I Am Isabel the Storyteller

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Category: Write to Capture What’s Happening

#girlheros and avoidance tactics: Court “Caper” Part 1 (“Chapter” 40)

Oliver points to a curlicue-crowd of “CC”s  fancy-doodled in the margins of my assignment notebook. “CC”?  Court Caper? Isabel. Word choice?

Oliver says he’s a logophile, a word so uncommon my iPad wanted to auto-correct the spelling to “loophole.” Logophiles love words; I wager probably only logophiles KNOW the word logophile!

“Caper” is so wrong for what you’re planning to do: Capers are for picnics and wholesome activities. He taps his pencil and reconsiders.  But maybe you used it as an antiphrasis? Like if I said “Isabel’s a giant of 5 feet 1 inches?” Irony, humor, use of a word that’s the opposite of the generally accepted meaning? Just teasing.

I chose “caper” to keep my fight or flight chemicals in check, but he and I have gone over all this. So in the middle of the page, I scrawl TMSIDK.

Oliver squints at the initials. Ahh ha ha. This is his attempt at sounding like a mildly amused English aristocrat.

TMSIDK stands for “tell me something I don’t know.” (Although, admittedly,  I did NOT know this “antiphrasis” word.)  It’s text speak. For example, AFAIK is “As far as I know” and 4YEO is “For your eyes only.” Shorthand. It surprises me that older people are suspicious of text shorthand. They use abbreviations in their daily life.  For instance, Pop goes to the DIY section of our hardware store—do it yourself. Mimi first reads the FAQ sections when she’s researching a topic—Frequently asked questions.

I digress…where was I?

Maybe it’s an oxymoron. I groan. I’m about to be sneakier and more treacherous than I’ve ever been in my life, Oliver.

Like with all my emancipation stuff. He nods. But, what’s the alternative?  It’s funny: teenagers are supposed to have TROUBLE  holding contradictory ideas in their brains at the same time. Not you! Not me!

We leave off with our homework and start the late afternoon chores of rounding up the animals and tucking them in for the night. It’s easier now that Zia lent the hard-to-handle ram to another sheep farm for a while; not to be too “explicit,” but he’s “in service” as they say. Probably the ram wouldn’t have hurt me, but it’s easier not to be on the lookout for him when I’m in the pastures. I didn’t like having to watch my back for fear of him charging.

I keep distracting myself from the Caper, don’t I.

Want to go over tomorrow’s Caper plan, Isabel? He pumps the water and I ferry the buckets to each stall. I’m still of mind that you should tell Mimi and Pop. I think they’d be impressed with your honesty and passion.

I roll my eyes at this.  The Plan—for the umpteenth time: I wear a dress (no metal belts or buckles or keys that would set off the metal detector and draw attention to me); I tell Mimi the dress is because of school pictures; we meet at the fence and deliver the twins to Miss Honey; we tell her we’re leaving them early so as to meet with Arturo’s teacher; and then we’ll walk out of school without checking in. Mr. Grim will just think I’m sick…or something. 

And tomorrow I’m supposed to start the day at the community college for my farming seminar.  Neither school will miss me. Probably.

The walk from school to the old courthouse is about a mile, all sidewalks. The problem would be if Zia, Mimi, or Pop were out doing errands; but we figured maybe not that early: coffee, crosswords, other early morning chores, stores not opened.

I continue my itinerary: The hearing is at 10:00 in room 13L. Once I get by the metal detectors, I walk along the main corridor until I see an arrow pointing down to a three-step staircase which I take and then go to the right once I’m at the bottom.  There are no trials going on, but there are lots of “short calendars” which means many lawyers will be there with clients which means we’ll have a crowd cover. If I feel watched, I can say, “Hold up Auntie Bea!” This will make it seem that I’m with the group in front of me, or some such.

But, one glitch, Isabel. Oliver carries the last two buckets into the barn. Unfortunately I’ll have to leave you at the door because the judge assigned to the Preliminary Hearing is Judge Welch.  Crazy, huh? It’s the same Judge Welch who did my emancipation hearings; he’d recognize me in a nanosecond. 

When I was little I had Mom and Dad read and re-read Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett and The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch. The Princess finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues the Prince, who wasn’t so charming after all. Treva outwits one troll after another. Both girls are brave, able, stalwart, and bounce back when thwarted, or so it seemed to little me. This is all to say that although my heart clenched when Oliver announces he can’t  go into the courthouse with me, I don’t need him. I’ll channel my inner brave girl book heroines.

Probably.

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#38. My school (a very out-side-the-box place) has an “inter-grade service” requirement. (In fact, this school is so cool it surprises me that they even use grade-level designations.) Oliver and I team up.

Oliver walks home with the twins and me today. Fall baseball practice was canceled and the two of us need help. We’re having milk and warm brownies in the breakfast nook. Mimi is elbow-deep in the sink, scouring brownie pans.

While I break off the crusty edge pieces, I do a come-over wave to Mimi. MimiI’ll dry later.  I pat the empty space near me in the nook. Come sit. We need mature guidance.

Mature guidance? She chuckles. 

(Then I realize Mimi might be thinking “uh oh, more on explicit lyrics?” She shouldn’t be insecure about handling these grown-up issues with me.  Read her comment to  blog entry #37; it’s SO wise.)  

She fits the last pan on the drying rack and sinks down next to me. What’s up, Isabel?

I tell her about the buddy program. Oliver and I are assigned to this little boy. I look to see if Oliver wants to pitch in, but he and the twins are wolfing down their second brownies.  (They don’t “edge-munch.”) We don’t know if it’s going to work out.

While still chewing, Oliver speaks. (Brownie goo is smeared on his front incisor and canine tooth.) We  think our teachers must have matched Isabel and me deliberately with this little fellow. This sort of pairing is done like this. (Of course he’s read a Pinterest article called “Buddy Programs: Pitfalls and Procedures.”)  The guys who like race cars get little guys who like race cars. The girls who always wear frilly dresses have little girls who have frilly dresses.

Balderdash, I think.

So Isabel and I share this one kid, Arturo.  We’re the only ones who share.

Is it because they had one too many older kids to be mentors?  Mimi asks. Because Isabel registered after they figured out numbers, or something like that?

I answer Mimi. That’s what we thought until we met Arturo.

Mimi! Oliver gulps his milk, swishes it a bit, and swipes his mouth with his kerchief. (The brownie goo is gone.)  Mimi, I think it’s because the teacher knew it would take two smart, exceptional, resourceful, self-starter types.

I smirk, but Mimi nods. Oliver is serious.  Really, he shakes his head. This assignment is difficult!

Why is that? Mimi asks.

He won’t talk, Mimi, I say.

Won’t talk or can’t talk?  Mimi asks.

Won’t, says Oliver.  His teacher said he’s an “elective mute.” That means he’s decided not to talk anymore. 

So, hmmm, says Mimi. Your little buddy–Arturo, right?–something happened to him? A trauma?

ISABEL SCHEHERAZADE (buddy, sister, friend, student, grand-daughter, talker, blogger. And orphan)

PS.   To be continued.  Right now, we’re all going to the twins’ soccer game—even Oliver and Zia. We’ve knit ourselves into one family it seems. I like it: Brother Oliver. We all call Miss Mary “Zia” now too. At the game, Sam and Clyde will make us happy. They race around like swarming bees, sometimes near the ball, sometimes forgetting the object of the game completely. Dear boys. Since meeting poor Arturo, I look at Clyde and Sam with more indulgence or maybe it’s compassion; I’m glad they didn’t “elect to mute”—not that we can understand what they’re saying very well, but at least they’re trying.

While the soccer kids scrum and roll about, I catch Pop up on Arturo.  Does ANYONE have NO problems? I wail.

Pop rubs his chin and shakes his head, Now Isabel, that wouldn’t be very interesting, would it?

Isabelcurlyheadfrombackonchair

#35. Emotional anguish is anguishing; then a memory from the Way-Back seat helps me deal with a Front-Seat, classroom challenge. Magic again?

Mr Grim asks me to help Joe who somehow didn’t learn long division-with-remainders way back when you’re supposed to. He’s been home-schooled up until this year and, although he can do the “mad minute” drill-and-practice basic division facts sheets in less than a minute, long division is a quagmire for him. This is a problem (pun intended!!) because Joe is going to need it in order to understand our pre-algebra topics such as integer arithmetic, simplifying expressions, and solving equations.

What happens next occurred the morning after Pop told me we were not going to the Preliminary Hearing. I was in turmoil, so much so at first I didn’t think I could push this turmoil aside to focus on Joe.

Suddenly Mom shows up in the Way-Back seat of my memory, or whatever this magic thing is that happens to me now. And I get a crystalline recollection of how she taught me long division:

My teacher’s introductory long-division-with-remainders-lesson was as clear as mud. The whiteboard was a mash-up of arrows and tiny numbers and cross-outs. Her “magic” erase marker ran low on ink early on, causing the digits to get fainter and fainter. And the squeaking! It was deafening. I admit that this squeaky marker distracted me from the lesson. Is the squeakiness from static friction being broken and reestablished as she scribbles more and more feverishly?  I wondered.  Maybe the solvent in the marker tip isn’t working or mixing with the ink so it doesn’t lubricate it enough? Also distracting me was the teacher’s constant calling to us over her shoulder that this was our grand “journey into long division with remainders!” To make matters worse—this is hard to believe because I’m relatively short for my class now—I was the tallest girl in my class that year. (I hope I haven’t had my last growth spurt; you only have 4 in a lifetime.)  My tallness kept me in the back row behind a hefty boy. I couldn’t see very well.

When I get home that day I tell Mom Long division with remainders! I don’t get it!!

No problem, Isabel. She pats the couch cushion next to her and says, Come, sit. I’ll show you a trick. 

She flips to an empty page in her notebook, licks the tip of her pencil, and writes “Dad. Makes. Scrumptious. Brownies.” Remember this sentence she tells me, while underlining the first letter of each word. These first letters will remind you what to do in what order. D for Divide. M for Multiply. S for subtract, and B for bring down. (It’s called a mnemonic.) Watch.

Dromedaries are the main mode of transportation in the desert. (Mom loved exotic places.) They get very thirsty. She pauses to sketch a little pool of water surrounded by Dromedaries and palm trees.  At the oasis, this one-humped animal drinks twenty-six gallons of water in ten minutes, how many gallons can it drink in one minute? This is important for a Dromedary’s driver to know, just in case he needs to jump on his steed after only a minute of drinking.  She points to the words.  Dad. Makes. Scrumptious. Brownies. Divide. Multiply. Subtract. Bring down. She jots the numbers after each word. Answer?  2.6 gallons.

She writes out another problem. She hands me the pencil. Here. You do it. And she sits back and watches me, nodding. 

I write D.M.S.B  on the top of the page, lick my pencil tip, and use it to journey into long division with remainders.

I shake my head to get me out of this Way-Back seat memory into the Front-Seat of my classroom and Joe.

Ahem. Joe. I know a trick that’ll help you. It’s called a mnemonic. I pat the chair next to me. Come sit. He moves over, I begin.

I lick the tip of my pencil and write “Dad Makes Scrumptious Brownies.”  Remember this sentence, Joe.

While I underline D M S and B, Mom’s words flow into my head as if through  invisible Bose Open Earbuds (The MSNBC ad says you can talk with your friends or hear traffic while at the same time listening to music if you use them. Dad used to watch a little Morning Joe before school. This is how I know some current culture.)

These first letters remind you what to do in what order. D for Divide. M for Multiply. S for subtract, and B for bring down. Watch.

Dromedaries are the main mode of transportation in the desert.  They get very thirsty. I pause to sketch a little pool of water surrounded by some one-humped desert creatures and palm trees. At the oasis…

I become Mom. The same script, word for word. Even my voice dips deeper like hers used to when she was being ultra-patient.

My student looks back and forth between me and the paper, putting two and two together, if you know what I mean. Mr. Grim is listening from where he’s perched, helping another student nearby.  So, let’s do another one together, okay? 

A caravan of six Dromedaries  is carrying 348 pounds of exotic rice to Egypt. (I do six stick-figure Dromedaries with bags draped in front of their one hump. As I sketch, to keep it informal, I tell Joe Dromedaries are the Arabian, short-haired camels that withstand the heat better than their two-humped cousins, the Bactrian camels.) The rice has been divided equally. Each animal carries the same amount of rice. What size is each  load? I tilt the paper towards him.

Joe licks his pencil tip, gets a grip, and writes out 348 divided by 6.  He whispers Dad and divides 34 into 6; makes and multiplies 5 times 6;  scrumptious and subtracts 30 from 36; brownies and brings down the 8. He stares at the 48 and says Dad Makes Scrumptious Brownies, and starts the process again. I watch and nod. He writes 58 and looks up, grinning.

We do a few more. Joe’s launched. He thanks me. Mr. Grim thanks me.  And I thank Mom.

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(sketches by my friend Ryan)

#33. Mimi and Pop’s Answer to My Question. (Don’t read this if you want to stay calm.)

Isabel. Pop points to the nook bench. Sit down. Now.

I cave.  Okay.

And Pop begins.

He uses his deep, serious lawyer voice. I never saw him during one of his trials (he took early retirement when we came to live here), but I picture him as an Atticus type, as in Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? That Atticus? (After my school reading group did the book, Pop took me to see the Broadway play last winter.)

He places his hands palm down on the table and smoothes the surface as if flattening invisible documents.  I want to explain what a preliminary hearing is, Isabel.

I give a whatever shrug*. 

Oliver has already described it to me, The preliminary hearing is when the judge listens to the police tell what the guy is accused of doing. While we curried Sir Isaac the other day, he explained how he’d gone to the library and read all the articles about the murder. He looked up preliminary hearings on Google and Wikipedia. He even watched old Court TV shows. Of course he has extensive personal experience from the emancipation court hearings.

But come to find out, Oliver doesn’t know the half of it. I sit straighter and lean forward when Pop says,  During the preliminary hearing the person accused of a crime pleads guilty or not guilty. It’s called “entering a plea.”

A plea, Pop? It sounds like “please,” so I make some guesses. Like he’s going to beg? My voice wears a sharp edge. Like he’ll say, “Please. Please. Don’t put me in jail and throw away the key just because I murdered two people.”

Pop raises his eyebrow. He hasn’t heard me talk tough before. Well, it’s new to me, too, but I’m glad.  It gives me courage,

No, it’s not like that, Isabel. Pop says. It’s when the judge tells him what he’s been charged with, and the man has the opportunity to say whether he’s guilty or not guilty.

Hit me with a brick, why don’t you; I’m that stunned. Like there’s a question? This guy is GUILTY. I grab Pop’s hands and shake them. Mom and Dad are dead, Pop. Or did you forget? 

As soon as I say this, I wish I could hit the delete key.

Isabel Scheherazade, tough-girl in training

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*PS  This shrugging business? Mom and Dad didn’t like it. They said shrugging is a form of non-verbal violence that doesn’t contribute to the conversation in a positive way. (They talked like that. I miss it. Well, I miss it now.) Mimi and Pop haven’t said anything to me about my shrugging. Yet. We’re still too new with each other.

#34. I, Isabel Scheherazade, am sorry I talked so tough to Pop and Mimi; but, um, I don’t think they get what’s at stake here, as they say in the movies.

I’m sorry, Pop. I shouldn’t have said that.

Although, I think they DO forget; not that they’re dead, but that they were murdered.

Murdered by this guy.

Pop gets up from his side of the breakfast nook and comes over to my side. Even though I’m not wanting him to hug me, I let him. I think it makes him feel better. I wriggle away after a bit. I don’t want to get softened up.

Pop says, We’ll get through this, Isabel. Don’t worry.

Get through this? I think. I don’t want to get THROUGH this. I want–what is it I want? I know. I want to GET this guy and put him in jail. Forever. I hate him.

I probably should say this out loud to Pop, so he understands where I’m at. But something holds my tongue, and all of a sudden I feel tired. My sad heart takes over for my mad heart. Mad gives me energy. Sad makes me tired.

Uh, Pop? I’m muffled because he’s hugging me tight again. I think he’s weeping. Pop? Er, I told Oliver and Zia I’d curry the mule for them today. Got to go.

As I run by the nook window, I see Pop consoling Mimi again, neither one remembering that  Zia and Oliver had told them I needed more tutoring before I could curry Sir Isaac by myself.

Isabel Scheherazade

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#30. I’M OUTSIDE AT SCHOOL, THEN THE FOUR SQUARE INCIDENT HAPPENS

Our school credo says recess is a planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. Nobody gets punished by depriving recess. (We have “Opportunity Room” after school to provide kids the “opportunity” to learn something they didn’t because maybe they made unwise choices.) Although all 200 students aren’t outside at one time, it is always a multi-age group. (All non-academic time is multi-aged BTW: lunch, gym, music, art, special projects, community outreach.) At recess students are encouraged to rest, play, imagine, think, move, socialize, or loiter; for me this means sitting on a bench near the Four Square Games area. 

The Clyde episode is all solved, and I’m  worn out; non-emergency times show me how much I’m powered by the fight or flight chemicals. (I know. I know. This is not healthy. Mayhap, as Dad would say, corrosive to your innards.)

Back to the Four Square game in progress nearby. I used to like four-square, but now I slouch on this bench, hiding behind my curly “wild” hair. (I forgot to scrunchie it today.) Each time a player hits the ball to another square, this player exits the square, and the partner jumps in.  I’ve been half-listening to kids yelling Outside! Inside! Outside! Inside!  Four kids stand in the four squares, and a line of kids, ready to jump in when a player goes out, wait outside the squares.

I haven’t played since coming to Mimi and Pop’s. I’m not sure I could stand it.  Bench-sitting is better.  (If you believe that, I’ll sell you a bridge in the Sonora Desert.) Dad showed me the tricks with the game. In the morning before school, we talk tactics. What’s the Four Square scheme today, Isabel? he says.  In Four Square it’s a rule that you can make up rules during a game. And it’s a rule that you can’t violate any of the rules. At breakfast Dad and I sketch the game court in the margin of the newspaper and diagram some tricky maneuver or rule.

Suddenly Oliver is in the game. His “Upper Grade” class has just come onto the playground. Most of them are hanging around the climbing wall, trapeze bar, belt swings and gym rings. Not Oliver. He’s in the Four Square game! I’m not sure how he finagled it. Hey! Wanna play, Isabel? The kids watch to see what I’ll do, not because Oliver is an Older Guy, but they’re looking to see if I budge, Isabel, the non-verbal, passive new kid. 

I step into square one.

My PAUSE button unpauses. The line re-forms, and that’s it; I play the rest of recess.

Walking home, it’s just me and Oliver—the twins have half-days for the first month. He asks me how long I’ve been playing.

It’s hard for me to gather the words to answer Oliver’s question. I get the Dad-is-Nearby feeling, maybe cupping his ear to hear me and placing his palm at my back to nudge me. I do not want to tear up. If Oliver goes all sympathetic and googoo-eyes, I might lose it. And then I’m going to want to be outside again.

I make a throat-clearing noise, checking my microphone to see if it’s working. My Dad taught me how to play when I started Kindergarten. We used to talk Four Square every morning.

Before, huh? Every day. Wow. 

Yup. Before. It was one of our rituals.

Tough.  Oliver’s been kicking a rock as we talk. Now he kicks it on the slant. I take it overWe make a plan to meet at Zia’s barn the next morning. Oliver, the twins, and me. We decide that walking along the pasture fencing will be more fun than the road. It’ll give us a chance to say hi to the calves, lambs, and Sir Isaac. (I’m getting “trained” to curry Sir Isaac on my own when Oliver has Fall baseball practice.)

Think we can figure out a new rule? Oliver asks.

Sure, I answer. Then I make my voice bigger.  Hey, we might even sketch it out.

I’m in.

isabelinchair

ISABEL

#29. What It Is About Miss Honey? It DAWNS ON me. Warning: this entry contains a pun, some Shakespeare, and a memory from the way-back seat. All good. I guess this COULD have been a PS to the Kindergarten Troubles entry, but it seemed to need its own space; it’s that important to me. Plus, Pop guessed it in his looooong comment on the last blog piece. (Make sure to read the comments, people!)

In my new bedroom (Dad’s old bedroom here in Pop’s house), my dormer window faces East, and every morning, after the sun clears the hemlocks, it beams into my window and floods me and my quilt with its rosy-fingered light.  I’m bathed in sun. I get a cozy bit warmer.

I’m dawned-on.

(Do you get this? Dawn is morning’s first light? OK. OK.  Of course you get it. Right. Sorry. So, you know what I mean.)

I’m working on a comparison. Stay with me here.

It’s just dawned on me why Miss Honey seems familiar.

She acts like Mom. She bends like a gentle, sweet queen to hold each twin’s hand. She jog-skips like a marathon-gymnast-ice-dancer. And she smiles down at them all at the same time.

Dad used to say Mom was an Earth-treading star with the power to make light the dark. Dad liked to quote Shakespeare; he said this is one of the many ways Mr. Shakespeare describes beautiful ladies. It was one of Dad’s many ways to describe Mom too.

So, Miss Honey brings my memory of Mom out of the shadows. And, like the dawn’s early light, it warms me up. I’ve worried that I might forget Mom. Not forget-forget her, but forget what she looks like. Now I know it’s not gonna happen.

Back to Miss Honey: I’ll come right out and say it: I. Am. Happy. About This.  Or a version of happy. I’ll be able to scramble into the way-back-seat of my memory where Mom’s sitting, just by taking Clyde and Sam to Miss Honey’s classroom every morning.

Isabel Scheherazade (The dawned-on version of Isabel, that is.)

PS. Hmmmm. I might even reveal this to my very compassionate and sympathetic teacher, Mr. Grim—can you believe it, a teacher named “Grim?” It’s like having a surgeon called “Cutts!”  Mr Grim. Mr. Grim! Please excuse me from pre-Algebra.  I need to gaze at Miss Honey. I’m lonely for my Mom.

I never used to be capable of irony. I wonder if all the tragedy in my life is making me more inclined to indulge in it? I  have dabbled with it. Last year I started putting air quotes into my talk, maybe to throw shade on an idea or person? Dad warned me to beware the pitfalls of irony. It’s probably a good idea to say what you mean most of the time, Isabel. Is it because he worried that if I got into irony I would become fierce and bold…and carefree? Oh Dad. I miss you scolding me about using air quotes. I wonder: Is it possible to put the opposite of air quotes around the word miss?

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(sketches by my friend Ryan)

#28. The sadness table gets set up in an unexpected place: outside Clyde’s Kindergarten room.

When Dad took me to swim lessons at the YMCA, the first week I was fine. But the next week I hold onto the parking meter and bawl my eyes out. I didn’t know that Going-For-Swim-Lessons was something that happened over and over!  Clyde is confused in the same way too.

Well, Clyde, says Pop. You see, it’s like this. You have to go to school EVERY day.

Clyde’s face falls like a popped balloon. He whimpers; but, what he says next breaks my heart. I want Mommy! I want Mommy!

I’m finding out that my family’s sadness meal is a long one. And the table gets set up in unexpected places. I’m pretty sure we kids have never actually said “I want Mommy” out loud since she was murdered.

It gets real quiet in the hallway.

Just then Sam bursts out of the other Kindergarten room with his teacher, Miss Honey.  (I’m not kidding. Her name is Miss HONEY, just like the teacher in Matilda, the teacher we all loved and wanted, the protection from Miss Trunchbull’s Chokey!) I squint my eyes as they approach. There’s something familiar about the way they look racing up to us, hand in hand. I can’t put my finger on it, though.

Sam lets go of Miss Honey and takes Clyde’s hand. They turn to face the rest of us with that we-twins-against-the-world stance. Clyde already seems braver with Sam next to him.

Good. Well, then. Pop stands up and takes charge. Here’s what we need to do. The principal looks like she’s going to say something, but Pop–this guy is so cool, he could calm a barracuda that hasn’t eaten in a week–he just keeps talking. Clyde and Sam need to be in the same room. 

When Mimi and Pop registered us, the principal said that it would be “inadvisable” to have the twins in the same classroom. “Twins need to learn to be on their own,” she lectured, like we were school kids. Well, I AM a school kid, but Pop and Mimi? I mean, really. They’re old!

Pop clears his throat. He’s got an Abraham Lincoln look about him anyway, but right now he’s awesome, more like the Lincoln Memorial. I’m sorry. I should have insisted on this earlier. Someday Sam and Clyde can be in different classrooms.  Right now, however, right now? They need each other.

And that was it.  Miss Honey takes Sam and Clyde by the hand, and they head back to her room.

And, sigh! I head back to mine.

-Isabel Scheherazade

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(sketches by my friend Ryan)

#27. Wherein I begin the sad tale of little Clyde. ( He’s the twin whose cowlick swirls to the right. Sam and Clyde are mirror image twins.) Pity party hereby ends.

No! No! 

As soon as I recognize Clyde’s caterwaul coming from down the Lower Levels hall,  I’m out of my desk and through the door.  It’s my brother, I yell over my shoulder to the teacher. He needs me.

Get away! Get away! Clyde has plastered himself against the wall outside his kindergarten room.  He swings his arms at a scrum of grown-ups trying to grab him.

He’s like one of Zia’s calves surrounded by the coyotes. (I round the corner into the kindergarten area.) And I’m like Sir Isaac the guard mule. (I was enjoying this excuse to escape my class.) To the rescue!  (I  skid to a stop.)

His teacher, the principal with her big shoulder-pad suit, and the school secretary have him cornered.  I spy Pop’s head going by the outside courtyard window. The school must have called home, so I’m guessing the eruption started inside the room and then spread to the outside.

Like lava.

Pop and I reach Clyde at about the same time. When he sees us, he crumbles like a muffin.

What’s up, buddy?  I give him a hug, and he clutches me like a koala bear.

Hey, boyo, what’s cooking? Pop kneels so his face is close to Clyde’s. He’s the only one of the grown-ups that knows it’s important to be at Clyde’s eye level. Clyde tries to burrow into Pop’s quilted vest.

But wait, it gets worse.

You said I needed to go to school, Pop. Clyde gulps–he has the I’ve-been-crying-for-a-while rash and hiccups. So, I WENT. Yesterday!!

–Uh oh, I’ve got to stop writing and help Mimi. She’s just called up the stairs that she doesn’t have enough eggs for the french toast she’s making for our supper. So I need to run up the hill to Zia’s barn and rummage the nests!! (THIS is a different type of chore, don’t you think?)   I’ll get back to the story as soon as possible.)

Isabel Scheherazade

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(This is me sketched by my friend Ryan)

# 24 I like the idea of being a spinner of plates and stories. Here’s a Way Back story about how I got to be a plate spinner; I’m still working on the story-spinning.

Running away ISN’T in my game-plan (right now at least); but, if I did run away, I’d join the circus. I could be a plate spinner. (The Ring Master would announce me this way: Isabel Scheherazade, Spinner of Plates and Stories.)

I can spin two plates on two poles; Dad and I were working on adding one more—three poles, three plates. I stopped breaking plates once I understood how the physics of  how to keep the plate twirling, and…um…also when I switched to brightly colored, glow-in-the-dark plastic spinning plates.

Here’s how it works: Plate spinning, according to Dad, relies on the gyroscopic effect. To help me understand gyroscopic, Dad and I lie on the floor and watch a toy top. It spins from the side, Isabel. When the energy’s on the right side, the top’s heavier on that side and tries to fall over. But! It doesn’t because the weight moves to the left side and tries to make it fall that way. 

I watch so hard my eyes almost crack. I say to Dad,  And that keeps it upright?

Until the friction between the top and the wood floor slows the spin–see, it’s wobbling left to right now?

The top fell over, but I got up and spun my first plate!

Dad was a good explainer.

I tell Pop how Dad’s description of the gyroscopic effect helped me.  We’re watching Clyde and Sam get their tops spinning. Pop tells me he’ll try to follow Dad’s example and explain things.

You could start with explanations about HEARINGS, Pop, I almost say. But don’t.

Since Dad’s murder, I haven’t practiced plate-spinning—I’d need to practice if I ran away to the circus—but I like using the plate-spinning metaphor whenever I’m feeling burdened with chores, which I’m not really.  For sure I’d never consider emancipating myself. Poor Oliver.

 Isabel Scheherazade

isabelcrossleg2

(sketches by my friend Ryan)

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