“Write. Your. Test.”
The teacher hollered. But of course the boy couldn’t. In the middle of the test, just when he needed it the most, his wily little stub of a pencil had slipped out of his chubby hands and fallen to the ground. And there it lay now, down in the ominous gloom under his desk.
The boy knew he couldn’t get it back now; Boo-Boo had the pencil and there was no way he was going in there after it.
But when the teacher screamed a third time, he could hold it in no longer. The tears swam in his eyes. “I…Ma’am…pencil…” he croaked in a barely-audible, squeaky voice.
The teacher saw the problem now. The boy’s pencil was on the floor. “Well, pick it up then. Go on!” she said crossly.
What? Pick it up? Is she crazy? The boy looked at his teacher like she’d just landed in a green jumpsuit and had one of those horrible antenna-things plastered to her head.
Doesn’t this woman know that Boo-Boo lives under the desk?
The very thought sent a fresh flurry of tears to his eyes and they brimmed over, threatening to drench his shirt front like they had last year, in Junior KG.
The boy summoned his courage and tried one last time: “Ma’am…Boo…” when he felt something scratch his behind. He looked down to find the sharpened lead of a long sleek pencil poking through his gray shorts. The girl stopped poking and held out the pencil to him. She always sat behind him but he didn’t know her.
The rest of the test passed smoothly. As he wrote, the boy held on to the new pencil for dear life, not setting it down even when he stopped to think or to rest his tired fingers.
Later he found the girl in the playground, a cheese sandwich waiting in the lunchbox next to her. Without a word, he handed back her pencil. She looked at him and accepted it, then picked up her lunchbox so he’d have place to sit with her.
“Extra pencil,” she answered his unspoken question.
“Why did you give me?” he asked.
She took a bite of her sandwich and swung her two pigtails right and left, making sure they were both still there. Chewing slowly, she thought over his question and finally reached a conclusion. “The teacher doesn’t know,” she said sagely, “But I also know like you. Boo-Boo lives under the desk.”
Oh, those two. Two decades on, they are my ideal of the perfect, happily-married couple. Perfect, that is, save for all that accumulated dirt under their bed. And under their couch. And under their table…