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A RAT'S PURPOSE

Mr. Ratburn looked up from his salad as Principal Haney sighed, wiping his mouth with a cloth napkin. They were having dinner together at a nice restaurant in town. It was about two-thirty on a Saturday, so they weren't alone in the place, but they were happy to be seated away from everyone else. This wasn't a social lunch between a principal and his teacher. No, this lunch was all about business.

"Nigel, I want to get down to it before we get too comfortable again and forget the whole reason we came here in the first place. We need to talk about this request for transfer for you submitted and what it really means," Haney said with a tone that was almost sad, but it was mostly curious.

Nigel sighed, "Well, you know how I feel about those kids, and you've seen the form. I don't believe this is too hard to figure out."

"But why? You've been a teacher at Lakewood for years, and you were at another elementary school before that. Do you know what switching to sixth grade means? The transition to fifth grade was hard enough for you. You kept crossing the line, and a few board members wanted to talk about moving you elsewhere or firing you altogether."

Nigel leaned forward as he put down his salad fork, "You know why I want to do this, and you already know why I acted the way I did. These students, they just...they mean more to me than any other class I've had. The move to fourth grade with them was enlightening, and when I realized I could continue on with them, I wanted to."

"You stopped your certification to teach the middle grades for a reason though. Don't you remember that?" Haney asked.

"I do," Nigel nodded, "but this class will be different with me going with them. They won't do the same things, plus they can help me with the others."

Haney shook his head, "No, they won't help you with anything. What if you become the enemy? You already showed you can't handle not being their mentor when you tried to undermine--"

"I did not undermine him!" Nigel hissed, barely keeping his voice at a normal conversation volume. He sighed with exasperation, "I was merely concerned that he was giving Buster the wrong advice. I've known Buster long enough to know he can handle responsibility, but only if the subject speaks to him. He had just gotten into the subject, and sure enough, I was right--Buster completely moved on from the topic not even a month later. Asking him to direct and lead an entire club on the topic would've gone horribly."

"I knew that as well, but you didn't even give it a chance. What if Buster was against the idea because of you? Have you ever stopped to consider that you could be doing more harm than good to these students?" Haney asked.

Nigel sighed, "No, and perhaps I should have, but these last three terms have been the best in my career. Well, the two before this last one. I got through this year, and I'm ready to go through with the next."

Principal Haney shook his head, "I've talked to several people who agree with me on this. You belong at the elementary school level. I've got a spot in the third grade lineup for you, but if you continue with this transfer request, the superintendent has agreed to give you a second grade class in one of the more up-and-coming schools. I believe you know the one."

"I'd be replacing our DUI teacher who made national news?" Nigel guessed with a sadness about him.

"Yes, and we all know who drove her to drink. Those kids are difficult, but they do need a good leader to help them through these key years. I'd second the motion, but I wanted to give you a chance to try again. Take our third grade spot and maintain your old life, your life before those kids took over."

Nigel thought for a moment. Arthur and the others from his favorite class meant more to him than any other students, and it was hard to let them go from his mind. Brain had so much potential, and if Francine and Jenna kept up their athletic skills, they both would make fine athletes. Fern and Ladonna were wonderful storytellers, and Sue Ellen was so well-traveled and well-versed that she was sure to become an amazing young woman.

Most of all, he wanted to help his troubled students. George, Binky, and Alex had covered so much ground over the last few years, and Maria was finally gaining the confidence to speak up when she needed to despite her stutter.

Nigel knew a lot of this was thanks to his hard work, but he knew he needed to change perspectives. Without him, some of them could crumble. Binky had to be forced to do his math homework while in his fifth grade course, and getting him to read assigned texts in fourth grade was a nightmare. Had he not pushed, Binky would've fallen back to Square One, and Nigel didn't know if the previous teachers in his position could've helped prevent such a backwards slide.

He had to work with Alan a lot too. He was a gifted young man, but he was cocky and condescending at times. Nigel worked to make sure he presented his knowledge in a way that was socially acceptable, something a lot of teachers would never consider doing because they would be too happy to finally have a kid with the answers.

Other teachers could've helped the others, but those were the main two he thought of whenever he considered these things on his own. Without him, things could be so much different.

But this wasn't the only possibility. Nigel wasn't allowing himself to consider anything else, to really see clearly. He could've met a new class, and then another, and yet another, if he'd just stayed where he was. Arthur and the gang were still there, and many of them still attended his community events with their younger siblings. He would've been in their life, plus he would've met plenty of others.

He was being irrational, unfair even.

Nigel sighed and looked up. Their meals had arrived and Principal Haney was gorging himself on his medium-well steak. Nigel's roasted chicken and vegetables looked less appealing, yet somehow more bright as he met Haney's gaze, "I've made my decision."

"I hope it's the right one, Nigel, I really do," Principal Haney said through a mouthful of food.

"It's the right one. How long will it take to get the rosters for next term? I need to work on name plates and getting my classroom organized," Nigel smiled.

Principal Haney nodded, "I'm glad you picked the right choice. The kids will be okay, plus you can just follow them online now. They'll be individuals within a year, knowing them, but they can remain a solid group to you. Just let them make all the decisions. I'm sure you've made an impact on them enough for them to include you."

Nigel knew this was true, but he'd need help with the whole online/social media thing.

After their meal, Nigel walked over to a nearby bakery and got himself a chocolate cake. Then he stopped by the Powers' ice cream shop for a pint of ice cream. Brain happily served him, then Nigel took home his treats and dove in. It was the perfect conclusion to a long yet satisfying day.
~End
A/N: I'm baaacckk....and posting this here first for whatever reason. I'm keeping the author's note the same so here it is. Expect the ff.net version shortly.

So this is the piece I decided to post first. I'll get to updating stuff in the coming days, but this is what I wanted to lead off with, a piece that reminds me of how I feel about Arthur and the gang.

Leaving this place behind and stopping my work with these characters was necessary, but...it was probably the hardest thing I've done in a while. I've been through so much in recent years, and my experiences made me want something to turn to that would always be there for me and never change. If anyone died, it was my own doing, as were any other hardships, and I could handle them in my own time.

Real life doesn't work like that, so it was always good to have people to turn to, the fictional characters and the real-life human beings (I hope beep boop^^) I met along the way. This was taken from us, but I think we're ready to move forward now.

Our agenda? Post and ignore the problem that apparently isn't there. If you have anything to do with said problem that isn't there, I'm blocking you because I don't even want to care anymore. It's not worth my time, but these characters and my projects are worth it, both for me and for many of you.

This being said, I want to thank everyone I've talked to since we left. Yeah the usual suspects and I are still close, but there were a lot of background players that came out to personally support me and let me know they were there for me. We did bond over a problem, but many of you also told me not to stop writing. Well I never did, but posting did drop to nothing.

What to expect from me? Check my profile since this is getting a little long:P
[One-shot 1/100 for 2017]
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February 13
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