Mike had just settled into his desk in the one room prairie school-house he’d attended since grade one. It was the middle of September, and he felt like he was beginning to feel settled into his new grade, grade five. His best grade had been grade one, because then he had sat next to the windows of the huge classroom. Now, four grades later, he was in the middle of the room and the windows seemed a long way off. But, they were huge and so he could still enjoy the prairie sky, the ever changing clouds and the vastness of the universe.
But on this morning, he didn’t need to wait for the teacher to get to his grade before actually paying attention to her. He was brought out of his window watching with a start, for he suddenly heard the
words, “art contest!”
His body jerked into an upright position in his desk, his head snapping toward the teacher, eyes and ears riveted. He was not sure if he’d heard everything but she mentioned that the theme was healthy bodies….she repeated herself for emphasis, “Remember, everyone, the theme is ‘healthy minds, healthy bodies’.”
Immediately, he went into overdrive. He began flipping through his mind, seeing pictures relating to minds and bodies…healthy ones. Very healthy ones. Meanwhile, he could hear the teachers voice in the distance giving details like giving details, like the grade categories, his being grades four to six. ….Hmmmm healthy bodies….images came and went. Then he heard that October 30th was the deadline and all had to have their artwork handed in by that date. Oh, and also one per student.
There was more, but her voice disappeared completely when suddenly the image of his picture he’d made of a woman which had been inspired by what he’d seen through the mirror, while trapped under his mother’s bed. It was his best work, but he realized of course that this was a drawing he could never use for the contest. Whenever he thought about it, his pain returned. He still wondered where it was, who had it and where would it show up and embarrass him to no end. End his life as he knew it.
But there were other works of art in the sketchbook which he could use for the contest. Perfect for the theme. It had gone down the row of boys in the pew and disappeared! Drawings, perfect for this contest had been in that sketchbook. For all he knew it was probably destroyed by now. He could see it, ruined in some garbage dump. For the fact was that if anyone like a pastor or janitor from the church had found it, that’s where it would go, he was sure!
“What if it’s not “lost”! What if one of the guys still has it!” he whispered to himself. He turned sideways in his seat facing his best friend Frank across the isle, he whispered, “We have to talk,”
motioning for him to come as he rose walking down the isle as if he had to go to the bathroom. Frank understood, counted thirty seconds and also left, crouching a bit so it looked like he really had to go badly.
When Mike, waiting in the basement saw him coming down the steps he led him into a cramped hiding space behind the furnace. When they had squeezed themselves in Mike began, “Do you think one of the guys has my sketchbook?” he blurted out in a whisper.
“What do you mean?” Frank blurted out. “Shhhhh…”hissed Mike, “I mean the the sketchbook that got lost at the church. I think maybe it wasn’t lost, I think it might have been stolen and that
one of the guys still has it!”
“Wow, that’s so great, let’s just ask him for it and he’ll give it you you….” His whisper faded away to nothing. Mike just looked at him with that look of “Can you hear yourself…do you know what you’re
saying?” But of course he said all that, just by looking at his buddy.
“Yea, you’re right Mike, by the way I do have an idea, let’s start with the guys that sat at the far end of the pew, beat every one of them up, one after another and the guilty guy will confess!” he broke into a snicker!
Mike cracked up, convulsing in squelched laughter, losing his balance. Crouched in the cramped space he fell against the side of the furnace. The metal gave way bending with a dull bong, but when he regained his balance taking his weight off the tin it came back with a loud “twang” which seemed to reverberate through the whole building. They both gasped waiting in silence for what might happen next. They could hear the teacher voice go on upstairs. Their smiles and laughter returned.
“You better get back up there.” Frank whispered as they began inching their way out from behind the furnace. “We have to make a plan,” Mike said straightening up, “Let’s talk Sunday when you come over, ok?”
Mike hurried back up the stairs.
More often than not, their two families visited one another on Sunday afternoons. Mike and Frank were third cousins, so it made sense that their parents would spend time together. On this particular Sunday Frank and his parents ended up at Mikes place.
After lunch, Mike decided that since they had to talk, they would go to a private place behind the barn. Frank had been here before and could not wait because he know this was where Mike stashed his
home made swords and they could practice sword fighting without being found out. The swords were not really swords, but metal piping Mike had found in the blacksmith shop one day. Mike had spirited them away to this hiding place. Then he’d persuaded his sister Geraldine to join him in the art of sword fighting. Of course, in a few minutes he learned that their hands were vulnerable, so to make sure Geraldine would continue the “sword play” game with him he had “borrowed” some work gloves to provide protection for their hands.
In a few minutes they had their protective gloves on and were facing each other, swords crossed.
“So, Mr. Samurai warrior,” said Frank smiling, rattling his sword against Mikes, “How are we going to find your thief and get that sketchbook back?” He lunged forward, their swords screeching
against each other. They stood chest to chest their swords crossing in front of their faces.
Mike pushed off, they separated now circling, swords tapping. “We are going to be spies,” he said in a horse whisper. “We will check each cloakroom every day and eyeball each pile of books, check every bag, look under any coats, to see if someone tries to bring it to school secretly!” With that Mike made a move, attempting to swing his sword down and touch Frank’s thigh with it. Frank arched his hips away to the right, lowering and angling his sword down to stop Mikes swinging motion, the swords clanging together. Frank raised his carrying Mikes weapon up and they faced each other again swords crossed, breathing hard.
“Like the ‘Man Against Crime’ spy guy on TV who never carries a gun?” Frank asked. Mike extended his arm and sword, taking a
few quick steps towards his opponent. Frank mimicked his move, stepping back exactly the same number of steps. They did this a few times, like linked dancers, back and forth, always staying the same distance away from one another, their swords tapping and scraping together.
Then Frank just ran at Mike, sword extended. Mike backed up, jumped sideways to the right, raising the tip of his sword and pushing Frank’s sword out of the way to the left as he run by him. “Exactly,” he said, “we will be undercover secret agents, and no one will be the wiser!”
They heard Mike’s mother calling them in for desert. They needed no second call, stashing their weapons they were on their way, playfully pushing each other’s shoulders as they went.
To be continued.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” Roman’s 12:17
Winnipeg MB September 2013