Haley and I arrived at BHCC about an hour before the self-defense class’ normal start time. We did this at my specific request. We were going to need the time to find the Home Ec room that the head of the PE department managed to secure for us. We also needed to bring a few things that the setting was missing, according to the head. Specifically, we needed a broom and a teakettle.
“Why do we need these again?” Haley asked for the fifth time that week.
“To help set the scene more.”
“It’s a self-defense class! Not a theater class!”
“The way I teach? It will be both.” Haley didn’t pursue any more questions after that. It wasn’t because I had satisfied her curiosity, though. It was because she knew she was going to cryptic answers until the class actually started.
When we arrived at the Home Ec room that had been assigned to us, a tall gentleman was waiting outside. The fit build and shaved head suggested a military background. The wire-rim glasses on his nose contrasted greatly to his general air. “Haley. Good to see you,” he greeted in a booming voice. He definitely had to have been a commander of some kind. “Is this your friend?” he asked, pointing to me.
“Yep! Mr. Weis, this is Tia Angelos. Tia, this is Mr. Weis. He’s the director of the Phys Ed department.”
“Nice to meet you, Tia,” Mr. Weis greeted, offering a large hand to me.
I returned the man’s handshake with all my strength, which made him do a double-take. That was pretty typical. Most people were surprised by my firm grip.. “Nice to meet you, too. This is the room?”
“Uh, yes,” Mr. Weis said, trying to recompose himself.
“Mind if I take a look?”
“Of course!” Mr. Weis opened the door to the dark Home Ec classroom, allowing Haley and I to enter before him. I flicked on the lights as I entered. As requested, there were at least six stations set up with the basics of every kitchen—oven, dishwasher, top-freezer refrigerator, sink, microwave, cabinets, and other utensils like a blender, and a toaster. There was also a wall rack holding ladles, spatulas, and knives of various sizes and purposes.
“Perfect,” I said with approval. “Can we move the tables and chairs away from two of the stations? So we can have more room?”
“Of course. We just need to put everything back the way we found it before we leave tonight.” Haley, Mr. Weis, and I set to clearing the tables and chairs away from the two nearest kitchen stations, making it look more like a typical wide-open kitchen. Once that was done, Haley put the broom in the most logical place within the kitchen setting, and I filled the kettle with water, setting it on a burner without turning on the heat.
Once everything was arranged to my satisfaction, we had another half an hour before the class would start. Haley started warming up in the hall, Mr. Weiss took me to another table, where we sat while I filled out an application form. He asked me a few of the typical job interview questions: tell me a little about yourself, tell me about a time that you failed and how you recovered from the failure, what teaching experience do you have, etc.
By the time the formal part of the job interview was done, more students had arrived. A quick attendance showed that at least half of the original class hadn’t bothered to come for whatever reason. I preferred that. Smaller class size meant that I could take more individual time with the students, most of whom were women.
“Good afternoon,” I greeted the class. “My name is Tia Angelos, and I’ll be your teacher for the day. Pop quiz.” Those two words were enough to make the class groan or drop their jaws in shock. I gestured to the kitchen setting behind us. “How many weapons do you see in this kitchen?”
Most of the class just furrowed their brows, looking between one another in confusion. Only a few brave souls took the chance to raise their hands, Haley being one of them. Ten? was the answer that most people gave because that was how many kitchen knives were hanging up on the wall rack. A few people added the oven into their counts, but the answers generally remained the same.
“Thirty,” Haley said, earning her a scoff from some of her classmates.
“Haley is the closest. I see about thirty-five weapons,” the simple statement confused and shocked my students, “and some of those can be used in more ways than one, so it’s more like forty.” Everyone was giving me a skeptical look, including Mr. Weis, who was lurking in the back of the room. Just as I anticipated, he would. “Perhaps it would be easier if I showed you all. Could I get a volunteer?”
The class fell deathly quiet, which was expected. I never understood why no one ever wanted not to be a volunteer with things like this. I volunteered to be a sparring partner every opportunity I got. But then again, I enjoyed learning new fighting and self-defense techniques.
“If I don’t get a volunteer, then I’ll just pick someone at random myself.” The threat didn’t seem to prod anyone. Normally, Haley would’ve volunteered, but I gave her specific instructions not to because she already had a general idea of what I was going to teach. I needed someone who couldn’t anticipate my lesson. “Alright, then. Mr. Weis. Would you mind joining me?”
The entire class was just as shocked by my choice, but no one was more shocked than Mr. Weis himself. His eyebrows shot up from behind his glasses as he looked up from his clipboard. He hesitated but didn’t protest. I had to assume his curiosity greatly outweighed his bashfulness. He set the clipboard down on the nearest counter and approached me as the students parted for him.
“Now, Mr. Weis. I’d like you to assume the role of an attacker. You’ve broken into my home while I’m in the kitchen. Maybe you attack me outright. Maybe you sneak around and bide your time until you think I’m at my most vulnerable. I’ll leave the choice up to you. Just attack me in the way that you think an intruder would.”
“What will you be doing?” Mr. Weis asked.
“Just going about my life. I have to fight you off. Pretty straight forward.”
“Okay. Where do you want me to start?”
I looked around the room. “Let’s imagine the door to the kitchen is over there,” I said, pointing to the right-hand wall. “Enter from there in whatever manner you like and attack me.”
“Okay,” Mr. Weis said, following my orders to stand against the wall.
“Whenever you’re ready,” I told Mr. Weis.
The moment I turned my back to him, Mr. Weis charged towards me with heavy footsteps. Just as I knew he would. I knew his type well. After all, I was surrounded by hundreds just like him while I was a commander in my father’s army. Soldiers were taught to take orders and follow them to the T, especially when those orders came straight from the God of War himself. When you give a soldier vague orders or give them leave to tackle a challenge how they choose, they will choose the most direct course of action. Mr. Weis was no different. He jumped straight into an attack.
The momentum of his charge was easy to turn against him. All I had to do was duck out of his path at the last second and grab the broom. The moment he turned around to attack again, he was met with the end of the brooms handle hovering between his eyes.
I could tell from the silence in the room that Mr. Weis wasn’t the only person who was stunned by my speed and tactics. “Of course, you can also aim for the throat, sternum, stomach, and genitals,” I explained, lowering the brooms handle to each of the points as I listed them off. “Or you can swing the broom into the face, rather than jabbing. You can even use it to sweep the legs out from under your attacker.” To emphasize my point, I swung the broom up and around, knocking Mr. Weis off his feet and onto the ground. He landed with a heavy thud, making everyone wince. He wasn’t severely hurt. He would have some bumps and bruises for a few days, but I was willing to bet he had been through a lot worse during his tours of duty. If I hadn’t been sure of that fact, I never would’ve dropped him.
Mr. Weis looked up at me in surprised confusion from behind his glasses, which now sat crooked on his face. It took him a second to realize what had happened. There wasn’t a trace of anger or irritation on his face. In fact, his eyes were filled with nothing but respect. I reached my hand down to Mr. Wies. He took it, and the look of surprise returned as I pulled him to his feet. Despite his size and weight, I kept my feet grounded in place and didn’t budge or allow him to pull me down.
I turned my attention back to the class. Every single student had their jaws practically unhinged and on the ground. Even Haley, despite her previous experience with me. “Shall we begin?” I asked, almost daring anyone to say yes.
By the end of the hour-long class, every student in the self-defense class was eagerly practicing the few moves I taught them. Some of them were so eager that I had to remind them to slow down until they got the hang of it. I didn’t want them to hurt themselves or each other.
I clapped, calling everyone’s attention back to me. “Alright, everyone. I’m afraid our time is up.” Everyone groaned, begging for me to stay and teach them more. “Now, now. We’re borrowing this classroom, other people need to use it, and we need to get it back to the way it was before we leave. Besides, Mr. Weis was very kind to indulge us in this classroom, and we don’t want to overstay our welcome.” The class quieted down, but judging from the pouts on everyone’s faces, they still weren’t happy about it.
“Can everyone help put the tables and chairs back?” I asked politely. Every single student jumped to assist Haley, Mr. Weis, and I reassembled the room.
The work was done quickly, and as the students began to file out, they thanked me profusely, telling me how much they loved the class. Some even said that they hoped Mr. Weis didn’t even bother to interview other teachers. It was compliments like these that reminded me to remain humble through my long, insane lifetime.
“Well done, Tia,” Mr. Weis praised once everyone was gone. “I’m very impressed.”
“Thank you, Mr. Weis.”
“Obviously, I have to interview other teachers.”
“Of course. I would hope you would.”
“But—and as far as the school is concerned, I never said this—you are my first pick.”
As unenthusiastic as I had originally been to take on this class, I had such a good time that I couldn’t help but grin. “Thank you, Mr. Weis,” I repeated.
“I get the feeling that I’ll be seeing you regularly very soon.” And with that, Mr. Weis took his leave.
“You did great!” Haley said, running up and wrapping her arms around me. She was definitely a hugger…and she was the only one who I didn’t mind being a hugger.
“Everyone loved you.”
“Loved is a strong word.”
“No, they did!”
“Well, we’ll see what Mr. Weis decides.” I couldn’t tell her that Mr. Weis had shown his cards. After all, he asked me not to say anything to anyone. I took such orders very seriously.
“Ready to go home?” Haley asked.
“Actually, you go on ahead. I gotta visit an old friend.”