor, and the young delinquent relaxed, having realized that Roman was more afraid of him than he of Roman. The boy smiled a devious smile. He was missing his two front teeth. Somehow this made it all the more taunting. He laughed a laugh that sent chills through Roman, leaving him drenched in shame. Just as the boy turned to go, an image flashed into Roman’s clouded mind. It was from footage that he had seen on the news. He had no recollection of the context, just of what was happening. A group of police officers in riot gear trying to deal with a mob of angry people holding signs in the street. They were hitting people with night sticks, pepper spraying others, and then locking them in handcuffs and throwing them into the back of a van. Those police officers had a lot of the same gear that he had right now. Roman made a split second decision. He reached down and pulled the can of pepper spray off his belt, turned off the safety, aimed right at the laughing third grader and called out to him in what could only be described as a roar.
From that moment on, Roman guarded the sanctity of those halls with an iron fist. At first he only used great force on those committing the worst of infractions. Spitting in the fountain, stealing classroom supplies, bringing candy to school and not having enough for everyone, but after the Great Detention Riot of November 27 and subsequent break out, he knew that more stringent measures would be needed. Roman headed to the gym closet where his arsenal lay waiting.
He was sending a message. Trip another kid on the playground: tazed. Walk the halls without a pass: pepper sprayed. Put glue on a substitute teacher’s chair: entire class gets tear gassed. He watched over after school kickball games with a beanbag gun to take down any kid bold enough to steal a base on his watch. He locked a kid in the supply closet for two days for failing to cover her sneeze, and chained another to the flag pole for neglecting to say “bless you.” He raided Mrs. Appleton’s first grade classroom on a tip that some of the kids were trading pixie sticks under the table. In the process he knocked over a science project volcano, spewing lava all over the torn up carpet, ticketed two first graders for obstruction of justice when they burst into tears, and punched the class hamster in the face because,
“It was coming right at me!” as he later wrote in his report of the incident.
In the end, it turned out that he had raided the wrong classroom, and actually wanted the room next door. So it went for the rest of the year. Roman strut through the halls tracking down any and all who sought to sow the seeds of discord in his school. He protected the students from their own degenerate ways so that they would not be distracted from their learning. Around mid-January he even managed to eliminate recess and impose mandatory after school study groups.
Only once did the students attempt to protest the “grotesque abuses of power,” as they labeled Roman’s actions. Not bad for a bunch of 10-year-olds. There were protest songs and dancing and speakers reading speeches riddled with spelling errors denouncing the increased power of the Hall Monitor and the increasing use of excessive force against regular students.
“My mommy pays taxes!” remarked one 6 year old girl on the stage in a frenzy, “and she told me that taxes pay for schools,” she continued, “so my mom is the Hall Monitor’s boss and I’m gonna tell her to fire Roman!” The crowd roared with applause.
Things appeared to be going well. Everyone was having a good time. The winds of change seemed to blow through the air, cooling the sweating faces of the oppressed. But where was Roman? This was the question looming heavily in everyone’s mind. Surely, he would not allow such a demonstration to occur without at least making his presence known. The speeches and songs went on through lunch. Halfway through a spirited rendition of Mary had a Little Lamb, a sound like a lawnmower rose in the distance, gaining volume as it approached from an unknown direction. It built and built until the noise was immense, and at its peak, a great black helicopter emerged from behind the school and hovered in front of and slightly above the stage. The crowd looked on in awe. Within the helicopter, one could easily make out the visage of Roman, accompanied by a pilot. Just as one of the organizers of the protest managed to muster up the courage to speak into the microphone, canisters of tear gas began flying from the armored helicopter. It proceeded to circle the stage and area of congregation, unleashing tear gas onto the protesters below. The children fled in all directions, clearing the stage and area around it for the protection of the bushes and tree line. Once they had been successfully dispersed, the massive helicopter moved back to its position in front of the stage, several moments passed, and then in a flash of unholy light, the stage exploded and was engulfed in flame, having been hit with a volley of small rockets from the launchers jutting out from the sides of the armored contraption.
There were no further protests after that. Roman had apparently reported to Mr. Earl and informed him that he was having difficulty protecting the school with the equipment that he was provided, and so the government sent him several more crates of weapons, as well as the helicopter, an armored vehicle, an unmanned drone, and an anti-aircraft gun, purportedly to defend the school in the event of a bombing raid, but more likely as a means of preventing the delivery of food and supplies from above if the students were ever to mutiny and barricade themselves in the school.
Mr. Earl visited once in the Spring. There was a ceremony in the cafeteria where he presented Roman with a number of medals and commendations for his exemplary work as The Hall Monitor.
“All across the nation,” he said, “there are Hall Monitors like Roman, part of the experimental program to raise school test scores through increased security, making students feel safer and better able to learn. With so many shootings and instances of bullying these days, kids need more peace of mind when they get into the classroom. The new Hall Monitors, like Roman, bring that peace of mind. Let’s all thank him for his service!” Everyone clapped.
Just as Mr. Earl had said, it was all a part of the new program to increase school security, from there raise test scores, and put to use a bunch of last year’s models of armor, guns, and other weapons that the military didn’t need. To many in Washington, it seemed a far more logical and efficient plan for improving schools than adequately funding them.
Unfortunately, that year’s test scores ended up being some of the lowest in school history. The students obviously weren’t fully applying themselves. Nevertheless, Roman refused to give up. He had made a commitment as a Hall Monitor to protect and serve the school in the name of educational success. And his commitment was unparalleled. He would be like the Hall Monitor who inspired him so many years ago. He would protect the halls from the forces of evil. He would just have to start hitting everyone harder.