One Is On The Floor

The drone of the teacher’s voice is like an oscillating fan, as he strolls from one side of the classroom to the other. Most of the eleven-year-olds eyelids in the room beg to close. A few are spellbound by Mr. Powell’s lackadaisical rambling about something called a stalactite—or did he say stalagmite? Who knows? Who cares?

To pass the time, I deftly begin to fold a sheet of paper in front of me. I fold it in half long ways, then open it, and fold two corners to the center. Mr. Powell looks my way and stops his pacing. I freeze, eyes wide, hands still, until he begins to pace again; ever humming his essential nonsense.

I fold the sheet in half again, then fold each side down to the edge; my engineering marvel almost complete. The final stage is the folding of the last few inches of the wings then I slip the craft to my lap where the pacing lump of bees at the front of the classroom can’t see it. I unfold it, creasing it in all the right places. “MR. MASHBURN!”

I jump so hard I bump my knees on the underside of the desk then stare at the blurred vision of the man at the front of the room. I swear he is disintegrating before my eyes! As my vision comes drifting back into focus—amazing what a good scare can do to a young boy—I see Mr. Powell glaring at me.

“Yes, sir.” My voice cracks on the second word, and giggles erupt all around me. Mr. Powell silences the room with a smack of his hand on the top of his desk.

“Can you tell the class the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?”

Bits and pieces of what has been said jumble and tumble in my brain then I say, “One is on the floor and one is on the ceiling.” One of Mr. Powell’s eyebrows does a quick dart upward.  Please God, please God, please God; Don’t let him ask me which is which.

He scans the classroom and says, “Diana. Which is the stalactite?”

I let out the breath I’m holding, and the rush of oxygen to my brain almost makes me faint.

Looking down, I see in my panicked state, I’ve crumpled my magnificent creation. No problem; I smooth it out and decide it will still complete the course I’ve plotted for it.

Mr. Powell, oblivious to my devious plans, cooperates by turning his back to write something—very important, I’m sure—on the blackboard. I let the plane loose!

It flies toward the ceiling, and I gasp, thinking it will come right back to me, then smile as it corrects course and sails in a diving arc toward Mr. Powell’s desk. It lands, with an almost indiscernible tick, then slides off the desk and hits his shoe. He stops writing on the board, and looks down at my craft, his hand holding the chalk at mid word.

Without saying a word, he places the chalk into its tray, walks to the desk, and retrieves the “board of education” from the drawer where he keeps it.

Every head in the room turns to stare at me–eyes huge and mouths open—wondering, I’m sure, what demon possessed me to do such a thing.

I’m frozen in time, wishing there were a cave I could run and hide in, as Mr. Powell calmly says—the board held loosely at his side–“Mr. Mashburn. Would you join me at the front of the classroom, please?”

As I rise slowly, my knees seemingly about to fail me, I wonder, “How did he know it was me?”

4 Comments »

  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    I love the description of the droning, boring teacher as “the pacing lump of bees”. We’ve all had that teacher that put us to sleep.

    And how did he know it was you? Oh, that’s right, you wrote about him before . . . he had eyes in the back of his head, didn’t he?

    • Yes, he had those eyes in the back of his head, alright. But it might also have had to do with all those other kids turning and staring at me! THAT was NOT in my plan!

  2. Great story 🙂 I never threw airplanes, but I always spoke out of turn. I would raise my hand and the voice would shout out before I could hold it back. Now some teachers appreciated my enthusiasm. Some, however…didn’t.

    • I was what one might call mischievous. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I didn’t think before acting. I was also terribly shy–due to constsntly moving town to town–but then we settled in Buckeye, AZ, and by the time I reached the fifth grade, I came out of my shell.

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