“Mizzuss Carter, what are we supposed to do with this great big book? The one that won’t fit under our desk?” Gladys asked still hopping up in down in her chair.
Mrs. Carter reached over and picked up a large thick big book off her desk. She held it in both hands and declared “Class, and Gladys, this is the MOST important book in our stack. It is the one you will use the most. You will need to keep this book on your desk or under your desk at all times. So make sure you take great care when you apply your cover to your book. Write your name in LARGE printed letters on the front and back as well as our class room and your teacher.”
Gladys hefted the book in her hand and opened it to the middle. It looked well worn but pretty boring. She sighed shut the book and pushed it to the side of her desk. She looked around the room at her fellow pupils and saw that they too were nonplused by the bulky volume. She shrugged and took a piece of brown paper bag from her stack and began tightly wrapping the book. She took her blue green, lemon yellow, and magenta crayons and began designing her name in on the cover. She wrote out each letter in one color then outlined it in the next making sure that her name could be read while still having flair.
Mrs. Carter was groovy that way. She let them be artistic and let their creativity shine. She didn’t mind that Gladys drew horses on every piece of paper that was available or that she cut daisies out of construction paper like her cool older cousin Bird had taught her. All of her cousins were very artistic and creative. Gladys’ whole family was innovational. They were painters, writers, musicians, singers and creators. Gladys tried hard to immolate them. She knew she did not have their natural ability but that didn’t stop her she still tried. So she drew a few more flowers and then drew a horse eating the flowers for good measure.
The day wore on what with all the book covering and paste eating. Finally it was getting close to the end of the day when there was a squelch from the loud speaker the National Defense siren began to wail.
Mrs. Carter raced to the front of the room and announced sternly “Everyone, we will be exiting out the front door into the interior hallway of the main building next to the cafeteria. I want you to pick up your Social Studies Book, the big thick book under your desk, and bring it with you. Now we will start with the row the farthest from the door, quietly walk single file and do not stop on the way. Gladys, you need to make sure the room is clear since you are the last one on your row. Can you do that?”
Gladys stood up straight and tall and nodded in the affirmative. She furrowed her brow and watched as each of her classmates filed from the room. She shifted the large manuscript feeling it heavy in her hand. She walked to the door stepped out, then stepped back in and switched off the lights because her daddy taught her to always turn the light off when you leave the room. Ready Kilowatt didn’t like it when you wasted electricity.
She followed the snaking line of children pushing and laughing happy to be out of the classroom for even the few minutes that the emergency drill would take. Gladys looked up in the sky and noticed that it wasn’t the normal clear blue, nor was it even the gloomy grey that sometimes takes over the sunshine in September. It was instead a menacing green. The clouds churned overhead like a bubbling pot of stew. The air had a tinge of cold and the wind had started whirling and whipping.
She turned to see the wind catch the door of the portable classroom and nail it against the wall. It was blowing so hard that Gladys was glad she had the gigantic book in her hand to help weight her down.
She made it into the building in time to see Principal Ledbetter giving everyone instructions to huddle in the hallway and place their books on the back of their heads. Gladys fell in place next to her friend Esther and whispered “It looks bad out there. I think there might be a tornado.” As if on cue there was a loud clacking and banging on the roof of the building. They could see the lightening and the crack of thunder. A huge pop and poof the lights went out. Gladys cowered lower on the floor with the heavy weight of the book on her neck.
Mrs. Carter came and checked each student making sure they had their book on their head with their name and class visible. “Alright, class I want you to remain calm and quiet until we give the all clear.”
It seemed like an eternity that they crouched in the hallway but eventually the horn sounded and the announcement came to return to their classrooms. Once again everyone filed from the building and Gladys tailed behind. She was lost in her thoughts about what had just transpired.
Could it be that the only thing that stood between her and the torrent of Mother Nature’s turmoil was a binding of facts of faraway places? This large manuscript was her protector and benefactor. It was all so clear now. This is why they wrapped it tightly. This is why they wrote their names on it. It clearly had magic powers that protected her from anything bad. She knew then that she must possess one of her own to carry with her always.
That is why to this day Gladys still owns a very large manuscript with facts of faraway places as protection against all of life’s ills.