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A Wooden Desk & the World
Part 2
by Amy Kenneley

Read Part 1 of this Story

Small World

This then, would be my world for the next nine months. It would be where long division would be battled and geography subdued. Treaties were signed with other subjects.

I learned that a Parker pen is a blessing. I learned that in spite of having 48 crayons from which to choose, you would never use up the Peach or Magenta ones, but your Black and Red ones would become little broken pieces in a few days.

I learned that if you saved enough paper clips, you could make a pretty neat necklace, and that a small box of glue-backed stars was kept in the top drawer of teacher's desk. I was pleased to get my fair share of them this year for spelling tests.

The monotony of the school week was broken on Fridays, when our class marched over to the room across the hall where an upright piano was banged on authoritatively by the traveling music teacher. We learned songs of work, like "The Glendy Burke" and cultural songs such as "Celito Lindo" Before the year ended we knew first and last verses to the National Anthem.

All was contentment, sitting in the back and remaining unnoticed while the school year passed. This relief was broken only by occasional trips to the blackboard to "parse" sentences and produce long division problems with the chalk-and eraser.

Window to the World

The desk by the window gave me my escape. I could glance to the window to watch the business of the neighborhood. People walked their dogs, people looked out of apartment windows to the street. Baby buggies were pushed. Buses passed and stopped in front of the school. People with packages got on and off. What was in them? Where were they going?

Here came the delivery truck bringing fresh bread to the grocery store. And before school was out, the paper truck would slow down, and drop a tied bundle of the afternoon papers to the curb. As soon as the bell rang, several paper boys would ride off on their bicycles delivering to customers.

With fall, there was the scent of leaves burning, the acrid smell rising even to our second story school window as the man raked them back and forth at the curb. Later came the rasp of the snowshovel in winter, when the janitor pushed the snow shovel up and down up and down the school sidewalks. Then when you thought winter would never end, the spring rains tapped on the windows, and the tree in the schoolyard opened with bright green leaves.

The blue and black globe was turned a hundred times that fourth grade year. How big and wide the world was! There were so many places to see. How would I ever get from here-Cleveland-to there-the rest of the world?

In case the chance ever came for travel, I was ready. I had imagined my itinerary and drawn the appropriate maps. The dividers of green, blue and yellow in the 3-ring notebook became my charts. Day by day my scribblings produced maps of exotic places-places known only to me, with a little of what I knew of the real world thrown in. I had jungles and swamps, castles and kingdoms, deserts and oases-- all lined, labeled and colored.

Big World

It was time to leave. Our last school day had been taken up with erasing any marks on our books before turning them in, and cleaning out our desks. Small bits of crayons hid in corners under crumpled sheets of old lessons on Campus paper. The Manila tablet had been used up months ago.

One tiny scrap of No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil was left, with no eraser. I had lost the cap of my Parker pen, too. My plaid briefcase book bag was packed for the last time, only the handle had broken off in some exuberant recess swinging, so I had to hug it home.

Now the teacher was walking up and down the rows, returning our notebooks. In an unannounced raid, we had had to turn them in the day before for her inspection. I had handed it over with dread. Too late to take them out, my map doodling would be exposed. She gave me a ghost of a smile as she returned it now. Not a wide smile. I quickly shoved it into my briefcase.

The room was stripped for summer. The teacher's desk cleared of ink pad and pencil holders. The blackboard had had one last wash and the tray wiped of dust, the erasers all clapped and stored. Our desks had been wiped with old rags, the windows locked down with the 6-foot pole.

Even the black and blue globe had a dust cover. The world was closed for the season. Slowly the Regulator clock ticked off the minutes until 3:00 when the last bell rang.

We marched down the long stairs to the front hallway, where other obedient lines of other classes took turns exiting. As each one of us stepped over the threshold, we let out loud screams of glee-a whole summer to play!

Walking home, I dug into the plaid briefcase to retrieve my report card. I gave a sign of relief. It was an okay card. My goal had been achieved.

I had managed to pass and managed not to get called on too often. I was still the anonymous girl in the far back row by the window. Mission accomplished.

Curious, I pulled out my blue notebook. Inside the front cover was her paper-clipped note: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. On each divider page, she had pasted a glue-backed star.



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