The Big Hand Hits the Ten
On A, C, E days we have gym. On B and F days we have art. On D days we go to the library.
Nathan and Jack and, well, all the boys, like gym best since they get to run around and throw things and be loud. It is fun sometimes, but I don’t like when my 101 Dalmatian sneakers get scuffs on them. They’re new and white and shiny, and I want them to stay that way. Plus my ponytail gets tangled real easy. Mom says it looks like a bird nest when I get home on ACE days, and she pulls her big red hairbrush through the tangles while I shout “Ouch!”
I like art when it’s not too messy. If we’re just drawing that’s fun, but when we use paint and clay it’s not so fun. Jenny, who sits on my left, always gets really dirty and Nathan, who sits on the other side, always tries to get me dirty. He’s very good at waiting for Mrs. Kline to be distracted and then painting a big yellow line on my hand, like he did last week.
I guess I like the library best, because the boys can’t run around and be loud or get paint on me.
Today is D day, which means we go to the library. Ms. Little will read us a story. Sometimes she reads two. When the big hand hits the 10, we line up, and if my table is quiet, Mr. Cooper will let us line up first. We never get to line up first.
Jack’s table gets to line up first, then Tanner’s, then us, then Nathan’s. I stick my tongue out at him since I get to go before him. He tries to stick his sneaker out to trip me, but I’m wearing my Dalmatian shoes so I’m extra careful and dodge around him. He looks mad.
When we get to the library, I drag my hands along the rows and stacks of books until Mr. Cooper notices and tells me to stop. Nathan laughs at me. I make sure to sit far away from him when we settle around Ms. Little’s rocking and reading chair.
“Sit next to me,” I say to Tara. She jumps down and starts chewing on her brown hair. I tried chewing my hair once but I didn’t like it. It was like flossing but worse. Tara says sometimes she eats her hair and that it makes her healthier but I think she’s lying.
Ms. Little says she only has one story for us today, but then we’ll get to pick out our own books to check out and bring back next time we visit. I pay a little more attention as she tells us that she’ll try to help us each pick one, and tells us how important it is to take good care of the books and bring the books back next time. She’s been talking for a long time. I want her to start reading and I feel really hot all of a sudden. The air feels really dry when I breathe it in, like the air is ’vaporating before it gets to me. We learned about water ’vaporating in science last week. I don’t know if air and water act the same but it feels like it.
I shut my eyes for a second and try to take a great big breath. But the air disappears again and when I open my eyes everything’s all spotty, like my Dalmatian shoes. The dots are getting bigger and bigger and growing together. And then there isn’t anything.
Ms. Little, school librarian at Midfield Elementary, is thinking about how bad she wants to get married and have children of her own as she watches the fifth graders wander the stacks. She’s glad that the class’s giant of a teacher is there with them though, because she doesn’t ever feel right yelling at kids, and this group is particularly rambunctious. Only one boy has checked out a book, which he swiftly sat down to read in one of the armchairs at the front left of the library. Ms. Little checks her watch to see how much longer they’ll be in here. It’s not long until 10:00, which means Mr. Cooper’s class is coming in next. Ms. Little smiles a little at the thought of the third graders. They still listen when she reads them stories, and are old enough now to understand books beyond “See Spot Run.” Mr. Adam Cooper is nothing to complain about either, being one of the few single men on the staff.
The bell rings and the fifth graders leave, and in minutes a little line of third graders, bobbing along and speaking in hushed, reverent voices comes in. Ms. Little has already set today’s book in the reading basket beside her rocking chair, a gift from the PTA that all of the kids have tried to sneak a rock on when no adults are looking. Ms. Little smiles at Mr. Cooper but he doesn’t notice because he’s busy telling Amy Bing to stop touching all the books.
The book for today is part of an adventure series where kids find new worlds in the weirdest places: a basement, the school cafeteria, the grocery store. It might be a little old for them, but she wants to see if it’ll hold their attention. Before she gets to reading it though, Ms. Little explains to Mr. Cooper’s class that they are old enough to check out books on their very own now. The children all squirm around and barely listen. Ms. Little’s eyes get drawn to Tara White and Amy Bing. Amy has shut her eyes and is taking odd, stunted little breaths. Ms. Little looks down to her basket to grab the book for today, and when she looks up Amy’s head is resting in Tara’s lap. Mr. Cooper has noticed too, and is telling her to wake up and sit up.
“Mr. Cooper, I don’t think she’s sleeping,” says Ms. Little.
Every day of the week, I pick up my son and daughter from elementary school. It’s a lucky thing. Not every mom has the luxury of picking their children up. Not every mom has a panic attack every time the kids rush out of the building though. I’m always scared Dan and Olivia won’t be there. That they’ll get in the wrong car by mistake. That there’ll be a school shooting. That something will go wrong and I will lose them forever.
When I tell my husband, Mark, he tells me I’m overprotective and that I’ll go mad when they hit puberty.
“Wait till you hear about driver’s licenses,” he jokes and kisses me on the cheek before going back to whatever he was doing before. But there’s so much that can go wrong. So much I can’t control. So much I can’t protect them from.
I finally understand what my mother went through, having me. I must have scared her half to death the day I keeled over in third grade. I completely blacked out in the library, and I remember it happening suspended in time. Out of nowhere, I felt strange. I remember trying to regain control of my body for who knows how long, and then I just slumped over the girl sitting next to me. Taylor? Tasha? I don’t remember her name.
After that I was in and out of the hospital. I missed the rest of the school year. My mom took leave from her job to stay with me, to see if it would happen again. And it did. I fainted and was rushed to the hospital too many times to count. The nurses and doctors knew me well beyond my parents’ liking. They couldn’t ever find anything wrong with me; they always sent me right back home.
It must have been a nightmare for my parents. Isn't that the curse, though? The fear your kids will be just like you?
Copyright 2017 Beth Grace