Please Turn To Page Thirty-six
J. Smith

"P lease turn to page thirty-six of your readers and answer the questions at the end of the chapter." Tick tock went the clock. Elsie swung her feet. She was still too short for them to reach the floor.
"Elsie, page thirty-six, now."
Elsie swung her feet, marching with the click. She idly traced the words, "John was here in '85" carved into the desktop. A gray blob of wool appeared next to Elsie. She looked up into Ms. Hollie's scowling face, her golden hoops swinging out of time with the clock. Tick tock. A stray loop of stringy hair slipped down into Ms. Hollie's eye, looking suspiciously, Elsie thought, like one of her grandfather's fishing lures. On the other side of that hair was Elsie's name on the board with a check mark next to it, a familianr sight. That, with the one she would be getting now, would make ten so far that week. That meant another note to the principle that had to be signed by her parents, which definitely meant no TV for the rest of the month, probably the rest of her life. Tick Tock.
"Elsie . . ." Ms. Hollie's foot began to tap. Tick Tock. Elsie blinked and looked down and saw a stain from when she had jumped in one mud puddle too many last winter. Tick Tock. The slime green linoleum had chips and dents from years of third graders. Bits of faded bubble gum remained from half-hearted attempts the day before parent's night to make the room presentable. Tick tock. A crumpled up wad of paper hid under a leg of the teacher's desk at the front of the room, catching wild dust bunnies. It had probably been left there by the "John" who had carved her desk. By the other leg was the pink pencil Elsie had been looking for all week. Tick tock.
Ms. Hollie gestured to the front of the classroom, her nose pointing directly at Elsie's name on the board. Elsie looked up through her bangs pleadingly. Tick tock. Grudgingly, she slipped out of her seat and shuffled to the board. Elsie picked up a splinter of chalk, reached up, and added another strike to her name. Tick tock.

First published: June 1993