H2 Short Story Selection
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What are you looking for? School R. Jukerji
Charles Shirley Jackson
Stolen Day Sherwood Anderson
A lesson in Discipline Teresa Foley
The teacher came and spoke to him.
She told him to wear a tie, like all the other
by R. Jukerji
boys. He said he didn’t like ties and that she said it didn’t matter.
He always wanted to say things. But no
one understood. He always wanted to explain
and it was the way they felt about morning. And
things. But no one cared so he drew. 2
it was beautiful.
Sometimes he would just draw and it
wasn’t anything. He wanted to carve it in stone
something like Mon’s drawing? Isn’t that
and the sky and the things inside him that
beautiful?” It was all questions.
And it was after that, that he drew the
like everyone else. And he threw the old picture
under the pillow and would let no one see it.
And he would look at it every night and think
about it. And when it was dark, and his eyes
And when he lay out alone looking at the
sky, it was still big and blue and all of
were closed, he could still see it. And it was all
everything, but he wasn’t anymore.
of him. And he loved it. When he started school,
he brought it with him like a friend.
He was square inside and brown and
his hands were stiff, and he was like everyone
It was funny about school. He sat in a
else. And the thing inside him that needed
square, brown desk like all the other square
saying didn’t need saying anymore.
brown desks and he thought it would be red.
And his room was a square brown room, like all
It had stopped pushing. It was crushed.
Like everyone else.
the other rooms. And it was tight, close and stiff. 5
After that his mother bought him a tie,
and he always drew airplanes and rocket ships
picture. It was a beautiful picture. He kept it
The teacher came and smiled at him.
“What’s this?” she said. “Why don’t you drew
or write it in the sky and it would be only him
After that they drew. And he drew yellow
He hated to hold pencil and the chalk,
with his arm stiff and his feet flat on the floor, stiff, with the teacher watching and watching. And then he had to write numbers, and they weren’t anything. They were worse than letters that could do something if you put them together. And the numbers were light and square and he hated the whole thing. 1
“What did he do?” I asked. “Who was
by Shirley Jackson
Laurie thought. “It was Charles,” he said.
“He was fresh. The teacher spanked him and
At home, all her son talked about was the
made him stand in the corner. He was awfully
terrible Charles. Why couldn’t she find Charles’
mother at the P.T.A. meeting? 1
The day my son Laurie started
Laurie slid off his chair, took a cookie, and left,
kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls
while his father was still saying, “See here,
with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a
belt. I watched him go off the first morning with
the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an
bad again today.” He grinned enormously and
nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered,
said, “Today Charles hit the teacher.”
swaggering character who forgot to stop at the
corner and wave good-bye to me.
floor, and the voice suddenly become raucous
At lunch he spoke insolently to his
father, spilled his baby sister’s milk, and
“Why did Charles hit the teacher?” I
“Because she tried to make him color
with red crayons,” Laurie said. “Charles wanted to color with green crayons so he hit the teacher
“Look down,” Laurie said. “Look at my
“Did you learn anything?” his father
“How was school today?” I asked,
“What?” his father said, looking up.
take the name of the Lord in vain.
“All right,” he said.
thumb. Gee, you’re dumb.” He began to laugh
remarked that his teacher said we were not to
“He sure did,” Laurie said. “Look up,” he
said to his father.
shouting, “Isn’t anybody here?”
“Good heavens,” I said, mindful of the
Lord’s name, “I suppose he got spanked
He came running home the same way,
the front door slamming open, his cap on the
The next day Laurie remarked at lunch,
as soon as he sat down, “Well, Charles was
era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced
“What did he do?” I asked again, but
and she spanked him and said nobody play Laurie regarded his father coldly. “I
with Charles but everybody did.”
didn’t learn nothing,” he said. 8
“Anything,” I said. “Didn’t lean anything.”
“The teacher spanked a boy, though,”
The third day—it was a Wednesday of
the first week—Charles bounced a seesaw on to the head of a little girl and made her bleed,
Laurie said, addressing his bread and butter.
and the teacher made him stay inside all during
“For being fresh,” he added, with his mouth full.
recess. Thursday Charles had to stand in a
corner during story-time because he kept
husband asked Laurie. “What’s his other
pounding his feet on the floor. Friday Charles
was deprived of blackboard privileges because
he threw chalk.
he doesn’t have any rubbers and he doesn’t
wear a jacket.”
On Saturday I remarked to my husband,
“What does this Charles look like?” my
“He’s bigger than me,” Laurie said. “And
“Do you think kindergarten is too unsettling for
Laurie? All this toughness and bad grammar,
Teachers meeting, and only the fact that the
and this Charles boy sounds like such a bad
baby had a cold kept me from going; I wanted
passionately to meet Charles’s mother. On
Tuesday Laurie remarked suddenly, “Our
“It’ll be alright,” my husband said
Monday night was the first Parent-
reassuringly. “Bound to be people like Charles
teacher had a friend come to see her in school
in the world. Might as well meet them now as
On Monday Laurie came home late, full
“Charles’s mother?” my husband and I
of news. “Charles,” he shouted as he came up
the hill; I was waiting anxiously on the front
man who came and made us do exercises, we
steps. “Charles,” Laurie yelled all the way up
had to touch our toes. Look.” He climbed down
the hill, “Charles was bad again.”
from his chair and squatted down and touched
his toes. “Like this,” he said. He got solemnly
“Come right in,” I said, as soon as he
“Naaah,” Laurie said scornfully. “It was a
came close enough. “Lunch is waiting.”
back into his chair and said, picking up his fork,
“Charles didn’t even do exercises.”
“You know what Charles did?” he
demanded following me through the door.
“That’s fine,” I said heartily. “Didn’t
“Charles yelled so in school they sent a boy in
Charles want to do exercises?”
from first grade to tell the teacher she had to
make Charles keep quiet, and so Charles had
fresh to the teacher’s friend he wasn’t let do
to stay after school. And so all the children
stayed to watch him.
“Fresh again?” I said.
“What did he do?” I asked.
“He kicked the teacher’s friend,” Laurie
“He just sat there,” Laurie said, climbing
said. “The teacher’s friend just told Charles to
“Naaah,” Laurie said. “Charles was so
into his chair at the table. “Hi, Pop, y’old dust
touch his toes like I just did and Charles kicked
“Charles had to stay after school today,”
I told my husband. “Everyone stayed with him.” 3
“What are they going to do about
“Can this be true about Charles?” I
Charles, do you suppose?” Laurie’s father
asked my husband that night. “Can something
like this happen?”
Laurie shrugged elaborately. “Throw him
“Wait and see,” my husband said
out of school, I guess,” he said.
cynically. “When you’ve got a Charles to deal
with, this may mean he’s only plotting.”
Wednesday and Thursday were routine.
Charles yelled during story hour and hit a boy in
the stomach and made him cry. On Friday
week Charles was the teacher’s helper. Each
Charles stayed after school again and so did all
day he handed things out and he picked things
the other children.
up. No one had to stay after school.
With the third week of kindergarten
He seemed to be wrong. For over a
“The P.T.A. meeting’s next week again,”
Charles was an institution in our family; the
I told my husband one evening. “I’m going to
baby was being a Charles when she cried all
find Charles’s mother there.”
afternoon. Laurie did a Charles when he filled
his wagon full of mud and pulled it through the
husband said. “I’d like to know.”
kitchen. Even my husband, when he caught his
“I’d like to know myself,” I said.
elbow in the telephone cord and pulled the
On Friday of that week things were back
telephone and a bowl of flowers off the table,
to normal. “You know what Charles did today?”
said, after the first minute, “Looks like Charles.”
Laurie demanded at the lunch table, in a voice
slightly awed. “He told a little girl to say a word
During the third and fourth weeks it
“Ask her what happened to Charles,” my
looked like a reformation in Charles; Laurie
and she said it and the teacher washed her
reported grimly at lunch on Thursday of the third
mouth out with soap and Charles laughed.”
week, “Charles was so good today the teacher
gave him an apple.”
and Laurie said, “I’ll have to whisper it to you,
it’s so bad.” He got down off his chair and went
“What?” I said, and my husband added
“What word?” his father asked unwisely,
warily, “You mean Charles?”
around to his father. His father bent his head
down and Laurie whispered joyfully. His father’s
“Charles,” Laurie said. “He gave the
crayons around and he picked up the books
afterward and the teacher said he was her
that?” he asked respectfully.
“What happened?” I asked
“Did Charles tell the little girl to say
“She said it twice,” Laurie said. “Charles
told her to say it twice.”
“He was her helper, that’s all,” Laurie
said, and shrugged.
“What happened to Charles?” my
“Nothing,” Laurie said. “He was passing
a fine helper. With occasional lapses, of
out the crayons.”
Monday morning, Charles abandoned
“Laurie usually adjusts very quickly,” I
the little girl and said the evil word himself three
said. “I suppose this time it’s Charles’s
or four times, getting his mouth washed out with
soap each time. He also threw chalk.
“Yes,” I said, laughing, “you must have
My husband came to the door with me
that evening as I set out for the P.T.A. meeting.
your hands full in that kindergarten, with
“Invite her over for a cup of tea after the
meeting,” he said. “I want to get a look at her.”
“If only she’s there.” I said prayerfully.
Charles in the kindergarten.”
“She’ll be there,” my husband said. “I
don’t see how they could hold a P.T.A. meeting without Charles’s mother.” 63
At the meeting I sat restlessly, scanning
each comfortable matronly face, trying to determine which one hid the secret of Charles. None of them looked to me haggard enough. No one stood up in the meeting and apologized for the way her son had been acting. No one mentioned Charles. 64
After the meeting I identified and sought
out Laurie’s kindergarten teacher. She had a plate with a cup of tea and a piece of marshmallow cake. We maneuvered up to one another cautiously, and smiled. 65
“I’ve been so anxious to meet you,” I
said. “I’m Laurie’s mother.” 66
“We’re all so interested in Laurie,” she
“Well, he certainly likes kindergarten,” I
said. “He talks about it all the time.” 68
“We had a little trouble adjusting, the
first week or so,” she said primly, “but now he’s 5
“Charles?” she said. “We don’t have any
by Sherwood Anderson
“You’d better go on home,” she said.
So I went. I limped painfully away. I kept
on limping until I got out of the schoolhouse street.
In stories as in life, people do things because
they have motives for doing them. In the
rheumatism pretty bad but I could get along
following story find out what motivates the boy
12 It must be that all children are actors.
named Walter, who had inflammatory
that you swell up.”
have to go to school.
Still he could walk about. He could go
but he wasn’t’ there.
There was a place up at the pond where in the
spring the water came tumbling over the dam
“They must not be biting today,” I
and formed a deep pool. It was a good place.
Sometimes you could get some good big ones
I had a feeling that, if I said I had
inflammatory rheumatism, Mother or my
brothers and my sister Stella might laugh. They I went down that way on my way to
did laugh at me pretty often and I didn’t like it at
school one spring morning. It was out of my
way but I wanted to see if Walter was there.
He was, inflammatory rheumatism and
“Just the same,” I said to myself, “I have
got it.” I began to hurt and ache again.
all. There he was, sitting with a fish pole in his
hand. He had been able to walk down there all
I went home and sat on the front steps
of our house. I sat there a long time. There
I thought I’d better go around to where
Walter was and ask him about that, so I did –
fishing in the creek or the waterworks pond.
“I’d better not say I have inflammatory
rheumatism,” I decided. “Maybe if you’ve got
rheumatism. That’s what they called it. He didn’t
I must have done some thinking on the
The whole thing started with a boy on our street
Then I felt better. I still had inflammatory
wasn’t anyone at home but Mother and the two It was then that my own legs began to
little ones. Ray would have been four or five
hurt. My back too. I went on to school but, at the
then and Earl might have been three.
recess time, I began to cry. I did it when the
teacher, Sarah Suggett, ha come out into the
tired sitting and was lying on the porch. Earl
schoolhouse yard. 6
She came right over to me.
“I ache all over,” I said. I did, too.
I kept on crying and it worked all right.
It was Earl who saw me there. I had got
was always a quiet, solemn little fellow. 20
He must have said something to Mother
for presently she came. 6
What’s the matter with you? Why aren’t
attention to me. She had made me get into bed
you in school?” she asked.
upstairs and then hadn’t even come up to see
how I was.
I came pretty near telling her right out
that I had inflammatory rheumatism but I
thought I’d better not. Mother and Father had
there but when I got downstairs where she was,
been speaking of Walter’s case at the table just
and when, after I had said I felt better and she
the day before. “It affects the heart,” Father had
only said she was glad and went right on with
said. That frightened me when I thought of it. “I
her work, I began to ache again.
might die,” I thought. “I might just suddenly die
I thought, “I’ll bet I die of it. I bet I do.”
right here; my heart might stop beating.”
I went out to the front porch and sat
down. I was pretty sore at Mother.
On the day before I had been running a
I didn’t think much of that when I was up
race with my brother Irve. We were up at the
fairgrounds after school and there was a half-
the inflammatory rheumatism and I may just
drop down dead any time, I’ll bet she wouldn’t
care about that either,” I thought.
“I’ll bet you can’t run a half-mile,” he
“If she really knew the truth, that I have
said. “I bet you I could beat you running clear
around the track.”
more thinking I did.
And so we did it and I beat him, but
I was getting more and more angry the
“I now what I’m going to do,” I thought:
afterwards my heart did seem to beat pretty
“I’m going to go fishing.”
hard. I remembered that lying there on the
porch. “It’s a wonder, with my inflammatory
might be sitting on the high bank just above the
rheumatism and all, I didn’t just drop down
deep pool where the water went over the dam,
dead,” I thought. The thought frightened me a
and suddenly my heart would stop beating.
lot. I ached worse than ever.
“I ache, Ma,” I said. “I just ache.”
over the bank into the pool and, if I wasn’t dead
She made me go in the house and
when I hit the water; I’d drown sure.
I thought that, feeling the way I did, I
And then, of course, I’d pitch forward,
upstairs and get into bed.
and they’d miss me.
It wasn’t so good. It was spring. I was up
They would all come home to supper
there for perhaps an hour, maybe two, and then
“But where is he?”
I felt better.
Then Mother would remember that I’d
come home from school aching. She’d go
I got up and went downstairs. “I feel
better, Ma,” I said. 30
upstairs and I wouldn’t be there.
Mother said she was glad. She was
pretty busy that day and hadn’t paid much 7
One day during the year before, there
lit out for the pool below the dam. Mother was
was a child got drowned in the spring. It was
busy – she always was – and didn’t see me go.
one of the Wyatt Children.
When I got there I thought I’d better not sit too
near the edge of the high bank.
Right down at the end of the street there
was a spring under a birch tree and there had
been a barrel sunk in the ground.
but I thought.
Everyone had always been saying the
By this time I didn’t ache hardly at all,
“With inflammatory rheumatism you
spring ought to be kept covered, but it wasn’t.
can’t tell,” I thought.
“It probably comes and goes,” I thought.
played around alone, and fell in and got
“Walter has it and he goes fishing,” I
So the Wyatt child went down there,
Mother was the one who had found the
I had got my line into the pool and
drowned child. She had gone to get a pail of
suddenly I got a bite. It was a regular whopper. I
water and there the child was, drowned and
knew that. I’d never had a bit like that.
This had been in the evening when we
I knew what it was. It was one of Mr.
Fenn’s big carp.
were all at home, and Mother had come running
up the street with the dead, dripping child in her
pond of his own. He sold ice in the summer and
arms. She was making for the Wyatt house as
the pond was to make the ice. He had bought
hard as she could run and she was pale.
some big carp and put them into his pond and
then, earlier I the spring when there was a
She had a terrible look on her face, I
Mr. Fenn was a man who had a big
freshet, his dam had gone out.
“So,” I thought, “they’ll miss me and
So the carp had got into our creek and
there’ll be a search made. Very likely there’ll be
one or two big ones had been caught – but
someone who has seen me sitting by the pond
none of the by a boy like me.
fishing, and there’ll be a big alarm and all the
town will turn out and they’ll drag the pond.”
and I was afraid he’d break my line, so I just
tumbled down the high bank, holding onto the
I was having a grand time, having died.
The carp was pulling and I was pulling
Maybe, after they found me and had got me out
line and got right into the pool. We had it out
of the deep pool, Mother would grab me up in
there in the pool. We struggle. We wrestled.
her arms and run home with me as she had run
Then I got a hand under his gills and got him
with the Wyatt child.
I got up from the porch and went around
the house. I got my fishing pole and lit out and
He was a big one all right. He was
nearly half as big as I was myself. I had him on 8
the bank and I kept one hand under his gills and I ran. 62
I never ran so hard in my life. He was
slippery, and now and then he wriggled out of my arms; once I stumbled and fell on him, but I got him home. 63
So there it was. I was a big hero that
day. Mother got a washtub and filled it with water. She put the fish in it and all the neighbors came to look. I got into dry clothes and went down to supper – and then I made a break that spoiled my day. 64
There we were, all of us, at the table,
and suddenly Father asked what had been the matter with me at school. He had met the teacher, Sarah Suggett, on the street and she had told him how I had become ill. 65
“What was the matter with you?” Father
had asked, and before I thought what I was saying I let it out. 66
“I had the inflammatory rheumatism,” I
said – and a shout went up. It made me sick to hear them, the way they all laughed. 67
It brought back all the aching again, and
like a fool I began to cry. 68
“Well, I have got it – I have, I have,” I
cried, and got up from the table and ran upstairs. 69
I stayed there until Mother came up. I
knew it would be a log time before I heard the last of the inflammatory rheumatism. I was sick all right, but the aching I now had wasn’t in my legs or in my back.
A Lesson in Discipline
Mickey Finns, came comic books and television.
by Teresa Foley
Every year for six years we grew
stupider and lazier and fresher and more 1
We were a terrible class. Every class
obnoxious. No one ever separated any of us, or
likes to remember that it was pure hellion, but
kept any of us back, or adulterated us with new
the thirty of us who started under Miss
blood. We were a terrible package, referred to
Gallagher at the Down School near the Buick
by certain members of the PTA as "Les
garage really were terrible. We came along just
when the argument between the phonics people
and the associationists was at its height. We
went at reading for three years by the word
recognition method and then in the fourth grade
from previous classes. Her looks might have
over again by sounds. We were also caught in
given us a clue, but we had always known
the controversy over manuscript and cursive
amateur, experimental teachers so we did not
writing. And we hit the crisis in arithmetic.
recognize the career teacher when we saw her.
In the beginning of the fifth grade we
She was perhaps fifty, tall, square-shouldered,
were forbidden to use brackets in finding the
and erect; neither feminine nor mannish, merely
lowest common denominator. We had to go
healthy and strong. Her face was handsome but
click-click to an equivalent fraction instead,
not pretty. She had no subtle expressions: she
seeing all the pieces of the pie in our heads.
smiled outright, she frowned outright, or she
This meant that nobody at home (who had
concentrated. Her voice was not harsh but had
Gestalists in their families?) could help us
a peculiar carrying quality, vibrating longer than
anymore. But, willing sneaks, we drew brackets
most. Eugene Kent took off his hearing aid after
with furtive fingers on our pantsâ€™ legs. 3
She was new to the school that year, so
we did not have the usual case studies on her
the teacher insisted that we learn to read all
Then came the seventh year and Miss
the first day.
Child-centered psychology burgeoned in
our town at this time. We were allowed to do
She greeted us that day as no teacher
ever had. No talk of adjustment here, no plea
some ridiculous things in school because we
for growth, no challenge to find ourselves. She
wanted to. When our parents heard about them,
they were furious at first. Then they decided
that the school must know what it was doing,
"My name is Virginia Barracombie and it
will be Miss Barracombie to you indefinitely.
and they let us do the same things and worse at
One of these days you will meet someone from
home. Finally, beer chasers after an evening of
the last school in which I taught. The worst that 10
he tells you about me will be true. It's a far cry
stronger personality; that balking would be
from child to man, and it's not through games
tiring, involve exposure of weakness, and end in
that we get there. Behave yourselves and pay
failure. These two groups accounted for
attention and this will be one of the good years
perhaps two-thirds of the class. In the
of your lives. You have a minute to prepare
remaining third were the Idiot rebels and the
yourself with ruler, compass, pencil, and paper
for a review of the meaning and use of
where they were going. For example:
It was the shock treatment all right-but
The Idiots moved in first, without seeing
Idiot: "Do we have to put our names on
with economy, with the clarity of piano keys
our compositions?" (looking around at the other
struck singly, above all with authority. We had
Idiots for appreciative laughter)
neither the opportunity nor the mind to look
Miss B.: "You don't have to."
across the aisles at each other until recess. We
Idiot: (next day after papers had been
were at work in the first five minutesâ€“we, who
passed back) "I didn't get my paper back. I
always had a period in which to get ready to get
haven't no grade."
ready. It was a blow to our unit pride, but we
Miss B.: "Did you expect one?"
were less cohesive after the long summer and
Idiot: "You said we didn't have to put our
temporarily distracted from getting together on
names on them."
what to do about it.
walk around with your eyes open, either."
We thought at first that we were just
Miss B.: "That's right. You don't have to
going along with her in a momentary tolerance.
She was novelty, and among teachers that was
noon his name was up with the absentees who
hard to find. Then we found ourselves bound in
had to make up the composition.
a work routine. At that point some of us tried to
She was indifferent to petty annoyance, and
In its reactions to Miss Barracombie, the
The Idiot sat down, uneasily. That after-
The Idiots were beaten from the start.
they did not dare try big ones.
class divided into four groups. Several of the
nicer girls and a couple of the boys who had
heroes, waited more patiently, seeking their
strict scholastic accountability to professional
own ground. Their particular dragon in the case
parents went into her camp almost immediately
of Miss Barracombie was her good sense,
when they saw that she was systematic, skillful,
which forced an antagonist to assume a role so
and just. Another group, whose names and
foolish as to threaten his status among his
faces are always hard to remember, went along
classmates. This forced the Hard-nuts to try to
with her because they sensed that she was a
operate outside the teaching periods, in the 11
The Hard-nuts, the long-time class
rather limited areas of truancy, ground rules,
and personal relationships.
she asked at last, rather softly for her.
It was difficult to challenge her with tru-
"What are you thinking about, Lennie?"
"Nothin'." He could say that one word as
ancy because there our parents were solidly on
though it were the nastiest in the language.
her side, and besides, the occasional absence
or trumped-up ped-up tardiness of an individual
did little to alter the steady civilizing routine. As
she said, still calm and relaxed. "You come in at
for opportunities on the school grounds, Miss
three and I'll tell you about it. In the meantime,
Barracombie supervised only in her turn, and
was by some unexpected quirk, more lenient
"What for? What'd I do?"
than any of the other teachers, letting us
"Stand up, please."
proceed at games considerably rougher than
Lennie hesitated. Again it was one of
we wished to play.
her simple inescapable requests. He slid out
into the aisle and stood up.
The worst of the Hard-nuts was Lennie
"Well, I'm thinking about something,"
Sopel. He was big and tough and bearded al-
ready, very much in the know about engines,
work with the girl at the table. Lennie started to
baseball statistics, and older women. He had a
sit down once, but she gave him a steady eye
way of muttering wisecracks half under his
and he straightened up again. He had to stand
breath when girls recited. At first they reached
by his seat throughout the rest of the afternoon.
only to people in the surrounding seats. Then
We kept looking at him, waiting for him to say
one day as Lila Crocker went down the aisle,
something; Lennie couldn't seem to think of
Lennie, in a loud whisper, made a smart remark
anything to say.
that shook the room like an east wind:
utes every day for six months. He never spoke
“Oh man. I wish I had that swing in my
Miss Barracombie went back to her
She kept him after school forty-five min-
out of turn again in class and he never missed a
session with her. It seemed a heavy
Miss Barracombie stopped listening to a
girl at the study table. The girl stopped talking.
punishment for one remark, and we couldn't get
Lila fled to the waste basket and back to her
over either her giving it or his taking it. When we
seat, her face scarlet.
asked him what he had to do, all he would say
was, "Nothin'. She just gives me hell.”
The room became as silent as a tomb in
"For forty hours, Lennie?”
"Who's countin'? And whose business?"
long time, and he locked eyes with her, ready
Then one day Alice Rowe gave us the
for a showdown.
lowdown. She had been helping in the inner of-
Miss Barracombie looked at Lennie for a
fice when the intercom was open to Miss Bar-
failure was not a separate thing, only a step in
learning. She never assumed that we had
"She's teaching him to read."
achieved. She probed and exposed until she
Nobody would believe her. Lennie's in
read it in the blood. A week later when we were
seventh grade, everybody said. He knows how
not expecting it, she would check again. She
was the only teacher whose grades on our
report cards we never questioned. Nor would
"No, he doesn't," Alice said. "I heard him
stumbling over the littlest words up there. Who's
we let our indignant parents go to her. She
ever heard him read in class?"
We tried to remember when we had
This was no love affair between the
heard Lennie read. He was a transferee to us in
class and Miss Barracombie, however. She was
the fourth grade, and there hadn't been much
businesslike and not tender with us. She en-
oral reading since then.
couraged no intimacies, and the thought of
confiding in her as we had in Miss Tondreau
"How does he do his other work?" we
who used to love us in the third grade was
"Who says he does?"
wholly ridiculous. We were just different with
No wonder Lennie couldn't fight her. She
her. When our special teachers came and Miss
taught him in secret the one thing he needed to
Barracombie left the room, Eugene Kent would
have to give up cheating and pretending.
replace his hearing aid, and we would be at
once on the Plain of Esdraelon, stalking a world
The truth was, no rebellion had a
chance with her. She wasn't mean and she
of enemies. By the end of the period our
never struck anybody (although our parents
specials would be limp and distraught.
queried us over and over again on this point,
wanting, we thought, to be able to say, "Of
Barracombie stepped out of the roomâ€“
course, she has order! She whips them."). No
something she wisely did rarelyâ€“we would have
situation could come up that she would not
hit the ceiling. After all, we had been indulged
know how to handle and without damage to her
for years. Thirty near-simians don't slough that
single drive: she would teach; we would learn.
off in a few stretching months. We had never
been convinced that discipline comes from
Whatever we studied, we mastered. Of
We did no better left on our own. If Miss
course, she knew the ones of us who could not
within, and when the restraining presence was
connect with the main lines she was trolling, but
removed we reverted to the barbarians that we
she put out other lines for them and they
mastered them, too. Nobody was free not to
learn. We were free to fail, but somehow a
behavior with other teachers or when she was 13
Miss Barracombie never mentioned our
out of the room, although the specials must
have complained bitterly. It seemed to be part
apprehensive eyes of the class, Miss
of her code that she was responsible when she
Barracombie began to grow smaller. It was in
was with us and others were responsible when
her shoulders first. They began to narrow, to go
they took us. We liked that. Miss Barracombie
forward. Her back curved. Her head dropped.
did not lecture or make us feel guilty. There was
We waited, not knowing what to do. Herbert
nothing to lecture or feel guilty about. We
Harvey pulled himself up from his seat and ran
behaved. We learned. We had to: it was the
across the hall to the teacher there.
seat, but when he saw the other teacher, Mrs.
But the final lesson we learned from
Then before the alerted, somehow
Lennie Sopel had started down from his
Miss Barracombie was one she did not try to
Hamilton, coming, he turned and went back up
teach us. It was during the last period. We were
in the midst of a discussion on the use of quota-
tion marks. The intercom box pinged on the wall
racombie and peered into her face. Then she
and the principal said:
bent to the telegram still in her hands.
"A telegram has just arrived for you,
Mrs. Hamilton went up to Miss Bar-
"Oh, my dear," she said and put her arm
Miss Barracombie. Will you send a boy down
around Miss Barracombie. Miss Barracombie
did not move. Her shoulders were gone, melted
She sent Herbert Harvey Bell. He was in
into her narrow back.
the corner seat by the door. He went out run-
ning because she knew exactly how long it took
of the door. Our teacher put both hands across
to get to the office and back and he did not want
her face and, huddled and small, walked out
to answer for loitering.
like a child under Mrs. Hamilton's arm.
He returned with the telegram, gave it to
Mrs. Hamilton turned her in the direction
No one breathed or moved. A few
her, and took his seat.
minutes later Mrs. Hamilton looked into our
She opened the envelope calmly and
neatly so as not to tear the inside sheet. Still
"Miss Barracombie has lost someone
reading it, she turned about slowly so that her
dear to her, boys and girls. Try to finish the
back was toward the class. Her hands lowered.
We could see that she was no longer looking at
the telegram but at the bulletin board. She did
afternoon, not even to dismiss us. But we did
not turn back to us. She kept looking at
not behave as we usually did when left alone.
something on the board.
Most of us took out our composition notebooks
No one came near us for the rest of the
and pens. Some just sat there. 14
We were frightenedâ€“a little sad for Miss
Barracombie, of courseâ€“but mainly frightened, and frightened for ourselves. If she could be struck down, who was so tall, so erect, with all things under control, what could not happen to the rest of us who never had any control on the inside, who had to be made by others to hold our shoulders back? 65
We were the best we had ever been
until the bell rang that day. For a moment we could see our connection with adults. Through a maze of equivalent fractions and common denominators we could see other people, huddled and shrinking, being led out of strange rooms. And their faces were ours.