Four years after her confrontation with her history teacher, Karmah stood on stage behind a lectern, indisputable valedictorian of her graduating class of 338 students. She looked out over the neat rows of chairs on the gymnasium floor at her fellow classmates, all human. Her accomplishments in the program read like the bio of the honoree at an awards banquet: 4.0 GPA, Honor Society, Volleyball team captain and MVP, black belt in Shito-Ryu, Editor of the school’s paper (“The Eastsider”), founder of the student chapter of the United Minority Rights Action Coalition, a litany of volunteer community service projects, and numerous other academic and athletic awards. But the accomplishment of greatest pride to her personally was publishing The Corrected History of Recombinants in America and subtitled “An Analysis of the Treatment of Human/Animal Genetic Transmutation in Public High School Curricula.” It was a book that took her nearly three arduous years to write and that won journalism award. It was also instrumental in Mrs. Stein’s decision to hand in her resignation at the just prior to the start of Karmah’s senior year.
On her graduation night Karmah stood before the school, despite all odds, the top of her class. The dubious presence of Mrs. Stein sitting in the audience on the front row of the bleachers made her uncomfortable. Mrs. Stein wasn’t smiling. When others clapped after Karmah was introduced, Mrs. Stein sat on her hands and scowled. When the audience got quiet in anticipation of Karmah’s speech, Mrs. Stein broke out in a coughing fit. Karmah began speaking, clear and strong, and Mrs. Stein dropped her handbag with a startling thud. She fumbled with it on the floor. Something metallic rolled out noisily across the floor toward the rows of students in the center of the floor. Karmah spoke eloquently, refusing to allow Mrs. Stein’s antics to ruin her moment of victor. Mrs. Stein chased what she had dropped clumsily out into the gymnasium. Karmah thanked her parents for standing behind her and extolled the support of family. Mrs. Stein tripped and fell into the Jason Haige on the end of the third row. Karmah complimented her classmates, praised them for looking beyond their differences and embracing individual strengths, and challenged them to carry their open-minded attitudes with them into the world. Mrs. Stein returned conspicuously to her seat, laughing nervously at her seatmates, snorted, and laughed again. Karmah invited Principal Waller to stand and thanked him for fostering a safe educational environment for all people of all races and creeds. The audience applauded. Mrs. Stein threw something toward the center of the room. Smoke rose thickly from a teargas cylinder. Several young men in gas masks ran into the gymnasium. Students coughed and sputtered. Parents rose and tripped over one another to get down the bleachers to their children. Karmah stood frozen in shock at the chaos blossoming below her on the floor, watching the men fearfully, ready to fight or flee. But the men rushed upon Principal Waller instead and knocked him off his feet. They followed him to where he tumbled and one of them kicked him. Mrs. Stein put on a gas mask and bounded up the bleachers to the top row. Karmah’s parents circled around the expanding cloud of gas toward the back of the stage, presumably to protect Karmah from the attackers who were assaulting Principal Waller. Karmah snapped into action, leaped off the stage, and sprang through the stinging cloud of gas toward Principal Waller. Several security guards entered the gymnasium. Mrs. Stein pulled a revolver from her handbag. Karmah shouted for her parents to get down and planted a fist in the lower left back of one of Principal Waller’s attackers. She stood over the Principal, the tear gas burning in her eyes and shrouding her from Mrs. Stein’s frustrated aim. Karmah stepped into Waller’s second assailant’s attack on her, blocked his wild swing, and drove her elbow into his sternum with a crack. The third swung his fist at the same time and missed. Karmah executed a graceful yoko geri to his mid-section as he leaned off balance from his impotent swing. The security guards entered the fray, dragging the men Karmah had disabled toward the door. Karmah darted out behind the stage to cover with her parents. Mrs. Stein, her plan foiled, rushed down the bleachers and out a side door. She was never seen in Greenville ever again. Police and ambulances arrived. Everyone went home. Karmah never got to finish her speech. Diplomas were all mailed to students.
END OF PART 2