The door to the Principal’s office opened just as Tammy approached, hurrying because she was late for class. Tom, her Department Head, stepped out and stood in her way.
“Tammy,” his tongue swiveled around his thin lips in nervous fashion. “I’m just talking with the Principal about your new contract. Come in,” he extended his arm and shepherded her towards the open door.
“Not now,” Tammy replied. “I’m late for class. “Can’t it wait?”
“Strike while the iron’s hot,” Tom showed teeth yellowed from tobacco. “We’ve got a great deal for you. Come in, come in.”
Tammy found herself face to face with the Principal.
“Tammy, my dear, we’re so proud of you,” the Principal flashed a row of crocodile teeth, two of them gold-capped. “I have some papers for you to sign.”
“But, I’m late for class and …”
“I know, don’t worry. This won’t take a moment,” Tom winked at her as he and the Principal led her towards a typewriter that sat on the desk with a blank page and two carbon copies inserted in it.
“Here, at the bottom of the page, just sign here,” Tom pointed.
“But it’s a blank page. I can’t sign a blank page,” Tammy stammered in response.
“You’ll see it when it’s typed and signed,” the Principal assured her. You can always change it later.”
“Can’t I come back after class?”
“I’m afraid not,” the Principal frowned. “I have an important meeting in half an hour, with the school board, and you’ll still be in class. This must be signed now if it’s to get board approval.”
“But you said … you said I’d only be here for a year …”
“We’re very pleased with you,” the Principal flashed the sunshine of his teeth. “We want to keep you here.”
“Very pleased,” said Tom. “This is a first class, independent school run, as you well know, on a non-profit basis. Only the children of the rich and privileged come here to study,” he paused. “And some of them come here because of you. That’s why I’m recommending you for this new and improved contract. I signed my first three-year contract this way, didn’t I?” he looked towards the Principal.
“You did indeed,” said the Principal. “And just look where you are now: Head of your Department.”
“A three-year contract …” Tammy blinked and ran her tongue over her lips. “I wasn’t expecting that. I thought a year … thank you … but …”
“No buts. Jobs are scarce nowadays, particularly in your field,” Tom looked at his watch. “Time’s getting on. You don’t want your students walking out of your class, do you? Here you are now: just sign here,” he handed her the pen he held in his hand.
“You’d better be quick,” the Principal said. “This offer may not be here tomorrow and … my goodness, look at the time. You are running late.”
“Sign,” Tom told her. “I signed and I never regretted it. Remember, we can always change the wording later.”
“Drop in after class,” the Principal smiled. “It will all be approved by then and you can read it and we’ll modify what you want.”
Tammy sighed and signed.
The Principal and the Department Head ushered her to the door.
“Hurry,” they exhorted. “Run. You don’t want to be late.”
Tammy ran to her class.
The two men watched her go. Then they went back into the office, shook hands, and grinned at each other.
Tammy never saw that contract. She stayed at the school for three more years, as she had promised, but in all that time she never got a pay raise and the not-for-profit school board never allowed her to join the employees’ health and pension plan.