Chapter 7: Back to School

We last left Ada and the gang having the run of the town while the adults of Storybrooke recovered from too much celebration. The eve of the “celebration-recovery day” was marked by a super secret meeting of the League of Anonymous Witches. The League was given a challenge. Whoever captured the most children of Storybrooke would be crowned the new Town Witch. We now pick up our story the day after the “celebration-recovery day,” a day where the harsh light of the daily grind shone brightly on the children of Storybrooke…

Chapter 7

Zemelda Rottentooth died on Monday, which meant the town celebration was on Tuesday, and the extra day off that celebrated the celebration was Wednesday. This meant that Thursday was not a day off from work or from school. I don’t need to tell you that having two days off in the middle of the week makes going back to work or school especially dreadful. Ada and her friends were having a tough time since school was back in session.

It was the kind of school day when the clock in the classroom refuses to move any faster and laughs at you spitefully every time you dare to look at it. It sat on the wall of the classroom staring them all in the face, ticking loudly, mockingly announcing each passing second. It was hard to believe the first part of the morning was barely over.

“What time is it?” Paul asked for the hundredth time that day.

“Turn your lazy head two inches to the left and look at the dang clock,” Ada scolded him in a whisper, “And quit asking.”

Paul did not bother to turn his lazy head two inches to the left, and instead pulled up his hood, and pulled out a food container from his desk. He opened the box and started eating.

“Is that…a box of corn?” Ada asked, not quite believing her eyes.

“I like corn.” Paul said flatly.

Ada turned her head away from Paul, frowning.

Ada was usually good at keeping herself engaged with something of personal interest, even when things got a bit dull for her at school, but today she could not focus. It was just one of those days that seems to last for weeks and weeks and weeks. Ada stared longingly out the window at what looked like a perfectly pleasant late autumn day. She watched the colorful leaves swirl across the blacktop of the playground basketball court and imagined the cool, crisp breeze causing the leaves to dance.

Her attention was suddenly brought back to the classroom as her teacher, Mrs. Rachtman slowly lumbered across the room, catching her hips on passing desks, dragging them momentarily, yet loudly across the part of the linoleum floor that was not covered by the old utility rug. Ada looked at her teacher. Under the best of circumstances, Mrs. Ratchman looked like she never slept, her clothes were always rumpled, and her face was fixed in a permanent scowl as if she had just heard some very bad news. Her hair was dyed black, and no matter how recent the last dye-job, her roots were always showing gray. It was as if the first half inch of her hair refused to succumb to the dye.

As she walked painfully toward the desk in the front of the classroom, it was plain to see that Mrs. Ratchman was also having a rough morning and was not yet fully recovered from all the celebrating two days prior.

She sighed a heavy sigh, looked at the her students with a fair amount of resignation and began the first subject of the day, math.

It should be noted here that each teacher has their own personal way to call a class to attention. Some teachers ring a bell to get their class’s attention. Some clap. Some, Ada had heard, actually use cute little rhymes with their students like, “One two three, eyes on me.”  Mrs. Rachtman preferred another way to get her class’s attention.

“Shut up! Shut your faces right now.”

They did.

“For math today, you will be learning about the difference between estimates and actual counts. You will partner up with a classmate. You will guess how much hair they have on their head and you will write that number down. Then…you will count the hair on your partner’s head and write that number down,” she said with her eyes closed and her head in her hands, “in order to check your work,” she added with a sneer. 

Ada and her peers looked around at each other in a slightly confused silence. After a moment, Mrs. Ratchman opened her eyes halfway and wearily took notice of a girl named Grace raising her hand.

“Yes, Grace?” Her voice sounded like the peeling of  a potato.

 “How much of their hair do we have to count?” She asked timidly.

“All of it!” Mrs. Rachtman screamed, slamming her fist into her desk. She closed her eyes and looked as if screaming had caused her considerable pain. She let out a short burst of air from her nose and then repeated in her normal voice, which sounded more wheezy and tense,  “All of it, or until I tell you to stop.” 

She waited a moment and added one extra word.

“Quietly.”

She waited another moment to make sure there were no more questions.

“Well, what are you waiting for, personal invitations?”

As the children began to partner up, Mrs. Ratchman put her head on her desk. Moments later, she was drifting off to sleep, lulled by the sounds of chairs quietly scooting across the stained blue-gray carpet, and the whispers of children beginning to count strands of hair on each others heads.

Paul was already sitting next to Ada. As Ada turned to review her partner options, an arm shot out and grabbed her with a quickness that was surprising, especially since the grab was coming from a kid as regularly sluggish and non-athletic as Paul. She was also a little surprised and touched that he stopped eating his box of corn for a moment to claim her as his partner.

“Don’t leave me!” Paul said dramatically.

Ada had encountered Paul’s panic grab before. She looked squarely at him and shrugged.

“Okay,” Paul said, “you count first. I’ll put my head down so it’s easier for you to count,” and with that, Paul put his head down on his desk and followed Mrs. Ratchman’s lead by instantly falling asleep.

Ada sighed and returned to looking around the room. She scanned the room for an alternative partner since her’s was fast asleep. Chris, she suddenly thought, yes, he’ll be perfect, and as her eyes darted across the room to locate Chris Eggels, AKA The Eagle, she stopped short at Mark Franklin’s grinning face. He was looking straight at her, rocking cooly back in his chair. Ada rolled her eyes as she understood immediately why Mark was looking so smug.

Ada was not alone in feeling a fair bit of jealousy towards Mark, who had partnered up with his best friend, Chris Eggels. Chris had a condition called Alopecia Universalis, pronounced “Al-oh-PEE-Shuh Yoo-ni-ver-SAL-iss” which made him completely hairless from head to toe. Chris also happened to be fascinated with all things military and was fond of wearing anything with American Flags, camouflage, or, naturally, American Bald Eagles. This, combined with his last name, earned him the nickname “The Eagle.”

The Eagle did not look as happy to be paired up with his best friend Mark, who was black, and seemed to have endless amounts of extremely thick, tight curly hair.

“Well, I guess I better get to work,” Mark said with a wide and infuriating smile. He looked around the room at all the jealous stares, then turned his attention to his partner The Eagle. Mark craned his neck, making a show of examining his partner’s bald head from all sides.

“Well, I’m all done,” Mark said. He neatly wrote down a “1” on his paper.

The Eagle lifted his head and looked at the paper, then looked at Mark. “You know the answer is zero.”

Mark looked annoyed. “Man, you can’t give a perfect answer on a question like this. The teacher’s gonna know that it’s impossible for anyone to count exactly how many hairs are on someone’s head. You gotta get it close, but not perfect.” 

Mark’s smile got even wider. “Now you better get started. You got a lot of work to do,” Mark said to his very annoyed looking partner.

The Eagle picked up his pencil in resignation to the task at hand, and got started, as did the rest of the class, looking collectively like a troop of monkeys grooming each other. That is, except for Aaliyah and A’Isha, who wore head scarves called hijabs that they couldn’t take off in public for religious reasons. As a result, Aaliyah and A’Isha also got jealous looks from the rest of the class.

Silently thanking Allah, peace be upon him, the girls quickly paired up and wrote “God knows best,” on their papers. They gave each other a secret fist bump under their desks and together got to work drawing pictures of unicorns.

Ten dreadful, hair counting minutes passed, Ada hadn’t even started on Paul’s hair. Then, the simpler solution dawned on Ada. Staring carefully at the slumbering Mrs. Ratchman, Ada finally dared to take out her phone. Making sure it was on silent mode, she accessed the internet and typed in “number of hairs on human head.” She then went around the class and quietly gave each student an answer that would approximate the number it should be for their respective partner. About 150,000 strands of hair for blonde students, 140,000 for brunette students, and on and on. She did not give Mark Franklin an answer, but picked up his paper and looked at him shamefully for a moment. She shook her head and walked away from Mark’s desk.

Often times, Ada, just by being herself, would indirectly teach her classmates a thing or two.  In fact, by giving her classmates the answer to the hair counting problem, she inadvertently taught them the meaning of  the word “average,” which, in the mathematical sense, means the number that you get if you add many different points of data and then divide the sum by the number of data points.

It was no coincidence that every class that happened to include Ada, had students that got especially high grades.

With the math assignment all done, and Mrs. Rachtman continuing to snore loudly, there was no further option but to dismiss the class for an early recess, which Ada did quietly and immediately.

Chapter 8 (Preview)

Once outside, the children were greeted with the kind exactly the kind of weather Ada had imagined back in the classroom. It was a cool Fall day, with fluttering leaves in an explosion of orange, red and yellow colors against a  sparkling blue sky. The wind was just cold enough to need a sweater, and maybe your favorite hat if you were a hat person.

Ada, Paul, Lyle and Leela were playing freeze tag with a few of the other kids on the grass field that was bordered by the bungalows that housed the third, fourth, and fifth grade classes. Suddenly, the cafeteria doors on the main, brick building flew open with a loud bang. 

Ada and her friends all froze at once, except for the kids who were already frozen, they just stayed in place, because you can’t double freeze. That would reverse the original freeze, which would be cheating and get you thrown out of the game for the rest of recess. Moving on.

An older woman appeared in the doorway. It was Mrs. Barr, the lunch lady. She looked a little older than she was, mostly owing to her fondness for floral print dresses, sensible shoes, and horn-rimmed glasses that were popular with the over-60 crowd. She was holding open the door to the cafeteria, letting a delicious aroma escape. 

It smelled like cookies.

It was impossible to resist…

Find out what happens next by checking back in a few weeks for Chapter 8!

Kelly Raine is an artist, writer, and educator. He teaches children and likes the idea that he is pitching in to make the world slightly better. He wears a lot of black and wakes up very, very early.

 

 

© Kelly Raine, 2018 All Rights Reserved.

 

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