Over the years, Andrea Bernthall’s fellow teachers at Woodhall Secondary School have regaled her with many tales about students who have asked that age-old question, “When am I ever go to use this in real life?”
“Give me one example where knowing algebra will help me in the cupcake shop I plan to open when I grow up,” a student once said to a math teacher. “Will I freeze up in the middle of performing a heart transplant because I never made any effort in high school to memorize the exploits of Napoleon?” another student asked a history teacher. “Do car repair shops typically demand mechanics for a synopsis of The Tempest during job interviews?” an English teacher was once asked.
As a gym teacher, she couldn’t see a time when she would ever have to answer that question. Physical exercise is an important part of every day life, from the moment you are born right up to the very end. Then again, she also never envisioned the day when she would have Annabelle Lysk for a student.
For her first three years at Woodhall Secondary School, Annabele Lysk didn’t do a thing to draw attention to herself. She achieved good grades but not too high so as to be labelled a brainiac, she was nice to the popular crowd but not suck up nice, she was also nice to the unpopular crowd but not hey-you-must-be-one-of-us-nice, and the only after-school club she belonged to was the Earth Club. No one ever paid attention to the tree huggers.
It took until her senior year for Annabelle Lysk to cause a stink about something and she did it, in of all places, her second period gym class. They had reached the gymnastics portion of the semester – an area of physical fitness at which Annabelle had never done well, but this time she was determined to at least master the cartwheel. Why the cartwheel? You’re about to find out.
“Okay girls, if you could all quiet down,” Andrea – Ms. Bernthall to her students – said. “We have a lot to cover over the next two weeks. The pommel horse, the parallel bars, the vault, the balance beam…you’ll be expected to do them all.”
“Ms. Bernthall, I have a question,” Annabelle said while her holding her hand straight up. “Is there any chance we could skip past all that useless stuff and just focus on what’s really important?”
“And what would that be Annabelle,” Ms. Bernthall asked.
“I think we can all agree none of us are ever going to use a pommel horse after we graduate, but I do need to know how to land the perfect cartwheel,” Annabelle said.
“Why’s that, young lady?”
“Do you remember how I used to go out with Dylan Brown?”
Ms. Bernthall nodded to indicate that she did indeed remember that period of time when Annabelle and Dylan were a couple. They were cute together, the kind of cute you saw one day going from being high school sweethearts to man and wife. But then Lily Sanderson came along and stole Dylan from Annabelle right before junior prom.
“Yes, I remember that,” Ms. Bernthall said to verbally confirm her recollections.
“Well, what Dylan doesn’t know is that homewrecking girlfriend of his is now fooling around with his best friend. Rumour has it she’s planning on dumping him – Dylan that is, at a party this Friday. Everyone’s been invited, including me. I’m going to be so happy when it happens, happy enough to flip a cartwheel, and that’s why I think we should practise them, so I’ll look awesome in front of Dylan and make him regret losing me.”
“What a terrible thing to say Annabelle,” Ms. Bernthall replied. “I will not teach you the proper way to do a cartwheel just so you can shove your ex-boyfriend’s heartache in his face. I will only teach it to you because it is such a basic gymnastics move and if you can’t do it, then you certainly won’t be able to do the harder moves. Now girls, if you’ll go over to the far side of the gym and warm up, I want to have a private word with Annabelle.”
As the rest of the class did as they were instructed, Ms. Bernthall took Annabelle into her office for a private chat.
“Annabelle, what you said out there…,” Ms. Bernthall began before Annabelle cut her off.
“I know, I know. I shouldn’t be so petty.”
“I suppose, but what I was really going to say was, you shouldn’t be so obvious about your plans for revenge. You should have come to me in private. I was dumped back in high school as well, so I know right where you’re coming from. How about we meet here back in the gym after school? I’m the queen of cartwheels.”
Annabelle learned how to land the perfect cartwheel in time for Friday’s party, where Lily did in fact dump Dylan. His first thought was to see if he could talk Annabelle into taking him back but when he went to talk to her, she was busy chatting up the school’s star quarterback.
“Damn!” he thought. “Where did she learn those moves?”