Sling Shot

Chalk dust. Is returning really so simple? From the hallway, he can see through the open door of the abandoned classroom, through its far window, and out into the hay fields that lay beyond. There is a single bale rotting against the fence. They would stack them, he remembered, build forts from them. The clock, watched so vigilantly, was invisible for the precious minutes of recess.   Then the clenched mind relaxed. He need only think where best to set the next bale.

There had been a splinter once, a fine needle of straw under his nail. He had gone to the nurse’s office, really just a corner nook behind the big boiler where an old sink stood and a little, mirrored cabinet. She had wonderful, pointy breasts. Never had he fought so hard to keep from crying as when she poured the Mercurochrome onto his bleeding fingertip. She smelled like flowers. Mrs. Smith, his teacher, still had a Valentine poster behind her chair and smelled like death. Sometimes the blackboard grew white as frosted pavement under her furious, prodigious, extravagant handwriting.

He did not have to enter. It was all still there. Going on. He kept looking, though. He could see the red-wing blackbird on the rusted line of barb wire. He could hear its sharp whistle, and somewhere, somewhere near, he could hear his voice as it was then, saying thank you, Nurse. And she had kissed the back of his hand.

Just a little more chalk dust, and he was sure he could return, back where the future held none of these ubiquitous clocks that now multiplied around him. There had been only one clock then. One had been enough. And with that one he could make his peace. A single stone, a steady wrist, his good eyes. It had been his favorite game at recess. He only lacked the courage.

Marc Harshman is the author of the poetry collection, Green-Silver and Silent and All That Feeds Us: The West Virginia Poems. His periodical publications include The Georgia Review, The ProgressiveRoanoke Review, Bayou, and Shenandoah. His eleven children’s books include The Storm, and three new children’s titles are forthcoming. Marc is the poet laureate of West Virginia and lives in Wheeling.

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