On Wednesday afternoon, between the geography lesson on ancient Egypt’s hand-operated irrigation system and an art project that involved drawing a model city next to a mountain, our fourthgrade teacher, Mr. Hibler, developed a cough. This cough began with a series of muffled throat-clearings and progressed to propulsive noises contained within Mr. Hibler’s closed mouth. “Listen to him,” Carol Peterson whispered to me. “He’s gonna blow up.” Mr. Hibler’s laughter — dazed and infrequent — sounded a bit like his cough, but as we worked on our model cities we would look up, thinking he was enjoying a joke, and see Mr. Hibler’s face turning red, his cheeks puffed out. This was not laughter. Twice he bent over, and his loose tie, like a plumb line, hung down straight from his neck as he exploded himself into a Kleenex. He would excuse himself, then go on coughing. I’l bet you a dime,” Carol Peterson whispered, “we get a substitute tomorrow.” 

“Gryphon.” — Charles Baxter, American Story

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