Monday, May 17, 2010

Original Fiction: An Apple for Miss Margaret

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any living person, place or thing is wholly coincidental.
Author's Notes: I wrote this as an assignment for my Long Ridge Writers' Course. This is dedicated to all those hard-working teachers who spend their time, money and effort in educating our kids.
Rating: K (G)
Word Count: approx. 1434 words

An Apple for Miss Margaret

Demetrius stared at the test booklet in front of him. The cover read "State Math Test, Grade 5." His name, "Demetrius Wells", was nearly printed underneath the title. The answer sheet lay next to the booklet. It was a confusing mass of filled-in circles, like random dots on a leopard. His hands shook as he stared at the sheet’s unbroken seal. Demetrius clasped his fingers together to hide the nervousness.

"Eyes up here, please," said a pleasant voice.

He brought his eyes to the front of the room. Miss Margaret stood at the front of the classroom, all in her radiant glory. She glanced up at the clock and said, "You may open your test booklets and begin."

There was a rustle of paper as the children did so. Someone coughed in the back of the room. A pair of girls twittered like a pair of frightened magpies. Then all was quiet, save for scratching of number-two lead pencils on answer sheets.

Miss Margaret noted the time on the chalkboard. "Start: 8:30. End 9:15." Then she started up and down the narrow rows, checking her students. They all bent over their papers, eyes riveted to the black and white text.

Demetrius was not so distracted. He kept one eye on his test. The other eye followed Miss Margaret as she glided on her way. The long blue dress flowed over her slim form. A splash of freckles across her nose gave her a playful look. Her eyes glowed beneath wire-rimmed glasses, bluer than a perfect summer ocean, with sunshiny sparkles on their surface. Her golden hair caught the glint of sunlight and shimmered like a halo.

Demetrius wished he could draw that lovely glow. He loved Miss Margaret. He was sure of it. She was pretty and kind and patient, even when he mixed up his b’s and d’s, his p’s and q’s. He dreaded the read-aloud hour every afternoon. Most times, he sank in his seat and hoped Miss Margaret would overlook him. Yet she called his name every time.

"Demetrius, the next paragraph, please," she would say.

"The boys decided to ride their bikes to the ice-cream parlor," Demetrius read. That was what he meant to say. It came out as "Da Doys decibed to ribe their bikes to the ise-krem parlur."

He knew it was wrong as soon as he said it. Shame colored his face a dark crimson and he hid it under his book. A horrible silence fell after his sentence, then the other students snickered at his raspy voice.

Miss Margaret glared at them and they fell silent. She brought her attention back to Demetrius. 
"Repeat it after me, Demetrius. ‘The boys…"

Tears welled up in his eyes. "The boys…" "…decided…"

"Good.. Demetrius, look at me."

Reluctantly, he raised his head. Miss Margaret gazed at him, those blue eyes to his dark ones. The other students held their breath and waited for the strike to fall. They shifted uncomfortably in their seats when she smiled instead.

"One more time," she repeated. "You can do this."

Miss Margaret repeated the words seven, eight times, until he got them right. After school, she sat him down at the long table and made him practice his letters. She held his hand, guiding his stiff fingers, and said, "Follow me, Demetrius. This is how you do it." They wrote the letters over and over until he got them right.

Sometimes, she allowed him to draw pictures to go with the letters. The letter "B" became a wooly bear with a protruding stomach. The letter "P", a self-important penguin. That was what he loved, transforming what he feared into something more familiar. He could draw people’s faces and animals. Miss Margaret pointed out it was almost the same thing.

"The letters are just like simple drawings," she said. "Characters in a comic strip or in a picture. Think of them that way and it will be easier." Demetrius knew he would never be perfect, yet he tried and tried. Miss Margaret never complained about the long hours. That made him try even harder.

A bell over the intercom brought him back to reality. Now there was another dilemma. 
Everyone had heard the rumors that Miss Margaret was leaving. Demetrius did not know why. He did not want her to leave. What would he do without her?

"You will grow strong, Demetrius," she had told him. "I only helped you on the right path. The rest is up to you." She was right, of course. She was always right, but his heart was still torn like a butterfly’s wing. How could he show her how much she meant to him?

He reached into his desk and touched the present hidden deep within: one shiny red apple and a note. He had labored for hours on that note, forcing his fingers to write words and sentences. "Miss Margaret, Thank you. I will miss you with all my heart. I will never forget you. Love, Demetrius."

Then he felt Miss Margaret’s eyes on him. Demetrius returned his attention back on his test. He struggled to make sense of it, not for his own sake, but for hers.

At nine-fifteen, Miss Margaret collected the tests. Another test waited for the students, and then another, up until lunchtime. In the general chaos, no one noticed Demetrius as he slipped his gift into her desk. Then he gathered his belongings and lined up obediently with the rest of his class. Soon, he was on his way to Mr. Petersen’s classroom and another torturous hour.


The next day, he overheard the other children. Miss Margaret had gotten a gift from a "secret admirer." No one knew exactly what it had been, but it waggled tongues. "Probably someone who wants a good grade," sniffed one of the girls.

"Teacher’s pet."

Demetrius’s ears burned with shame. How could someone think that a simple gift could be taken as a bribe? He had meant no harm. The cynical comments tore at his conscience. He kept his eyes lowered as he colored his picture within the neat lines. The only saving grace was that no one suspected him, Demetrius, at all.

The bell rang. He got to his feet quickly, wanting to flee before anyone suspected him. Miss Margaret dismissed the others but asked him to stay. Embarrassment made his thin shoulders tremble.

"Yes, Miss Margaret?"

Her voice held a note of wonder as she said, "I have been teaching for five years and no one has given me such a special present. Thank you, Demetrius."

Something within her voice made him look up. There was joy in those azure eyes, wrapped in some sadness, too. All at once, the tumult eased. He fell in love all over again, but it was bittersweet this time.

"I have something for you, Demetrius," she said. Miss Margaret pulled open her drawer and took out a box of charcoal sketching pencils. "Take these and do some good with them. I know you’ll be successful." She gave them to him. "You’re on your way, Demetrius, but it’s all up to you now. You don’t need me anymore."

He turned the box over in his hands. These were pencils he had never dreamed of seeing, much less owning. A sense of purpose filled him and silenced all the doubts. Miss Margaret believed in him and that was enough.

He straightened in newly discovered pride. "Thank you, Miss Margaret."

"You’re welcome, Demetrius. Now go to your next class. Mr. Petersen will be waiting." And she smiled at him one last time. As he left, he took that smile with him.


Years later, Demetrius sat in his studio, the charcoal pencils in his hand as he made the finishing touches to his latest work. It was simple: an apple sitting on a teacher’s desk, gleaming in a bright ray of sunshine through the open window. He smiled as he wrote his name and a special inscription at the bottom of the piece.

"Demetrius Wells. An Apple for Miss Margaret." Every word, every letter, was in its correct place and they said what he wanted to say. He turned the pencil in his hand and slipped it back into its box.

copyright 2006 by Annie Dameron

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