Emperor Hirohito Meets His Pep Steppers
When I explain to them that Floyd Ming and His Pep Steppers is a misprint, that nobody bothered to change the block-letter press, that Floyd’s real name was Hoyt, they stare at me and shift in their seats and yawn and I think: four hundred bucks isn’t enough money to cover this grief. I tell them after 1932, they’re recorded on all those Library of Congress pressings as Hoyt Ming’s Pep Steppers. I say the Pep Steppers are just Hoyt’s wife keeping time by shuffling her foot on the wood floor and they take notes, as if there’ll be a quiz. Their blazers look itchy; they won’t come in jeans even though I’ve asked them to, twice. There’s a chance they sleep in those ties. “You’d never know it from listening, but they’re a two-person band,” I say.
I’ve let them order pizza because, on day one, they told me they always order pizza in their supplementals and I feel bad for them—high school kids should be out sneaking beer in a field on Thursday summer nights, not in here with me. I don’t care what they eat so long as they come away from this Survey of Traditional American Musics convinced that bluegrass is just a bastardization of something creepy and wonderful, real. I know something their parents and proctors don’t: the ability to recognize the difference between Kentucky and West Virginia fiddle tunes won’t ease them into Harvard. I eat the pizza, too, to prove I’m on their side.
They say things like, “I like this one, Mrs. Scheier,” even though I’m not married and they don’t mean it; I’m young enough to be their sister. I write Ally on the handouts and they think I’m doing it as a test. They stare at me like little men, like I don’t know what they do under their sheets at night. The CD player’s built into the wall and the speakers are recessed in the ceiling and this high school’s the nicest high school I’ve ever been in, bar none. The acoustics are ridiculous; you can hear every little hiss on the record. The way they look at me, it’s like they think they’re fooling someone.
In the bathroom, before class, a blonde lady was applying eyeliner when I walked in. Said, “I’m teaching Japanese cinema,” and didn’t look away from the mirror. She kept eyeing herself like that and I threw up a little in my mouth. Just like that. Sometimes you can’t breathe when you least expect it.