I have been teaching the present perfect progressive tense for the past ten minutes. Getting nowhere.

“Okay, so if you wake me up in the morning, what have I been doing?” I ask the class.

An eager, short-haired girl raises her hand.

“Eating?” she asks. I smile and shake my head. “Sleeping.”

I say the Russian word for sleep and add an –ing. I laugh at my own joke. Then, out of nowhere, I hear a thunk. In the back of the class, a student has fallen face first into his desk. He begins snoring. I frown. Then, like the wave at a football game, the whole class follows suit. The room descends into a cacophony of heavy breathing.

“Ha-Ha,” I say, “very funny. Seriously, you’ll need this, guys.”

I throw the cap of my board marker at the first student to fall asleep. He doesn’t move.

“Fine,” I say, in my best teacher’s voice, “I’ll go get Ivan.”

No one moves. I walk to the door at a threatening pace. Nothing.

“What the hell?” I mutter.

“Alright, your funeral,” I call back to the class as I step into the hall.

I knock on the door to the office marked “Headmaster.”


I walk in.

Ivan is combing through a textbook, making notes. He looks up.

“What’s up?”

“My class is all pretending to sleep.”

He chuckles.

“What did you do now?”

I cross my arms. “Nothing! I made a little joke.”

He frowns. “Was it appropriate?”

“Yeah,” I say, then, repeat the joke to him. A smile crosses his face, then, his head slams into the open book. He begins snoring, loud and heavy.

“Not funny Ivan,” I say. He doesn’t move. I walk over to him and shake him. No response. I frown. I walk into the hall. A woman passes me by.

“Excuse me?” I say. She turns. I repeat my joke. She almost immediately crumples into a heap on the floor.

I stare at her. Eyes wide. For some reason, I look at my hands as I mutter, “No friggin’ way.”

I walk back into Ivan’s office and find a slip of paper.

Call me when you wake up, I write. I gather my things from the room of passed out students.

On my way out of the school, just to check, I pop my head into a random class. The students all turn and frown. I repeat the joke, quickly. The students all slump over. The teacher falls into her portable white board.

“Oh, crap.” I shut the door slowly and dash out onto the street. I run the whole way back to my apartment.

Inside the door, I call out, “M! M!”

“Yeah, yeah,” M calls from the kitchen. I run into the kitchen without taking off my jacket.

“Dude, you won’t believe this, I think I discovered a magic spell!”

M lights a cigarette and leans back.

“Do tell,” he says.

“Okay, wait.” I run into my bedroom and grab a pillow, I run back to the kitchen and place it on the table in front of M. He frowns at it, but doesn’t say anything.

“Okay so, I was teaching and I made a joke combining the Russian word for sleep and then i, n, g. I know, a bad joke, but whatever, so,”

M frowns.

“спать-ing?” he asks, cutting me off.

“Yeah, aw, crap.”

Everything goes black.


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A Writer and an artist living in Russia

11 Comment on “The Magic of the Present Perfect Progressive

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