Excerpt 20

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Lonely after Nancy moves away, Debbie starts a summer nursery school in her backyard. She discovers quickly that preschoolers have a variety of personalities. Right now, it’s snack time.

Out of the contented silence comes Angela’s strident, prissy voice. “What’s wrong with her?”

Krista, on her way to joining the group at the table wobbles along, mostly on her toes, for her right heel never touches the ground, and her left foot occasionally flattens out.

I don’t usually get huffy when people ask an honest question about Krista, but  when someone puts the emphasis on “What’s wrong with her,” there’s a sneer attached.

I make sure to answer with a calm voice. “We don’t know why she doesn’t walk like most people.”

“And what’s wrong with her eye?”

Can Mom hear this through the open window? If I weren’t getting paid to teach this little snob something, I’d be in her face like I was in Jimmy Puglisi’s. But teachers are supposed to control their tempers.

I settle on a simplified scientific explanation. “The muscles in her eye don’t work right.”

“Eyes have muscles?” Terrence raises his arms in a strong man pose, and the other kids laugh. Class clowns can be a blessing.

Little Sherri slides off her bench and walks around the table to stand by Krista. She reaches up to caress my sister’s face. “Baby,” she says with all the tenderness of the Virgin Mary gazing at her newborn Jesus. The first words Angela’s little sister has spoken all day. Bless you, Sherri.

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