Love Under Fire:
(My High School American Government Teacher was a Communist)
A Short Story of Suspense, True Love, and International Espionage
Vincent S. Hannam
It all started my senior year at Ulysses S. Grant High School in a little town in Illinois called Bishopville, about an hour from Chicago. Ever hear of it? I doubt you have. With a mere 200 people, it is not that memorable. However, I will tell you this; that there was a brief moment in history when Bishopville was the center of the country. That’s right; it did involve an assassination plot, foiled by yours truly and his friends. Just who was to be assassinated will be explained in good time. As for now just relax with a root beer and a blanket as I, Steven Wakefield, plunge you into an event so far-fetched that I myself could never imagine it happening. Nevertheless, it did.
August 25, 2004, my senior year at Ulysses S. Grant High School officially began. I had just moved to Bishopville from Savannah, Georgia and my first day at USGHS began not as I expected it to. As soon as I got to school I was instantly lost. Finally I was able to reach my first period class and, boy, was I in for a shocker. My “American Government” teacher was actually German and with a real heavy accent. You know, he pronounced his “w’s” as “v’s” and his “th’s” as “z’s”.
As soon as the bell rang Mr. Krueger began calling role and I immediately began my first impressions of my classmates. It kind of went something like this: “Byron Zeret!” (His actual name is Brian Theret.) Compulsively, I associated him with one word: nerd. He was a bit on the large side with glasses and Mr. Krueger just loved his blond hair and blue eyes. Next, was Donald Blake. Now Donny was not your typical run-of-the-mill kind of guy. For one thing, I seriously thought that he was in danger of being consumed by Brian he was that little. He was small and scrawny with a wide face and large ears. Unfortunately, for him his Polish ancestry didn‘t help in that class. After Donny “Villiam Romanovski!” was called upon by Mr. Krueger. Now when I saw William (or Billy as he preferred) I really got scared. I mean Billy looked as if he had just been released from a Soviet KGB training camp and he always spoke as if he was behind a podium. Despite his dark Crimean complexion, his love for the military shot him to the top of the class. Anyways, this cycle of name-calling and judgments went on until the last name was called.
It was only two minutes after Mr. Krueger yelled that last and heavenly name that I finally realized that I had been drooling and letting out a continuous AAAAWWW, which just so happened to be the initials of that name- Alicia Wilkins, the girl to whom I first experienced love at first site. She was perfect in everyway. She had beautiful brown hair and her hazel eyes were enough to stop time itself. Alicia was about my height and to top it all off she was even looking at me. Now, whether she was looking at me or me losing pints of saliva I’m not sure but I was love struck and I didn‘t care. The only thing in my mind was how in the world I was going to talk to her. But alas, love was not in the cards for me that day nor would it be for the next five months, for there were more pressing matters at hand.
Over the next few weeks, I forged a friendship with Brian and Donny. However, Billy was still an enigma to everybody, only conversing with Mr. Krueger. The guys and I would see them periodically laughing and pointing at who we could only assume was Donny. Donny was very proud of his Polish lineage but his brown eyes and hair made him an unfair target of criticism and mockery.
Brian, Donny, and I also began to notice an unsettling pattern in Mr. Krueger’s lessons and to make things more complicated I was trying very unsuccessfully to court the girl of my dreams. By this time, it was January and I was getting quite desperate. All my other friends had girlfriends and they kept telling me that I had no chance with her and that I should move on. “But why?” I demanded. Then my friend Chris Romano told me the painfully obvious one day at lunch.
One, for the five months that I had known her I had only managed one or two feeble “hi’s”. Second, I only thought that she liked me because of that one time she glanced in my direction the first day of school. Finally, the only time I ever saw her was during American Government class.
I hated the idea of giving up on her even though I did have my pick of a few other decently attractive girls who I knew liked me. For instance, there was this girl in my culinary class named Lindsay Schultz. She was hot but a real airhead and slut. I mean, for God’s sake she went by the name Cupcake and added glitter to her apple pie because, quote: “It looks pretty.” It was also obvious, to my dismay, that she absolutely adored me. With all this going on it was getting very hard to concentrate on my objective: wooing Alicia. I’m sorry who wants to hear me complain, right? Let us talk about American Government, shan’t we?
So, the supposed “American Government” class began to look more and more like a Soviet Government class and our teacher began to morph into Vladimir Illych Ulyanov or for those uneducated souls reading this, Lenin. Also discomforting was that Billy began to bear a striking resemblance to Leo Trotsky and indeed the two acted as if they were old school chums.
Despite all this there was a bright side. The approaching weekend was a long one since it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, one must go through agony to acquire bliss and the week leading up to it went something like the following. Monday started with a rather inconspicuous lecture on Mao Zedong followed by one on Josef Stalin the next day. Wednesday was early day so we had a debate on whether or not the Israeli government would be able to defend itself against a military coup d’état. On Thursday we read a magazine article entitled “Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Ill: Possible Allies?” and on Friday we finally did five minutes of work on the Constitution compared to 55 minutes on Benito Mussolini and the Big Cheese himself, Adolf Hitler. Not to mention, that over the weekend we had to read the Communist Manifesto. Now, can you believe that this actually worked out for me in the end? Mr. Krueger paired us up to do work and I wound up with, that’s right, you guessed it, Alicia Wilkins. Instinctively, I tried to act suave and irresistible while in reality I was wetting myself.
To my surprise and utter delight she turned out to be everything I expected. I could sense a great chemistry between us and instead of researching Hitler; we ended up just getting to know each other. That night I called her and before I knew it, I blurted out “Do you want to go to the city with me this weekend?” After an excruciating five seconds she tentatively replied “sure”.
It was now Friday and Mr. Krueger announced to the class that he would be absent the following week. When I asked him why he coldly stated, “Mr. Vakefield, zat is none of your business.” Naturally, I did not question him any further, and besides that, I wanted to concentrate on my weekend excursion into the city with Alicia the next day. We were planning to visit the museums, maybe catch a ballgame, go to the park, blah, blah, blah.
The next morning, Saturday, I awoke feeling like a million bucks. Nothing was going to ruin this day. I promptly got dressed, picked up Alicia, and we were on our way. Fifteen minutes from Chicago I got a call from Brian. When I answered, I could immediately sense urgency in his tone. “Steve, Mr. Krueger is flying to Israel to assassinate Ariel Sharon!” he stammered with great anxiety. “Who?” I asked. “The Prime Minister of Israel!” (Like I said before, nerd.) “Are you kidding me?” I yelled angrily. I could not believe that he was interrupting the best day of my life and to make matters worse, while I’m arguing with him I’m trying to concentrate on the highway with Alicia paralyzed with fear from my reckless driving. “Believe me! Yesterday I broke into his desk and found a plane ticket to Jerusalem along with a picture of Sharon and a letter from the Lebanese government!”
Now, Brian is a trustworthy guy so despite myself I believed him. “When is he leaving?” “Twenty minutes. Donny and I are already here. Oh yeah, also, Billy was only friendly with Krueger to know his plans so he‘s here too. Hurry!” Hmm, I guess Mr. Romanovski really was an ex-KGB agent. “Okay, I’m coming!” And like that my plans changed and I was on my way to the airport.
When Alicia and I finally got there, the place was in chaos. My friends and a swat team were there and Mr. Krueger was in a corner brandishing an antique World War One Luger. We ran into the lobby to help and before I knew it, there was a gunshot, screams, and Alicia was on the floor. The next five minutes happened so slowly that I still painfully remember every second of it. I rushed to her and clutched her with not only my arms but also my entire heart and soul until the Jaws of Life was needed to separate us. As the paramedics came and took her away I prayed, as I had never done before. Soon after that, two police officers carried me out of the building and I went straight to the hospital to be with Alicia.
It was not until that night when I was sitting with Alicia in her hospital room that I learned the fate of Mr. Krueger on the nightly news. Moments after I had left the F.B.I. subdued Victor Krueger with a barrage of tear gas. Fortunately, nobody else was hurt since Mr. Krueger had spent his last round on Alicia. Also, as it turns out, Travis Schroeder, a.k.a. William Romanovski was an agent for, no, not Russia, but the F.B.I. The Feds had actually been on to Mr. Krueger since the beginning and Billy was the inside man.
As I sat there, taking all this in my mind went to Alicia, lying beside me. Thankfully, the Luger’s bullet had passed non-life-threateningly through her shoulder and she would be okay. As for the moment she was sleeping, silently recuperating, and I promised her that I was never going to leave her side.