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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 59: Takano 32
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That week Missus Billings was off on Monday for Labor Day, and she took Tuesday off because it was Tammy’s first day of kindergarten, and she wanted to be there for it. Tammy was in the morning session, and had to be at the school by eight, so it was an early night to bed on the holiday and an early morning on Tuesday. Tammy and Tommy had breakfast with Tammy’s parents, and since Missus Billings was not sure how long it would take they were out the door by seven fifteen (Tommy was getting used to the analog clocks, but still converted what she saw to digital time and still had a bit of trouble with the expressions “quarter after”, “half past”, and particularly “quarter of”) to walk a few blocks in the same direction as the park, but then to take a paved path that passed between two houses, through a small line of trees, and up a few steps to a huge paved playground surrounding a sprawling elementary school. They had to cross this to get to the entrance to the kindergarten, which was held in a large room that seemed to be a gymnasium with a cafeteria style kitchen at one end and a full-sized stage at the other, free-standing partitions which doubled as cork boards dividing it into separate areas for several different classrooms.
There were quite a few other mothers escorting children, with varying amounts of fuss and bother as they separated from them. Some, though, came with older children, apparently siblings who were old enough to walk to school by themselves. Having delivered their charge, as the crowd dispersed Tommy and Missus Billings returned home.
“She’ll be out in three hours,” Missus Billings said, “and we’ll want to be there to make sure she gets home all right.”
Tommy just nodded. It seemed strange to her--not because she didn’t think Tammy needed to be escorted home, but because when she was in kindergarten everyone came by bus. Even if you lived next to the school, the bus stopped in front of your house before taking you up the drive to the front door of the school, and returned you the same way. No one who lived as far away as three blocks would have walked; it wasn’t considered safe.
“I think,” Missus Billings continued, “you’ll have to walk with her and meet her to bring her home for at least the first two or three weeks. After that you’ll have to figure out whether she feels comfortable walking home by herself. We don’t want to embarrass her if her friends are all walking by themselves, but we don’t want her to be worried about walking alone.”
This did surprise Tommy. She had assumed that the reason for walking Tammy to school was to protect her from predators, kidnappers who snatched children. That did not seem to be a concern. Since she was sure that there had been such people even back then, she puzzled over it. Ultimately it struck her that either such snatchings were considerably less common back then, or people simply were unaware of them.
When they got home, Tommy looked around and asked, “Is there anything in particular you’d like me to do while Tammy’s at school--not specifically today, but generally? I mean, I could do my laundry once or twice a week, but I could do her laundry, or clean up the breakfast dishes and such.”
“Oh!” Missus Billings said, clearly surprised by the offer. “Well, any of that would be wonderful. The earlier morning trying to get her fed and off to school is going to make things more complicated, but if I can leave the breakfast dishes for you that will make my day run more smoothly. Do you know how to use the dishwasher?”
Tommy almost said of course she could use a dishwasher, but then it occurred to her that this dishwasher wasn’t going to have the computerized controls to which she was accustomed. “I guess they’re all a bit different, so you should show me how yours works, so I don’t make any mistakes with it. When she comes home, is she going to have homework?”
“Homework? Goodness no, she’s in kindergarten. Homework is for older students. Did you have homework when you were that young?”
“It’s hard to remember. I spent a while in Japan, and they give homework to four-year-olds there.”
Tommy realized that she had not coordinated her stories--not that she had said anything contradictory in the process, but that she had invented some parts for the Billings and other parts for the girls, and hadn’t fully integrated them. It was time to address that.
“Yes, my father is an engineer, and he was a civilian consultant on a U. S. military base over there for a while. I finished high school early because their program was so intense. Well, I guess if she doesn’t have homework, I can have her go over what she learned each day. That will help her. Do we have paper and maybe crayons here?”
Missus Billings showed her where the craft supplies were hidden, and then turned her attention to the laundry while Tommy tidied the kitchen.
They walked down in time to meet Tammy after school, and brought her home for lunch. Quite a few of the older kids were also leaving, which Tommy gathered was because they lived close enough to the school that they could eat lunch at home and return for the rest of the day.
On Wednesday Missus Billings fed them breakfast and then got ready for work while Tommy walked Tammy to school. When she returned, Missus Billings was ready to run out the door. “I’m going to have to get you a key,” she said, “so you can lock up when you leave.”
On Friday, Tommy received a house key with her pay.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #373: Nervous Characters. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: