The following excerpt is fiction. There is no Mrs. Yalmauer, at least not that I know of. If there is a Mrs. Yalmauer, somewhere, it is totally by coincidence that I picked her name out of thin air, assigned her to an English class in Amshover, Missouri, and placed Smivey Stepward in her 7th grade class. Amshover, Missouri doesn’t exist either. I checked. Smivey Stepward does exist. He’s very real. I can see his face, and I know his voice.
“Smivey Stepward in Love and Other Misery” by Dale Parsons, all rights reserved.
“Class, I trust all of you are prepared to give your demonstration speech today” Mrs. Yalmauer said. “This is an important grade during this marking period, I hope you have spent sufficient time preparing. You should have practiced your speech at home for your family so you are not nervous about getting up in front of the class today. You should have brought some props to help you with your demonstration. If, however, you are demonstrating something for which it was not possible to bring a prop, it is acceptable for you to use pantomime. Who can give me a definition of pantomime, class?” Mrs. Yalmauer asked.
No one responded as quickly as she desired, so Mrs. Yalmauer answered her own question, which she does quite often. The class found out a long time ago that if they just keep quiet, she does most of the talking and seemed not to care that they didn’t answer her questions.
“Okay, pantomime is acting out something without any visual aids or props. You act as though, for example, you are holding a jar and taking the lid off even though you don’t actually have one.” And as she talks she acts like she’s holding a jar and unscrews the lid, pulls it away and lays it on the desk. Her motions remind Smivey of Gretchen Kirtz getting ready to play the piano. “Does everyone understand?” No one said anything. “Good. All right, then. Let’s begin.”
“I have placed all of your names in this basket, and I will draw them out one at a time” Mrs. Yalmauer said. “Sylvia Weitzel, you will go first please.”
Smivey breathed a sigh of relief as the girl who sat right behind him walked to the front of the class. She was carrying what looked like a baby wrapped in a blanket and a zipper bag. She laid the bundle and the bag on the desk and then she began.
“Mrs. Yalmauer and fifth hour English class, good afternoon to all of you. Today I am going to demonstrate how to change a diaper on a baby.”
There were a few giggles in the class but when Mrs. Yalmauer cleared her throat they stopped.
“This doll will represent a baby who is four months old. First, you should determine if the baby is wet or dirty. Sometimes it is easy to tell just by the odor.”
“Pew!” someone said.
“Boys!” Mrs. Yalmauer scolds.
“If there is no odor but the baby is fussy, he may just be wet. The easiest way to tell is to hold the baby and stick a finger down the back of the diaper to see if it’s wet.”
“Eeewww” came responses from the class.
“Class?” Mrs. Yalmauer said.
Sylvia continued. “If the baby is wet, first lay him down on a blanket. Next, unsnap the baby’s sleeper. Carefully pull his legs out of the sleeper so you can take off the diaper. Pull the adhesive strips off the front of the diaper and fold the front down onto the bottom. If the baby is a boy, it is a good idea to place a towel or cloth over the area or you may get squirted.”
Snickers again from the class.
“After cleaning the area with a warm damp cloth, put the new diaper on the baby. Some people prefer to use baby cream or baby powder before replacing the diaper. Now, if the baby is dirty, there is more to do.”
“I’ll say” someone said from the back of the class.
“Boys, that is enough” Mrs. Yalmauer said.
“When the baby is dirty, the diaper should be folded down as before, but this time use it to wipe away as much waste as possible.”
“You mean poop” someone muttered thinking no one would hear it but several students started laughing loudly.
“Stephen Linkler! You go out in the hall!” Mrs. Yalmauer said.
“Oh come on, everybody was thinking it!” he said.
“Instead, go to the office and explain to Mr. Pommer what you said. Now! Go!”
“I’m going” Stephen said as he shuffled out of the room closing the door loudly.
“Okay, Miss Weitzel, you may continue.”
Sylvia Weitzel finished her demonstration and the class gave her polite applause.
“Okay, Sylvia, very well done. Now all of you should be able to change a baby’s diaper,” Mrs. Yalmauer said. As she was drawing another name from the basket she said, “Next we have Smivey Stepward. Okay, Smivey, would you come to the front, please?”
Smivey acted as though he was completely prepared. As he walked to the front he still had no idea what he was going to do. As a bead of sweat formed on his upper lip he turned to face the class and a thought hit him like his finger touched a light socket.
“Today I am going to demonstrate how to play the piano. The piano is a large instrument made of wood. It has a big box with metal strings on the inside. On the front it has white and black keys that are pushed down to make the sounds. To play the piano you sit on a bench in front of the keys.”
He pretended to pull a bench out in front of the piano and posed in a difficult sitting position.
“Then, you play.” And using both hands, Smivey pretended to push on the keys with no particular rhythm or grace. He then stood up straight and bowed to the class as they clapped.
“Mr. Stepward, that was a good start, but tell us about the music you are playing. First of all, how many keys are there on the piano?” Mrs. Yalmauer asked.
“Sixty-seven” he said confidently, not having any idea how many there really are.
“How do you know which keys to push?” the teacher asked.
“Uh, well, first you have to know the music you are playing. There are lines on it and lots of notes,” he said, trying to remember his clarinet music. “There are notes on the top and notes on the bottom.”
“The bottom of what?” Mrs. Yalmauer asked.
“The bottom of the music,” he answers.
“Okay, what are the notes?”
“Well, uh, there’s a way to remember them, and it’s, uh, Every Cow Ate Fudge, and then the lines are, uh, Flies Don’t Bother Going East, or something like that I think.”
Several students were laughing as sweat drops fully formed on his forehead.
Mrs. Yalmauer, knowing that Smivey was not as prepared as he tried to make himself appear, said, “Well, I play the piano as well, and in the first place there are eighty-eight keys, not sixty-seven. And you’re almost right about the notes except you have them upside down. The acronym is F-A-C-E for the spaces, and Every Good Boy Does Fine for the lines in the treble clef. Do you know what the notes are in the bass clef?” she asked.
“The what?” Smivey asked.
“The bass clef, which you would normally play with your left hand,” she answered. “No” he answered softly, becoming more embarrassed by the minute.
“The spaces acronym is All Cows Eat Grass, not “every cow ate fudge”. The lines are Girls Boys Do Fine Always,” she continued. “How long have you played the piano, Smivey?” she asked.
“I don’t, but I might start,” he answered as the class laughed again.
“Well, next time you do a demonstration speech, let’s make it about something you know” Mrs. Yalmauer said.
Copyright 2022 by Dale Parsons