Another Writer's Round Table assignment. A couple of days late, but at least I am writing again!
The Education of Fred - First Day of School
Fred couldn't remember ever being this nervous. He could only vaguely remember his real first day of school, a fuzzy memory of new shoes and a box of crayons that he kept sniffing because he loved the smell. A smiling lady in a billowing flowered dress pinning a name tag to his shirt for some reason evoked a sense of embarrassment. Fred sincerely hoped there would be no name tags here tonight.
He walked up the steps of the community center, glancing briefly at the wrinkled piece of paper in his hand to confirm, for the thousandth time, that he was in the right place. Not that he could read much of what the paper said; that was why he was here tonight. He could read enough to find an address at least.
Pushing open the door, he walked into the harsh glare of fluorescent lighting. A smiling woman in a billowing flowered dress sat on a stool behind a counter, and Fred caught his breath for a moment. Then he shook his head and answered her cheerful greeting.
"Hello, I am here for the Adult Literacy class?" He said, uncertain of what reaction he might receive. Except for Molly, he had told nobody else of his ambition to learn to read and write. The knowledge that he was already a laughingstock for being unable to read had convinced him that it would only fuel the fires of ridicule for people to know that he was taking classes to learn how. The woman at the desk however gave no indication that anything was at all abnormal.
"Third door on your right down that hallway." She indicated with a hand heavily decorated with gaudy jewelry. Fred nodded gratefully and turned in the direction indicated. The woman's cheerful voice stopped him.
"You have to sign in sweetie... it's how we justify our funding from the county you know!" The bejeweled hand was now pointing to a sheet of notebook paper clipped to a clipboard on the counter in front of her. Fred swallowed back a wave of apprehension and came over to the counter. Of course he could write his own name and address, but he knew full well how juvenile his handwriting was and hated for people to see it. A pen was tethered to the clipboard with duct tape and kite string and he picked it up and started writing his name at the bottom of the list. The pen didn't work, and Fred scribbled in the margin trying to coax it to life.
"Oh, that darn pen! I don't know exactly why they keep quitting on me! Every time I put one out there, it stops working after two or three people use it! I must be cursed!" She laughed, a loud and awkward honk that startled Fred. He forced a smile and nodded, hoping that she would stop soon. She started scrabbling in a desk drawer for a replacement, and Fred looked at the pen. It was one of the cheap clear plastic pens that seemed to migrate at will through our civilization, and which also seemed to choose whether or not to work at their own discretion.
At least this time, Fred saw the problem. The duct tape which fastened the makeshift tether to the pen was covering the hole in the side of the pen designed to let air in as the level of ink inside went down. He may not know how to read and write, but Fred certainly understood the concept of a vacuum. He peeled the duct tape off the pen and scribbled in the margin again. Sure enough, after just a few scribbles the ink began to flow freely again just as the woman came over with a stubby pencil with teeth marks in it.
"Oh! You got it to work! It must like you or something!" Fred smiled and nodded, finishing his name and address on the sign-in sheet.
"I guess you just have to know which swear words to say." He said, handing the pen back to the woman. "And don't cover the air-hole with tape. Pens gotta breathe too." He smiled at her and she answered him with her loud, honking laughter.
"I guess you are right! Pens gotta breathe too!" She honked more laughter, as if this was the funniest thing she had heard in years. Fred smiled, and turned away towards the classroom.
© 2010 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved