The teacher taps me on the shoulder
time for another trip to Mrs. Gardener
who asks a lot of questions
is your mother home after school
what did you eat for dinner last night

who leans over her desk and looks at me
with soft green eyes, glistening lipstick
and upper arms that jiggle as she writes
her office smells of lilac

I am scared of her, scared of a wrong answer
should my mother have been home
does it count if she locks herself in her room
and won’t answer when I knock
is Spaghetti O’s with burnt lima beans
a real dinner if my mother doesn’t eat
only drinks endlessly from a glass with ice
and throws noodles at the cupboards
clapping if they stick

This time she reads questions from a Test
I know it is Serious
I look at my lap when I answer
my school uniform bunched at my knees
my saddle shoes tapping the legs of the chair
I think I am doing pretty well until she asks
if I count church bells when they ring
I know one answer is right
the other means I am crazy

Mrs. Gardner smiles, encouraging
her pencil poised like a guillotine


THIRD GRADE by Claire Scott



Photo used under CC.