General Fiction posted September 22, 2014 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 


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Lucille remembers Paul Croucher and relates school events

A chapter in the book FRIDAYS

Friday, Sept. 22nd (Part One)

by Fridayauthor




Background
Please see Author's Notes for summary. Thank you.
            Friday Number Six, September 22nd  (Part One)
           
            The world continues; my simple, pleasant little world of church on Sunday, five days a week with my exhausting little dynamos, my biweekly Wednesday gatherings of the hens, and Friday evenings with Mr. Anderson. I’ve taken to following my social evening by scribbling on these pages. I take my seaside walks, though shortened by the chilling weather and early dusk. In between, I look after my garden, talk to my sister Emily on the phone, putter about my renovations, and tuck in some reading. Who says living alone is a boring, lonesome existence? My mind-twin Amy insists it is.
      
            Mrs. Forsythe continues to peer out from behind her shade at any goings or comings on our street, although I fear the poor lady couldn't tell a gentleman caller from the corner lamp post, her eye sight is so failing. She is one of many in our neighborhood who is experiencing the silver years. Our street is peopled with ancients; I'm far and away the youngest, though the others are rapidly falling by the way side.
       
            There was an ambulance on Hawthorne Street when I returned from school on Monday; old Mr. Schulman who lived alone on the corner had taken his own life. I remembered him giving me candy as a child. His wife was living then. He was a jolly old soul, always smiling, but that was years ago. I can't recall laying eyes on him in ages, although I imagine he must have attended my mother's funeral. I don't remember him in all the confusion. I went to his viewing on Thursday, early to avoid any crowd, but I was the only one there.
      
            A frost finally stole into my garden last night, slaying my beauties left and right. The weak little petunias and beautiful dahlias succumbed at once, while some of my more hearty friends, the marigolds and snapdragons, will stagger on for a few more weeks. It's time for me to think about my spring bulbs, or there shan't be any color when the snow finally melts.
        
            I was a snapdragon myself on Tuesday when I caught a sixth grader terrorizing my Bobbie Lopez to tears. I marched the offender by his collar, (wishing it were his ear,) down to Mr. Abelard's office, where I insisted the bully be treated harshly. I managed to scare the dickens out of the boy, and, I fear, our principal, as well. Mr. Abelard seldom sees my rage which is nearly always buried deep within me, but nobody messes with Miss Peabody's second grade angels, without being burned by the fire of her wrath.
      
            I am an anomaly at Whitcomb Elementary School. I say almost nothing at our frequent teacher's meetings, socialize not at all with my fellow instructors, and have no ambitions beyond my second grade classroom. In spite of this I suspect the other teachers dislike me as I do far more for my pupils than is required. I neither do this, nor mention it here, to shine a halo on my head; I do it because I love the tiny tykes and many of them have little in their home lives. Mrs. Bartlett, the third grade teacher, who has a large family of her own, possess the strongest dislike of me. She believes, which is her unquestioned right, that her job is from bell to bell, and her charge is to teach her pupils what is prescribed and nothing more. However, graduating second graders entering her room have received much more in my class and are disappointed when reaching hers. Unfortunately, this causes animosity. I have tried to come up with a solution that will work placidly with both philosophies, but have been unsuccessful. Mr. Abelard would like to say something to me but doesn't dare as most of the parents support me, and I believe he is afraid of the results, not knowing what my reaction might be.
       
            The enrollment at Whitcomb has changed appreciably since I began teaching. Fully one third of entering children either know no English or it’s their second language. Their parents, like most of our ancestors, are recently arrived immigrants, pioneers from frightful poverty. Now they arrive by plane or bus and not by steamer. Neither group had carfare to move further into the land of plenty so they settled in our coastal cities. It is a difficult life for a first generation. I feel it is important that their children learn quickly, enabling them to plant a firm and confident foothold in this wonderful country.
        
            This week is the anniversary of the death of my father and as is my custom, or perhaps habit, I boarded a bus to the outskirts of town to visit his grave. I dutifully said a prayer for his soul, and that of my mother, as long as I was in the area. She will get her own exclusive visit next spring, on her anniversary. I didn't tarry at the grave as long as sincere grief would dictate. I had little to say to father.
        
            Returning to the bus stop, I saw a marker near the gate that I hadn't noticed previously. It was the grave of Paul Croucher. It is strange how ghosts keep poking up their heads with frequency, after having been long ago buried, and not thought of in years.
      
            When I returned from church camp that summer so many years ago, I was still as bewildered as the Saturday one week before when I had left home, a tainted woman. I could hardly wait for Monday when I was sure Paul would meet me at our library rendezvous, and perhaps some sense would miraculously float forth and clear my mind, still troubled in spite of my soul-cleansing confession. But Monday came and went, followed by Tuesday and the rest of the week, all without a sign of Paul or his ever-present Chevrolet. Heart-sick and frightened, I couldn't make myself believe I’d been used and discarded. No, Paul was too kind a soul to do that. What happened was my fault for letting him touch me.
      
            I was a bad girl who had placed herself “in the near occasion of sin,” as church had so strenuously taught me. (I had overheard a school boy describe the term succinctly as going to a whore house with a hundred dollars in your pocket). But still Paul Croucher failed to contact me.
      
            It was nearly two weeks later when I heard quite by accident Paul was dead. It had happened while I was away at church camp. The event was of such local insignificance no one had mentioned it. In a moment of inattention he had run off the road, demolishing his beloved Chevy, crushing and ending his young life, against an unmoving maple. I had no shoulder to cry on, no one with whom I could mourn. Our time together had been limited to the two of us, without knowledge of another human being. I was again alone. I hid in my room and feigned sickness until I could bring myself to face the world without bursting into tears.
      
            Not only was I devastated, but to make matters worse, I was convinced I must be pregnant. While I’d suffered my period at church camp, I remained uninformed if that event assured me I wasn’t with child. This feeling was intensified when the time for my next period came and went. Finally, a thousand prayers and promises later, it arrived in a torrent, amid a sense of relief and sorrow; sorrow that what was passing through my body might be more than a natural flow; the last vesture of Paul Croucher's final grasp for immortality. I never told a soul. Whatever feeling I had for the first person who kissed me, was so tattered and confused, I forced the thoughts out of my mind, as if in so doing the entire episode could be relegated to having never happened.
 


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Lucille age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her motherâ??s death, she is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted an invitation to have Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She is becoming comfortable with this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy.
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