The Bodice-Ripper Free School Zone Act

A Massachusetts elementary school principal has been accused of promoting her steamy romance novel on school premises, and reassigning a teacher who complained to detention hall.

                                                                                             The Boston Herald

As I approached the forbidding edifice that is Tony Conigliaro Consolidated Elementary School, my heart sank from its perch just above the ruffled v-neck of my blouse to a point slightly below my spleen, which is a vascular, ductless organ whose principal functions are the storage of blood and production of lymphocytes.

The simple brick building had become an object of simultaneous attraction and repulsion for me, like a science class magnet.

It is too painful a tale to tell–and yet I must!  It was here that I first saw Vincent de Gama, suave and swarthy teacher of health and physical education, and head coach of the boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball teams.  When we met–as was fated by the stars!–our eyes locked in a look that lent lustre to my previously lackluster life.  And yet how could I–an elementary school principal with my own set of keys to the entire building!–consort with an earthy son of toil from the classes beneath me?

“Halt!” I heard someone say, and I was recalled from my romantic reverie by the sight of a red hexagonal-shaped Stop! sign staring me in the face.  The voice beneath it belonged to Timmy Dunham, Sergeant of the school Crossing Guard Corps, a solid, dependable yet humdrum 6th grader who has been wooing me–unsuccessfully–since kindergarten.


“Timmy and teacher, sittin’ inna tree.  K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

“You almost stepped off the curb without looking both ways, Ms. Esposito,” he said, cocking his head slightly and arching one eyebrow to let me know he was letting me off with a warning against his better judgment.  “I could write you up for that, but . . . “

“You don’t have to tell me why you are being so kind, Timothy,” I said consolingly.  “I know the secret you hold deep within you, like a science project turtle taken home over Christmas vacation and kept in the basement of your heart, far beneath the placid surface of the peach-fuzzy face that you show to a world that could never understand the turmoil within you.”

“Have you made a decision about who’s gonna be Crossing Guard Captain next year?” he asked, his voice burdened by an ill-concealed longing for my approval.

“No, Timmy,” I said as he wiped the snot from a runny nose on the sleeve of his jacket.  “But you’re a heartbeat away from the Captain’s badge right now, so I consider you the front-runner.”

“Gee thanks!” he exclaimed.  He looked up into my eyes–how tragic was his longing for me!–then turned and, with military-like precision, performed the task for which he had been so well trained; holding his sign up until cars slowed, stepping into the crosswalk, then beckoning me–how sweetly, how innocently!–to follow him to the other side.

“Thank you, Timmy,” I said as I reached the curb.  My heart ached for the suffering he must endure each day to see me in thrall to a man many years his senior–and yet isn’t that how love is, always and everywhere!  We want what we cannot have–we have what we do not want.

My personal do-not-want list began and ended with Horace Grammar, a history teacher who had once lured me to his studio apartment on the pretext of a “faculty sherry hour.”  I had spurned his advances when I discovered his collection of Spanish Inquisition “Instruments of Confession”, and beat a hasty retreat for which he has never forgiven me.

As I made my way up the steps I heard a huffing and puffing sound behind me.  It was Vincent–sweaty and oozing pheromones from every pore!

“Good morning, Vincent,” I said in the most sultry tone I could muster at 7:15 a.m.  “I see you continue to keep your body in excellent shape.”

“We . . . are . . . here on this earth . . . for but a brief moment, Madame Principal,” he said between hurried breaths.  “I need to keep my heart strong.”

“Yes,” I replied, as breathlessly as him.  “You must have a strong heart.  As strong as the onions on the liver that is today’s entree in the cafeteria,” I said, lowering my eyes seductively.  “Can I count on . . . sitting beside you today?”

“I . . . I would like to, Madame Principal,” my vassal stammered.  “But I must use what few minutes I have away from my classes to diagram pick-and-roll plays for this Sunday’s game against the Tipton Bluebirds.”

“They are . . . formidable, this team?”

He shook his head grimly.  “They make a mockery of the ’slaughter’ rule, which says no fast breaks or full-court presses when your team is up by 20 points.”

I could see that he was troubled.  A man’s life–what does a woman understand of it?  The smell of youthful jock straps, so often used, so rarely washed!  I extended my hand and placed it upon his strong bicep, hardened by many after-school push-up contests.

“You will do well, mon cher,” I said.  I inhaled the cheesy, peppery scent of his armpits through his ultra-wicking, skin-tight bicycle jersey.  “Here,” I said, reaching into my oversize handbag.  “Take this.”

“What is it?” he asked, the pages of a paperback that I gave him warping from the warm moisture of his hands.

“It is the key to my heart–’Forget Me, My Love!’, my self-published novel of doomed romance, with steamy sex scenes that leave nothing–and I mean nothing–to the imagination.”

He looked down at the book, then up again to me.  “I . . . I don’t know how to thank you.”

I fluttered my eyelashes at him, playing the coquette.  “I will think of something,” I said, leaning closer, hoping to form an image that would remain before his mind’s eye until it came time for the faculty chaperones to have the last dance at the 7th Grade Sock Hop in a few weeks.

“Hey, you two!”  It was Grammar, ubiquitious as always, descending upon us like Cotton Mather enforcing Puritannical laws against fornication.

“No fraternizing,” he said as he approached at a rapid pace.  “And what’s this?” he asked as he ripped my bodice-ripper from Vincent’s hands.  “There isn’t any sex in this, is there?”

“I suppose if anyone would know if there wasn’t any sex involved in something, it would be you,” I spat out at him with contempt.

“C’mon, give me a chance, would you?” he whined, casting a jealous eye at the well-chiseled body of my beloved.  “You don’t set a very good example for the girls when you throw yourself at a dumb jock like this clod!”

Vincent drew himself up to his full 5′11″.  I watched as he flared his nostrils, a sure sign that he was about to attack, if I remembered the zoology segment we had in earth science correctly.

“Why you little pencil-necked geek,” he said, drawing back his clenched fist like an archer drawing his bow.  “If I weren’t a phys ed teacher, I might understand what you just said!”

“Please, Vincent–do not resort to violence!” I implored him.

“Why not?”

“Because if you do, under Section 3.2(c)(iv) of the Faculty Handbook I’ll have to put you on administrative leave for five (5) school days–and I couldn’t stand to be apart from you for more than four (4)!”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Boston Baroques.”

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