Rocks Fell On My Head

By: Train Schickele

I did not know what I was supposed to do.

“Excuse me … Ms. Corgan, what are we suppose to do?”

The most hateful glare I had ever seen arose from her desk. She had black tuft for brows and old, serpent eyes, pointy lips and angry looking creases in her cheekbones. Red-nailed claws wrapped around her pen like a scorpion. I felt vultures perched in the corner of the classroom, hungrily stretching their necks over my young corpse. By her veiny hands, a bright, red apple made of clay sat on her desk. It matched her nail polish. I wondered if she made that apple. And did she have gold leaf in her earrings? A shiny bronze pendant beneath her earlobes made me think about a statue in city hall, and I began to think how city hall wasn’t that—

“Do you listen? I have said what to do three times.”

Her voice was not soft. It was raspy … or choppy. It was a coarse voice, but not as bristled as it was stern. Her voice stabbed me. I began to answer, choking between my chest and eyes, stuttering for an ans—

“Class!” she called.

Every 2nd grader from planet Earth turned their head to look at me, the peasant, shivering in front of Ms. Corgan’s throne.

“What are we suppose to do?” she crowed.

The class answered in unison like a lifeless children’s chorus. And I could not hear them. I could not understand. I listened hard. I listened close. But I could not translate the words. I was crying. But no one could see that.

I turned back to Ms. Corgan in hope that she would repeat the directions once more. Her face had grown darker, and when I saw her spearing glare, a most hateful glare, I turned on my heel and walked to my desk saying,

“Oh. Oh yeah. Of course.” And yet,

I did not know what I was supposed to do.

I clasped my hands between my legs and hung down my head, dripping tears on the waxy-wood table. Ms. Corgan would sometimes tussle the hair of her students. If I could have this blessing, all my life tasks would become trivial. I wanted to make her proud—to impress my greatest fear.

The corner of my watery eyes spied around the classroom. Angelica had construction paper. I could hear scissors clipping. I saw the butt ends of pencils and I could tell that Hayley was writing. We had put up paper screens to hide our work. Spying was never easy, but I had become good at it.

I took out some construction paper from beneath my desk and began to fold. A frog? A crane? I did not know how to fold animals. I knew how to make a paper airplane, but not a very good one.

        I began to fold after observing moving elbows. When the paper walls came down, my vultures spread their wings. The class had written nouns and verbs on slits of paper and folded them into little books. On my desk: a half-crumpled, one-winged, paper airplane. Angelica snickered and Cary, a girl with blue and orange hair, laughed out loud. I did not persist with my work.

        Ms. Corgan talked with me after class.

“This listening problem is really an issue,” she said, as I focused on the center of her nose. Could she notice that I wasn’t actually looking at either of her eyes? And could pigeons nest in her perfect, black shrub of hair? Wait, pay atten—

“Are you listening?”

I had dug my own grave.

“Yes.” I told her.

“What did I say?”

I had dug it very deep.

“…I don’t listen,” I said.

Ms. Corgan reconciled for something. But I could not hear what she said. I watched her pointy lips move.

        I left my paper airplane on the desk with only one wing. Inside the folds of the plane I had written: “I am sorry. I think a rock fell on my head. And it is hard to listen.”

        The next day, Ms. Corgan tussled my hair.

She did not know what she was supposed to do.

But she did the right thing.

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