In fourth grade, my class took a train ride to New York City. We were going to see the Statue of Liberty, but my goal was to get lost from the group. You did this, too, right? Trying to lose the group and then see if you can find them again?
I was sitting on the train with the girls who planned to get lost with me. Mrs. Bryson, who always sat close to me, was waiting to stop the fun. The moment we started whispering, she split up our group of girls and sent me and my friend Donna to another seat.
I don’t know which of us noticed first, but Donna and I immediately looked at each other. She was about to crack up, and so was I. Because the woman sitting across from us may have looked normal at first in her Annie Hall suit and the silk scarf around her neck. Hair was covering half her face, sure, and it was a little stringy. But, see, there was something else. I had to look again to be sure.
Under the stringy hair, she had one very small and wrinkled eye. And when she turned toward the window, just enough hair moved so we could see her face was burned right off. All that was left looked like pink tree bark. We were taking it in, it was building within us, when out of her pocket, this lady pulled a package of M&M’s. She tore it open and poured some into her hand. Then she spoke. “Would you like some, girls?”
I don’t know who ran faster. Probably Donna. I was always better at the bar hang than the 50-yard dash. We ran the length of the train until we got to the cafeteria car. No one could have stopped us from laughing.
Donna, panting, said, “I dare you to go back and ask for an M&M.”
I can tell you that we did go back. Because Mrs. Bryson pulled us back through the cars, and she was so angry her hands were hot. She told us to apologize. So we did. And I took the dare. That was the worst, most burned-tasting M&M I ever ate.
We had no opportunity to get lost in New York because Mrs. Bryson held our hands the whole time and didn’t take us up to Liberty’s crown because there were too many stairs. When we got back to my elementary on a yellow school bus that evening, I looked for my parents among those waving to greet us, but they weren’t there. I panicked so much, I forgot my name and phone number and just sobbed at the back of the bus until Mrs. Bryson called home for me. I could still taste the M&M, and I felt small, every bit of me.
What I read this month: Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (Ho-ly man!!!!!); Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (I’m only halfway and definitely enjoying it, but find I’m not reaching for the book when I have free time); Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere (I read this to my kids, and we were all riveted, yet not really sure if we liked it, if that makes sense).
Ooh, can’t finish the wrap without bragging that I got to spend last weekend with my friend, Aurelio. Here we are in the LitPark hidden office. I know it looks like he’s not having fun, but we had a great, great day.
And here he is with his very awesome Chuck and my very awesome Steve.
Thanks to everyone who played at LitPark this month, and to my guests, James Spring and Amy Wallen of DimeStories. Thanks also to everyone who linked here: The Publishing Spot, Holding My Breath for the Next Thing to Come Along, Bliggidy Blog, Side Dish, Katrina Denza, Vonnegut’s Asshole, ModernityBlog, Books and Magazines Blog, The Chucklehut, and Suzan Woodruff. I appreciate those links!
See you first Monday of next month!