‘Someboby shot him,’ I wrote in my diary while biting my lower lip. My mother had
bought the journal for me. My mother thought I needed to write about current events,
to look back when I was older. Right, I’m in the third grade now, as if I didn’t have
enough to do.
For instance, every day when I got home from school, I liked to run down the hill
behind my house. My legs would go faster and faster until I reached the meadow. I
liked to twirl around in the soft grass. I’d do this until I was dizzy, then fall. And when I
finally got up, I’d look back at the imprint of where I had laid.
There were also dragonflies helicoptering about and creatures like bunnies that didn’t
have to go to school. Every morning, when I had to trudge up the hill to catch the
lumbering school bus, I wished I was a bunny. Bunnies got to stay home all day and
eat rice puffs.
Peggy Fletcher, who sat behind me in homeroom, told me that our teacher, Mr.
Gleason, had cancer. I’d heard of that once before. Peggy said he was going to die.
Later, at recess, I watched Mr. Gleason with his hands in his pockets as he stood on
the edge of the area covered with asphalt. Some mean person gave him playground
duty even though he was sick. I felt terrible that in his dying days, Mr. Gleason had to
watch Mark Withers and Sam Cooperman play tetherball.
The next day, I caught a cold. I became tired, and my nose started running. I had to
miss school. And even though I was probably going to die, my mother still asked about
my diary, “Did you write about Senator Kennedy?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I answered; “Three words, is that enough?”
“What were the three words?”
“Somebody shot him.” Then I closed my eyes and slumped against the couch, pretending I had just collapsed. My mother didn’t buy it, but I still got to stay home a second day.
When I finally got back to school, Peggy told me everything I’d missed. I guess Cory,
Cory Peters, who always raised her hand in class, spilled her juice at lunch. The candy
store closed for a day so they could count jelly beans; and Peggy’s next door
neighbor’s cat, Whiskers, got loose again. It seemed like I’d been gone forever.
In class, Mr. Gleason taught us about subtraction, and I wondered if he was ready to
die. Also, was it best to be surprised, or would it be better to know? Maybe it didn’t
matter either way, as long as you got to lie down and bury your face in a thick of
daisies, queen anne’s lace, and violets.
When I got home from school that day, I took out my diary. My diary’s cover was
gray, which made it look very official. The diary had a key, also, but what was the use?
My mother was always telling me what to write. I picked up my unsharpened yellow
pencil,and wrote about how many times I had to blow my nose and how many tissues
I’d taken to school. I figured that I would be interested in this when I was older. I also
wrote about how many Kleenex I had left after lunchtime. I was afraid I’d run out of
Kleenex, but I didn’t. I wrote that down and filled four pages. I wrote about how tired I
was and that was another page. When I was writing, my eyes narrowed a little and I
pressed my lips together.
Suddenly, I could hear my mother approaching down the hall with a click-clack-click.
She had just gotten back from lunch with the ladies. I could smell my mother’s perfume
even though my room was at the end of the hallway.
She had probably told her friends over cucumber sandwiches that her eight-year-old
daughter was an expert in current events. Then, I bet she added that I would probably
grow up to marry a man like the one on TV who told the news.
Then my mother burst into my room with her stiff hair and floral dress. Her perfume
made me cough. My mother was about to announce something and then stopped, “What’s the matter?” she asked, squinting her eyes.
“Your perfume,” I gagged.
“Yeah. It smells awful.”
“Mrs. White and Mrs. Collins complimented me on it.”
“Well,” I began.
“Did you write in your diary?” she asked, talking over me.
I sighed. I flipped the pages back to where I wrote ‘someboby shot him’ and quickly
added, ‘At the ambasidor Hotell.’
Cyndi Cresswell Cook is a photographer and short story writer.