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H2 Short Story Selection


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What are you looking for? School R. Jukerji

1

Charles Shirley Jackson

2

Stolen Day Sherwood Anderson

6

A lesson in Discipline Teresa Foley

10


School

6

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.

1

He always wanted to say things. But no

7

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

8

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.

needed saying.

9

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.

away.

And he would look at it every night and think

10

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,

11

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.

12

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

4

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

3

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

11


Charles

10

“What did he do?” I asked. “Who was

it?”

by Shirley Jackson

11

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’

fresh.”

mother at the P.T.A. meeting? 1

12

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

young man.”

belt. I watched him go off the first morning with

13

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

14

corner and wave good-bye to me.

again?” 15

floor, and the voice suddenly become raucous

At lunch he spoke insolently to his

father, spilled his baby sister’s milk, and

19

“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

asked. 7

“Look down,” Laurie said. “Look at my

asked quickly.

elaborately casual.

“Did you learn anything?” his father

17

18

“How was school today?” I asked,

6

“What?” his father said, looking up.

insanely.

take the name of the Lord in vain.

“All right,” he said.

16

thumb. Gee, you’re dumb.” He began to laugh

remarked that his teacher said we were not to

5

“He sure did,” Laurie said. “Look up,” he

said to his father.

shouting, “Isn’t anybody here?”

4

“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

3

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

2

“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.”

9

“The teacher spanked a boy, though,”

20

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.

2

22


recess. Thursday Charles had to stand in a

29

corner during story-time because he kept

husband asked Laurie. “What’s his other

pounding his feet on the floor. Friday Charles

name?”

was deprived of blackboard privileges because

30

he threw chalk.

he doesn’t have any rubbers and he doesn’t

21

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

31

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

influence.”

passionately to meet Charles’s mother. On

22

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

today.”

later.”

32

23

On Monday Laurie came home late, full

“Charles’s mother?” my husband and I

asked simultaneously.

of news. “Charles,” he shouted as he came up

33

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

24

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,

25

“Charles didn’t even do exercises.”

“You know what Charles did?” he

demanded following me through the door.

34

“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

35

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

exercises.”

stayed to watch him.

36

“Fresh again?” I said.

26

“What did he do?” I asked.

37

“He kicked the teacher’s friend,” Laurie

27

“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

mop.”

him.

28

“Charles had to stay after school today,”

I told my husband. “Everyone stayed with him.” 3

33


38

“What are they going to do about

47

“Can this be true about Charles?” I

Charles, do you suppose?” Laurie’s father

asked my husband that night. “Can something

asked him.

like this happen?”

39

48

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

40

with, this may mean he’s only plotting.”

Wednesday and Thursday were routine.

Charles yelled during story hour and hit a boy in

49

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.

41

50

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

51

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

52

“I’d like to know myself,” I said.

elbow in the telephone cord and pulled the

53

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

42

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

54

gave him an apple.”

and Laurie said, “I’ll have to whisper it to you,

43

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

44

down and Laurie whispered joyfully. His father’s

“Charles,” Laurie said. “He gave the

crayons around and he picked up the books

eyes widened.

afterward and the teacher said he was her

55

helper.”

that?” he asked respectfully.

45

56

“What happened?” I asked

“Did Charles tell the little girl to say

“She said it twice,” Laurie said. “Charles

incredulously.

told her to say it twice.”

46

57

“He was her helper, that’s all,” Laurie

said, and shrugged.

“What happened to Charles?” my

husband asked.

44

4


58

“Nothing,” Laurie said. “He was passing

a fine helper. With occasional lapses, of

out the crayons.”

course.”

59

69

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

influence.”

soap each time. He also threw chalk.

70

“Charles?”

60

71

“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

Charles.”

meeting,” he said. “I want to get a look at her.”

72

61

“If only she’s there.” I said prayerfully.

Charles in the kindergarten.”

62

“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

said. 67

“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

55

“Charles?” she said. “We don’t have any


Stolen Day

by Sherwood Anderson

9

“You’d better go on home,” she said.

10

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

11

they have motives for doing them. In the

rheumatism pretty bad but I could get along

following story find out what motivates the boy

better.

hooky. 1

12 It must be that all children are actors.

13

named Walter, who had inflammatory

that you swell up.”

have to go to school.

14

Still he could walk about. He could go

but he wasn’t’ there.

There was a place up at the pond where in the

15

spring the water came tumbling over the dam

“They must not be biting today,” I

thought.

and formed a deep pool. It was a good place.

16

Sometimes you could get some good big ones

I had a feeling that, if I said I had

inflammatory rheumatism, Mother or my

there.

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

all.

way but I wanted to see if Walter was there.

17

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

18

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

right. 5

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.

4

“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

3

I must have done some thinking on the

way home.

The whole thing started with a boy on our street

2

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

19

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.

7

“I ache all over,” I said. I did, too.

8

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

66


21

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

22

how I was.

I came pretty near telling her right out

that I had inflammatory rheumatism but I

31

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

32

I thought, “I’ll bet I die of it. I bet I do.”

right here; my heart might stop beating.”

33

I went out to the front porch and sat

23

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

34

fairgrounds after school and there was a half-

the inflammatory rheumatism and I may just

mile track.

drop down dead any time, I’ll bet she wouldn’t

24

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

35

around the track.”

more thinking I did.

25

36

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

37

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.

38

26

“I ache, Ma,” I said. “I just ache.”

over the bank into the pool and, if I wasn’t dead

27

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.

39

28

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

40

“But where is he?”

I felt better.

41

Then Mother would remember that I’d

29

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

77


42

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

43

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

52

been a barrel sunk in the ground.

but I thought.

44

53

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.

45

54

“It probably comes and goes,” I thought.

played around alone, and fell in and got

55

“Walter has it and he goes fishing,” I

drowned.

thought.

46

56

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.

dead.

57

47

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

58

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

48

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

remembered then.

freshet, his dam had gone out.

49

59

“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

60

town will turn out and they’ll drag the pond.”

and I was afraid he’d break my line, so I just

50

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.

out.

51

61

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

88


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.

9

99


A Lesson in Discipline

Mickey Finns, came comic books and television.

by Teresa Foley

4

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

Miserables."

when the argument between the phonics people

5

and the associationists was at its height. We

Barracombie.

went at reading for three years by the word

6

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 pants’ 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

2

Then came the seventh year and Miss

the first day.

Child-centered psychology burgeoned in

7

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,

said:

they were furious at first. Then they decided

8

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

1010


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

Hard-nut rebels.

for a review of the meaning and use of

12

decimals."

where they were going. For example:

9

13

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

14

Miss B.: "You don't have to."

across the aisles at each other until recess. We

15

Idiot: (next day after papers had been

were at work in the first five minutes–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

16

Miss B.: "Did you expect one?"

were less cohesive after the long summer and

17

Idiot: "You said we didn't have to put our

temporarily distracted from getting together on

names on them."

what to do about it.

18

10

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.

19

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

20

bolt.

She was indifferent to petty annoyance, and

11

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

21

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

1111

The Hard-nuts, the long-time class


rather limited areas of truancy, ground rules,

28

and personal relationships.

she asked at last, rather softly for her.

22

29

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

"Absolutely nothin'."

or trumped-up ped-up tardiness of an individual

30

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

stand up."

was by some unexpected quirk, more lenient

31

"What for? What'd I do?"

than any of the other teachers, letting us

32

"Stand up, please."

proceed at games considerably rougher than

33

Lennie hesitated. Again it was one of

we wished to play.

her simple inescapable requests. He slid out

23

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-

34

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:

35

24

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-

backyard!”

out of turn again in class and he never missed a

25

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

26

was, "Nothin'. She just gives me hell.”

The room became as silent as a tomb in

a pyramid.

36

"For forty hours, Lennie?”

27

37

"Who's countin'? And whose business?"

long time, and he locked eyes with her, ready

38

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

12

1212


fice when the intercom was open to Miss Bar-

failure was not a separate thing, only a step in

racombie's room.

learning. She never assumed that we had

39

"She's teaching him to read."

achieved. She probed and exposed until she

40

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

to read.

was the only teacher whose grades on our

41

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?"

knew.

42

48

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

43

confiding in her as we had in Miss Tondreau

"How does he do his other work?" we

asked.

who used to love us in the third grade was

44

"Who says he does?"

wholly ridiculous. We were just different with

45

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

46

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,

49

wanting, we thought, to be able to say, "Of

Barracombie stepped out of the room–

course, she has order! She whips them."). No

something she wisely did rarely–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

47

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

were.

mastered them, too. Nobody was free not to

50

learn. We were free to fail, but somehow a

behavior with other teachers or when she was 13

1313

Miss Barracombie never mentioned our


out of the room, although the specials must

56

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.

contract.

57

51

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

the aisle.

in the midst of a discussion on the use of quota-

58

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.

52

59

"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

for it?"

did not move. Her shoulders were gone, melted

53

She sent Herbert Harvey Bell. He was in

into her narrow back.

the corner seat by the door. He went out run-

60

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.

54

61

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

55

room.

She opened the envelope calmly and

neatly so as not to tear the inside sheet. Still

62

"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.

period quietly."

We could see that she was no longer looking at

63

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

1414


64

We were frightened–a little sad for Miss

Barracombie, of course–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.

15

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H2 Short Story Selection