Here it is getting on Thursday Eve and I decided to take a break from my studies to check on Theme Thursday. I have a hard time sometimes partitioning my time out. I have gotten so used to lollygagging around, don’t ask me why I’ve been gagging Lolly heck I don’t even know Lolly, that I am rusty at managing my time. Now all things being equal you would think I would be able to slot time each and every day to share one of my uber interesting stories with you. Alas all things are not equal, not in my life and not in yours. I looked around my little sitting area for some inspiration for equal. What is equal? I mean I know that 2 plus 2 EQUALS 4 but other than that what is equal? Now I could get all philosophical and ask you what the meaning of is IS but then I would be just like an ex-president who didn’t think he was equal in the eyes of the law. I could tell you about the sugar substitute that sits in my pantry in the little blue packet next to the big bag of Dixie Pure Cane Sugar. I could tell you about how the topography around my home town is equal. Instead I decided to share a story from long ago and far away. Read my pontification of equal, plus read the writings over at THEME THURSDAY. I’m sure Brian, Baino, Everyday Goddess and the rest will have plenty of Equal for your tea.
Gladys sat in the cafeteria watching as the two new kids were paraded around. Mrs. Perkins fussed and fawned over the interlopers. Gladys leaned over the table and whispered to Ima Jean “What makes them so special? Mrs. Perkidickydido is acting like they just fell from heaven or something!” Ima Jean kicked Gladys under the table and pointed over her shoulder. Gladys looked up in time to see Mrs. Fenwick eyeing her “Ms. McGuillicutty, we eat our food then we have time to chat.” Gladys averted her eyes and ducked her head “Yes, Mrs. Fenwick.”
Mrs. Perkins made her way to Gladys’ table and stood at the end. She cleared her throat and announced “students, this is Stella and David. They are new to our school and I expect you all to make them feel welcome. Now Stella will be joining Mrs. Fenwick’s class and I will need someone to help show her the ropes.” Gladys never one to miss an opportunity to suck-up raised her hand and jumped around in her seat trying not to shout out. Mrs. Perkins eyed the table up and down in the hopes someone other than motor-mouth Gladys would take Stella under her wing. Gladys cleared her throat and held her hand up as high as she could while still keeping her butt firmly planted on the chair, well at least most of it. Finally Mrs. Perkins pointed to Gladys and said “Stella, Gladys will help you get situated. I would just be sure she let’s you get a word in edge wise.” She then pushed the shy and intrepid child to her future.
Gladys stood up and scooted down to the next chair “Hi my name is Gladys. Your name is Stella. How come you got to come into school late? Why didn’t you come in when the rest of us did? Are you new to town or did you just move across town? Is David your brother? You don’t look anything alike. I have a big scab on my knee do you want to see it? Where were you born? I was found under a rock.” Gladys spewed words non stop for a good minute and a half until she finally had to take a breath. “Do you always talk this much” Stella asked looking at Gladys wide eyed. Gladys took a deep breath and began her next string of questions.
Together the girls stood up waited in line with their trays and went through the rest of the lunch-room ritual. Gladys talked the whole time while Stella stood staring at Gladys with awe. She walked right beside her as Gladys parlayed the latest gossip “that over there is Johnny. He was on his way to school one day and his sister was driving and the car went around the corner too fast and he fell out and had to have a bunch of surgeries and stuff but don’t say nuthin to him about it because he’ll hit you.” They walked past Ms. Marshman’s class “that is the second grade teacher whose husband went off to war and she doesn’t want to be called Mrissus no more. She is real nice though.” Stella stopped and stared into the class room at the young teacher with the white high heels and the big hair “I wonder why?” Gladys puffed her chest out and replied “well, don’t be tellin nobody but I think it’s cause she don’t like Mr. Marshman cause he left and went to fight over there in Vietkong.” Stella nodded her head and they walked on.
The girls got to class and Gladys walked up to Mrs. Fenwick’s desk “Mrissus Fenwick can Stella sit next to me? I can pull a desk over and she can just take Kurt’s place in the row. PLEEEEAAASSE?” Mrs. Fenwick looked a little nervous and then looked around the class “um, well Gladys, um I have a special desk over here for Stella. Why don’t you go to your seat and Stella can sit over here in her special seat.” Gladys looked around the room and in the back corner sat a lonely desk. “Why does she have to sit back there? Has she been bad? Is she one of them kids from the bad school or sumthin?” Mrs. Fenwick put her hand to her neck and fiddled with her pearls “Um, no, it’s just that Stella is different. I’m afraid some of your parents wouldn’t want Stella to sit in the middle of the class.” Gladys not being able to comprehend the inequality at play asked “Why? She don’t stink nor nuthin.” Mrs. Fenwick was now flustered and replied “Gladys go sit down. Don’t you be worrying about Stella. You go sit in your seat and try to be quiet.” Gladys shook her head “I can’t. Mrs. Perki, I mean Mrs. Perkins told me to take care of Stella and to show her the ropes. I got to take care of her. It’s my job. I promised.” Mrs. Fenwick coughed a little “Gladys, I will take care of Stella. It is my job.” Gladys started to protest but saw that Mrs. Fenwick was giving her the stink-eye. “Okay, but if I get in trouble with Mrs. Perkins I’m tellin her it’s your fault.” Mrs. Fenwick turned Gladys around “you do that Gladys.”
Gladys watched as Mrs. Fenwick guided her new best friend to a chair in the corner of the room. She watched as Stella took out the prettiest pink notebook she had ever seen. All Gladys had was a blue cloth covered one that had already been marked all over by her older brother. Well at least he was good at drawing cause he had some pretty funny pictures drawn all over it. He had pictures of that big eared guy from Mad Magazine with “Who ME?” written under it and flying dinosaurs and stuff. Gladys looked longingly at that pretty pink notebook and just sighed, Stella must be rich, that’s why she’s special.
The day ended with out much fervor and Gladys packed up her books. Mrs. Fenwick watched as her students filed from the classroom and noticed Gladys lagging behind. Stella yelled out to Gladys “Hey, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” Gladys smiled and waved back “okay! I’ll ask Mrs. Fenwick if we can be liberry buddies.” Gladys stuffed the last of her papers into her plaid book bag and headed toward the door. She stopped and turned back to Mrs. Fenwick’s desk. “Excuse me, can I ask you a question” asked Gladys as she lugged the bag toward Mrs. Fenwick’s desk. Mrs. Fenwick put down her red pen and turned the papers she was grading over “yes of course you can.” Gladys shuffled her feet and picked at her nail. “Um, why can’t Stella sit next to me? Is it because I talk too much? Is it because I was found under a rock? I mean if it’s that I have taken lots of baths since I was pulled from under the rock and I promise I don’t stink. Mrs. Fenwick I won’t even talk to her if you sit her next to me. It’s just not right that she has to sit away from the rest of us. I smelled her and she don’t stank. She smells good kind of like candy or something. Really I promise I’ll be extra good.” Mrs. Fenwick looked down at her desk and then back up at Gladys “oh, honey, you didn’t do anything wrong and neither did Stella. It’s just that our school system is desegregating the schools and well, she is different than the rest of the students.”
Gladys stood there for a second trying to comprehend what her teacher was saying. She just didn’t understand the words. “Mrs. Fenwick I don’t know what desecration means. I don’t understand.” Mrs. Fenwick took out a piece of paper and wrote down DESEGREGATION and then the words SEPARATE BUT EQUAL.
Now Gladys understood equal. That meant that it was all the same, but what was separate but equal? Mrs. Fenwick gave Gladys the paper and said “tomorrow when we go to the library I want you to look up these two things. I will help you if you need but I want YOU to discover their meanings.” Gladys clutched the paper with the magic words that would explain the meaning of life to her and she headed out the door.