THE PENCIL BOX
Nobody liked Jane. As soon as Emily Sweet found that copy of Anne of Green Gables—a three-hundred-page-long book! —in Jane’s faded purple kindergarten backpack, that was it. Any hope Jane had for a normal life, for swing on the swings, for making a life long friend, someone to share secrets and giggles with, someone to teeter totter with, was over, because nobody likes the smart girl. Nobody likes someone who totes a three hundred page long book to read on the bus. That is the jungle gym’s unwritten rule.
Well, maybe it’s not totally accurate to say that nobody liked Jane. That’s not an entirely true statement. Teachers liked Jane. Teachers loved Jane, even though Jane thought they had a funny way of showing it, giving her another worksheet to do when she finished the assigned worksheet fifteen minutes before the rest of the class, telling her parents that Jane was a special child, maybe they should move her to a higher grade and her parents always saying no, we want our daughter to have a normal childhood. It became quite normal for them to have these conversations while Jane sat outside the door wit ha garage sale, dog eared copy of Gone With the Wind—a five-hundred-page-long book! —swinging her patent leather Mary Jane shoes because they didn’t reach the ground and she had to do something to keep her attention through the first twenty pages, pages she always found sub-standard to an otherwise exhilarating book. Yes, supposedly teachers just loved Jane. That’s what all the other children accused them of, love, favoritism, unfair grading, and things like that. They just loved Jane, even though they showed it weird ways.
It took Jane’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Terada to really show some Jane some love. Jane thought Mrs. Terada was an absolute nitwit, with her long skinny arms and legs, looking down at all the children through a tiny pair of glasses perched on the end of her nose. And oh, it took all the acting Jane could muster to smile and nod, to not roll her eyes and stick out her tongue when Mrs. Terada presented her with the box. The box sat next to the rattling heat register (that always seemed to work in September, never in December). Under its hot pink cover were rows and rows of manila files, each containing a set of math worksheets, maybe a short story with comprehension questions at the end. With an all too happy smile, Mrs. Terada told Jane that while she was waiting for the children to get done with their work, she could come and get a file to work on and then turn it in. Eventually, she would go through the entire box and gee, wouldn’t that be special! Even though she wondered why Mrs. Terada made the box sound like some sort of special treat and even though she wondered why she had to do those extra worksheets and even though she would rather be reading Anna Karenina, Jane smiled and nodded and took the first manila folder back to her desk.
She sat down and smiled to herself. What that twit Mrs. Terada didn’t know, what nobody, not her parents, not the children, not even her chocolate colored Labrador retriever, Gus knew was that Jane had a box of her own. To anybody else, it might appear to be an ordinary pencil box. It as an old school pencil box, yellow cardboard with silly pictures of chalkboards and kids on swings, laughing and being dumb (Jane colored horns and tails on most of them, blackened in their teeth). And in big blue letters, it read “My School Box” (well, at least, it used to read that, Jane colored over that with a big smelly black marker too). Whenever she got a gold star or a smiley face on a paper, Jane peeled it off the worksheet of notebook paper and put it in the box. Whenever she read a good book, passed over a great line, Jane took out a piece of paper, wrote something about the book down, maybe copied down the choice line, folded the paper...
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