Sunday, August 05, 2012

WFMAD Day 4, A Little Late

Today’s Prompt: Quickly write a paragraph about what your days were like in second grade (around age 7).  Then choose a fairy tale from this list. Pull one of the elements from the fairy tale and write about who you would have reacted if it showed up in your life when you were in second grade. For example, what if your new babysitter had been Cinderella? Or the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk?

This one probably took a little longer than 15 minutes. The first two paragraphs are pure fact. The rest are mostly imagination with a few memories woven in for fun and verisimilitude. The story I chose was The Frog Prince.

***
When I was age 7, when most people were in second grade, I was starting my first day at public school as a fourth grader. I had just finished up at a rather strange ungraded private school, and we were getting ready to move to a new city, and I was taken to a psychologist to test me for grade level and for the gifted program. My mother reported, later, that he told her it was up to her how high to place me in my new elementary school. I didn't know that last part at the time, though. I just knew that I was going to be put in the 4th grade, in a 3rd/4th-grade combo class, and that I was going to be new in school.


I made friends. My best friends were in the 3rd grade, closer to my age. That year I got acquainted with a question I'd be asked over and over in varying forms over the years: "You're seven and in the FOURTH GRADE?" The answer to that one was easy. The question I hated was the frequent follow-up: "Are you smart?" I would generally answer along the lines of "I dunno. I guess so." Most of the time, though, I was a pretty normal kid and my classmates treated me as such. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Read. She was from Mexico, and she taught us a little Spanish. She read aloud to us every day, from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and from Kon-Tiki and from The Twenty-One Balloons.

That week, she'd been reading us fairy tales. The Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Anderson. World folk tales, too. My head was spinning with witches and magic beans, giants and elves. But ultimately, it wasn't any of these that I found...or that found me.

I was outside during recess, playing off by myself under the big pepper tree near the bars, the tree we sometimes pretended was a castle or a hideout, climbing its gnarled roots and throwing the pepper berries at each other. Nobody was around. I'd checked out a ball to play with and was bouncing it idly. It bounced toward the tree and disappeared between two of the giant roots.

I went to retrieve it. The tree seemed bigger than it had before, as if I could walk right into it. There was a hole I hadn't seen before, and I could just see the yellow rubber ball at the bottom of it. What was I going to do? The teacher on yard duty would yell at me. It was the mean one, Mrs. DiMarco, the one who told me not to hang upside down from the bars or I'd break my head open. Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn't want to get in trouble. I was the good kid.

Suddenly, I heard the strangest sound. It was a voice, or like a voice, but it sounded rough and wet, a voice that came from moist places and growled and grumbled alone in their depths. I trembled, and one of my tears spilled over.

"Why are you crying?" The voice said. It came from below me, but the only thing I could see was a rubbery little tree frog, clinging to one of the roots.

"M-my ball. It fell. I'll get in trouble!" More tears gushed out, even though I didn't want to cry like a little baby. I kept thinking about Mean Mrs. DiMarco and what she'd say to me if I told her I'd lost the ball. Would they call my mom?

The frog cocked its head at me. Was it really talking to me?

"I can help you," the frog seemed to say in its squishy voice. "But what will you do for me in return? Will you take me home with you, let me eat from your plate? I'll bet your mom makes a mean mac and cheese."

I thought again about the trouble I'd be in. Would I have to stay after school? Would my name go straight onto the board with two ticks next to it? I wasn't sure, but I didn't want to find out.

"You can have all the mac and cheese you want," I said desperately. Having a frog for a pet wouldn't be so bad, would it? It wasn't as great as a dog, but at least it would be something. Heck, the frog probably wouldn't even remember I'd made the promise. It was a frog. There were frogs everywhere. And kids all over the playground. I'd probably never see it again.

The frog plopped into the hole, and a moment later, the yellow ball flew out, bouncing harmlessly away and rolling to a stop next to the high bar. I quickly gathered it up, yelled "thanks!" at the frog, and ran to the equipment room just as the bell rang.

I barely heard the frog as it croaked back: "I'll be seeing you."

4 comments:

tanita davis said...

I think the frog sounds a mite threatening...

aquafortis said...

Yeah, he's gonna get him some mac & cheese.

Yat-Yee said...

He didn't say it in the Ahhnold voice of "I'll be baack" did he?

aquafortis said...

Oh no! Maybe he did! But a little croakier.