An Uncapped Pen

February 28, 2008

The Day I Realized I Had A Problem

Filed under: About Me — cindylv @ 6:49 pm

Mrs. Bostwick taught fourth grade English. Five foot nothing, squinty glasses and tightly-bunned hair. Well, not a bun exactly–maybe it was more like a skinny braid wound clockwise around the crown of her head, pinching her skull. And all she ate, every day for every meal? Lemons. I was sure of it. At least that’s what I told everybody.

I sat behind Scott F., the kid with a brown mole the size of a quarter on his neck. Day after day during that interminably long midwestern season of gray-til-May, I stared at that chocolate-colored mole and the long strands of fine blonde hair that sprouted from it. The rest of the class conjugated irregular verbs rhythmically in the background, I saw my fingers inching toward the edge of my desk, across the gap to the back of his pink plastic chair, just a smidge away. I saw myself sliding the tip of my finger across the velvety surface of that mole, tracing those silky strands, braiding them into flaxen ropes and wrapping them around my arms, and jumping into that chocolate puddle with a cannonball splash.

I surfaced, shook the water from my eyes and with a quick gulp of breath, I set my sights on the island and began to stroke. The natives chanted. I could hear the drum beats rumbling from the hills. No time to waste. The enemy soldiers had a head start. If I didn’t reach the settlement in time, all would be lost and . . .

“Well, Cynthia?”

I whipped my head around to see who called my name and lost track of my rhythm. I floundered and water flooded my nose and eyes. Blinded and choking, I asked, “. . . Hunh?”

“To Be.”

Lemon-Breath? What was she doing here? I realized the natives had ceased their chanting. Silence. The natives and their leader stared at me. I must not show fear.

“Hunh?” I repeated.

“The verb is “To Be.”

I had no idea what she was going on about. What language was she speaking? How had the natives surrounded me, and where did all these desks come from? I must have been captured and knocked unconscious. They’re holding me captive in some sort of classroom. Their leader is Lemon-Breath and she’s interrogating me. I must resist.

“While we have been learning how to conjugate, you have been daydreaming!” She folded her scrawny arms across her bony chest, dipped her head and directed the evil eye over the tips of her glasses. I was surprised she didn’t puncture something with that chin.

I wanted to ask, “What is this conjugation of which you speak? But I knew better than to tip my hand and reveal my understanding, however limited, of this strange language. I remained silent and burned with frustration. I needed to escape and rescue my teammates. Until then, I was forced to stand next to the leader’s desk and endure the taunting looks of those children until the sound of a distant bell frightened them into running out of the room.

The door slammed. I was alone with the leader. She tippy-tapped across the room and halted a foot from me. Stay out of range of that chin, I thought. No fear, I reminded myself. I met her gaze.

“Your sister. I had your sister in my classroom two years ago. She didn’t cause any trouble. She sat quietly and paid attention. But not you! You’ll never learn, will you? Head in the clouds all the time, daydreaming. DAYDREAMING! What is the MATTER with you?”

I had no answer. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. I stood silently.

She marched over to the blackboard and banged her own head against it. I’d never seen a teacher, not even an enemy teacher, display such bizarre behavior. “Why do I waste my time? I’m just banging-my-head-on-the-wall!” She punctuated each word with a bang.

“Do you want me to call the office and get someone to help you?” I asked. My finger hovered over the intercom button.

Help me?” she shrieked. “Help me?”

Must be some kind of trick, I thought. Apparently, she didn’t want help. I pulled my hand away from the buzzer.

“Get OUT!”

I got.

* * *

When I got home, I got it.



  1. What a cool vignette! Ever wonder what happened to that boy? Do you think he trims those hairs now? I wonder about that stuff all the time :)

    Comment by lisakenney — March 1, 2008 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Lisa. I hope he had that mole removed! I googled him a couple years ago and discovered that he’s still living near the old neighborhood. He used to stroke those blonde hairs when he was nervous. I hardly remember anyone from grade school (probably because I was daydreaming all the time). But that mole will stay with me forever. And Lemon-Breath, aka Nozer? Still alive and well, living in my nightmares. But the real-life Mrs. Bostwick is probably long gone by now.

    Comment by cindylv — March 1, 2008 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

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