Annual Habit

February 24, 2017

 

Mr. Stahl was an 8th grade english teacher. He taught honors English in a small high school on the outskirts of a less-small town. Mr. Stahl required his students to memorize passages from The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner; he also had a fixation on Edgar Allen Poe. His students read aloud from The Raven, The Purloined Letter and, to coincide with Poe’s birthday, the class conducted an in depth study of The Pit and The Pendulum.

Mr. Stahl wore the same three piece suit, every day. There was a small patch, sewn into the left pantleg, all his students knew it was there. Every year, on the occasion of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday, he changed his suit. Both were charcoal, with narrow lapels. At the time, narrow lapels were quite old fashioned, like his taste in the macabre.

One day, it was after Poe’s birthday, Mr. Stahl came to class. He had been gone for a long time and everyone in the room knew that his son had committed suicide; there was no getting away from it. The younger Mr. Stahl had returned from Viet Nam and didn't adjust to being home. It was a trying time for Mr. Stahl and his colleagues were very patient with him.  On the Friday of the week he returned to work, the teacher gathered several personal affects and placed them on his desk. He arranged them around a framed picture himself in uniform during WWII.  He gave a lecture about the fragility of life. Death was so near, he told his students, nearer than they knew. That day, he concluded each of his classes by inviting every student to take one thing from the desk. He gave it all away, by the end of the day - everything except his picture. Instead, he left the photo on his desktop and never came back. 

 

No one ever heard from Mr. Stahl again.

There was a legend that he also killed himself.

The story goes that he left a note forbidding his wife to publish any notice of his death.
She obliged him this last eccentricity.

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