The Spot Writers – “Just the Facts” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to: use these five words: facts, solved, attention, airplane, bubbles. Today’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of the YA Scarlet Letter reboot, The Scarred Letter, available this month only for only $2.99 ebook (Amazon) (B&N), or for 50% off the cover price directly from the publisher with code BRP3YEAR.

Just the Facts

By Val Muller

Jerry couldn’t believe he was here, picking up his own kid from the very same kindergarten classroom he had frequented so many years ago. And Mrs. Harrison was still there. He thought she would have retired years ago. Maybe even died. She seemed ancient when he was five.

But there she sat, sitting behind that same wood-worn desk, that same cheery, welcoming smile, those same red-framed reading glasses slipping down her nose. He felt small again as he entered the classroom, his hand behind his back gripping the book.

Buddy grasped his other hand, pulling him forward like an enthusiastic puppy. “Lookit what I made today!” he cheered, pulling his father to the almost-recognizable drawings of fruit, pizza, and sandwiches hanging on the wall behind Mrs. Harrison. “I drew the ice cream!”

Jerry ran his fingers through his son’s hair. “Looks great,” he said, but he wasn’t even looking at the drawing. He devoted all his attention to Mrs. Harrison, who still sat there smiling.

“I remember when that was you,” she said. Her voice sounded only a smidge deeper than he remembered, but it carried the same excitement as always. “Your first drawing was a bunch of colored bubbles. Your parents thought they were—”

“Balloons,” Jerry said. “I had forgotten about that. Mom and Dad thought they were balloons, and you helped me explain to them. They were colored bubbles.”

“From a different planet,” Mrs. Harrison added. “You always had such a vivid imagination.” She smiled again. “I always knew you’d be a writer.”

Jerry pulled the book from behind his back. “You already know?”

“I try to keep track of all my students.”

Jerry let go of Buddy’s hand. Buddy ran to the block section of the classroom and began stacking colorful blocks. Jerry shivered with the memory of building his own castle with those blocks—could it be those very same ones? He remembered building—

“A castle on an alien planet,” Mrs. Harrison said. “And the walls of the castle filtered the air for the aliens…”

Jerry looked at the cover of his novel. “Just like in my book.” Another shiver. How could a kindergartener have conceived such a concept? “I brought you a copy. As soon as I discovered you were still teaching here. In fact—” He fumbled with the cover. “I dedicated it to you.”

Mrs. Harrison took the book, smiling. It was the same smile she’d given him when he drew pictures for her, when he did math for her, when he volunteered to pass out the milk at snack time for her. He turned toward the door, but he didn’t call for Buddy yet.

“There’s one thing I always wondered about.” He still faced the door. “It was a day that I think changed my life. It was the day I became a sci-fi writer. I’ve played it over in my mind many times since childhood, but I can’t make sense of it. When I was a kid, I accepted it as part of the magic that makes up the kid-world. But I figured, maybe now the mystery could finally be solved.”

He turned to Mrs. Harrison. She was still seated behind her desk, but her smile seemed to have grown.

“One day, it was first thing in the morning, if I remember, we were having play-time, and you called me to the window. You took my hand, and you pointed out that the moon was still hanging there in the sky. It was almost a full moon, but not quite. You pointed up at it and told me if I looked really carefully, I would see something from another world. I looked up, and I swear I saw—”

Buddy looked up from his blocks. Jerry lowered his voice. “A spaceship.”

Mrs. Harrison raised an eyebrow.

Jerry felt his cheeks burn. “I thought somehow I was seeing a UFO. But maybe—probably—it was just an airplane. But I distinctly remember you pointing up to the moon and telling me to look. And then I looked down at my hand, and there were these three colored bubbles in them. Green, pink, and blue. The blue one popped first, and it smelled just like fresh air. Then the pink one popped, and it smelled faintly of chemicals. The green one popped last, and it smelled like ozone, I think, only I was too young to place the scent.” He searched her eyes. “Was that all in my imagination?”

She rose from her desk and put an arm on his shoulder. “Thank you for the book.” She walked him toward the door. “I like to think that all the creativity that happens in this classroom is all part of the magic of childhood. Don’t you?”

They both looked at Buddy. Jerry smiled and nodded. It was a silly question, but he was glad he’d asked. He’d always had the vague idea that Mrs. Harrison had been some kind of extraterrestrial creature. It was silly, sure, but so were lots of things in childhood.

Buddy took Jerry’s hand and started pulling toward the door.

“Thank you again,” Mrs. Harrison said. She held Jerry’s book in one hand, and she reached out her hand to shake his free hand. He shook and smiled. “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you lots this year.” She looked down at Buddy and then released her hand.

Outside, in the daylight, Jerry looked down. His hand was still warm from the handshake, and he examined his palm just in time to see the green bubble she had left in his hand burst.

He inhaled the familiar scent of ozone before he smiled and walked Buddy to the car.

 The Spot Writers- our members:

RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Kathy Price: http://www.kathylprice.com

 

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