Smivey Stepward in Love and Other Misery – Chapter Two

CHAPTER 2—LARRY MURFIN 

  

Smivey Stepward and Larry Murfin have been best friends since second grade.  They sat on opposite sides of the room and had never spoken to each other until after Tuesday, October 23.  That was a day they will never forget, and probably no one else will either.  Their second grade teacher, Miss Haverts, will always remember that awful Tuesday. 

It was the middle of the afternoon just before second recess.  Smivey and Larry both threw up all over their desks at the same time.  That made other kids get sick too, especially the girls.  The janitor, Mr. Berkey, had to come to the class with that sawdust stuff and spread it around to clean everything up.  Everyone thought maybe there was something wrong with the food in the cafeteria because it happened so soon after lunch,  but no one else got sick in other classes, and the boys brought their lunch boxes from home just like they did every other day. They both sort of felt sick when they left for school in the morning, but neither wanted to stay home.  They were best friends after that day.  It’s not very often that two boys throw up in class at the same time. 

Smivey and Larry have a lot in common.  They both wish they lived somewhere else, and their birthdays are on the same day.  Smivey wishes he could live with Larry.  His parents have a van and a truck, and they live on a farm.  He wouldn’t have to ride in the old green station wagon anymore and he wouldn’t have to live in town.  The best part is Larry’s mom can whistle so loud it makes the dogs on the next farm start barking when she calls everyone to the house for supper.  Smivey asked Larry’s mom to teach him how to whistle.  He practices all the time, but so far he has only managed to spray spit all over the front of his shirt. 

            Larry hates living on a dairy farm.  “Cows are so stupid” he often complains to Smivey.  “All they do is eat, sleep and poop all day.”  Larry hates getting up every morning before 5 o’clock to help with milking.  He has been out in the barn, helping his dad and “Cob,” the other man who works on the farm, every morning since he was old enough to carry a bucket.  After all this time it is still Larry’s job to wash the cows’ bags and udders before the men begin milking.  “Why can’t someone else do this now?” he once asked his dad.  “That’s your job, son.  You should be proud that you have your very own job.”  He didn’t argue.  It never does any good to try to argue with his dad. 

            “I have a great idea!” Larry shouted. “You come and live at my house and wash udder bags every morning and night, and I will live at your house and ride in your green station wagon!”  

Smivey thought about it for a while.  “My parents would never let me do that.  Besides, I don’t think your mom and dad would let you leave either.”  

“Wouldn’t it be neat though if we could trade places?”  

“I suppose” Smivey replied, kicking a stone across the driveway.  He doesn’t really like the thought of having to get up early every morning and shovel manure, but he does like spending time with Larry at his house.  At least it gets him away from his own spooky house. 

            Larry’s parents like Smivey.  They’re happy Larry finally has a best friend.  After school, Smivey rides his bike over to Larry’s house almost every day.  The only time he doesn’t is when his mother has to go grocery shopping.  She makes Smivey go with her to help carry the bags.  

“Couldn’t I go over to Larry’s house and then help you with the bags when you come home?” Smivey protests.  

“Smivey Stepward, I look forward to the time we spend together grocery shopping.  You can tell me everything that happened at school, and I can tell you everything that happened at home.”  

He already knows everything that happens at home while he’s at school.  It’s the same things that have happened every day since he was born.  It might be different if she bought interesting things at the store, but his mother always buys a half gallon of Haverson’s 2% milk, one loaf of whole grain Homeworthy Bread, Spunker’s Bran Cereal, Baker’s Brown Eggs, celery, carrots, and a pound of Wertzer’s Balogna, sliced thin for sandwiches.  

Every week at the meat counter Smivey’s mother says, “Please slice the baloney thin.  If it’s sliced too thick it gives my husband gas, and we don’t want that.”  It drives him crazy.  

On the way home, Smivey is always nervous because he is afraid his mother will talk about how important it is to have healthy bowels.  His grandma said something about bowels once at the dinner table on Sunday afternoon, but Smivey wasn’t really paying attention. He was shocked when his mother started talking about it.  She went on and on about fruit and vegetables.  He wanted to jump out of the car. It almost made him sick to hear his mother say the words “healthy bowels.”  He didn’t want it to happen again.  If it gets too quiet Smivey tries to think of things to say before she has a chance to bring it up. 

“Why can’t we drive to Parkersburg once a month and buy all the groceries we need like other people do instead of going to the same place in town every week?”  Smivey asks.  

“It’s important for us to shop right here so people will see us and continue buying at your grandpa’s store too.  And just because other people do things doesn’t mean we should do them” Vivian calmly replies.  

He wants to say, “We don’t do anything anyone else does, so I don’t think it will be a problem” but he doesn’t.  Smivey thinks it would be a good idea for everyone to go to Parkersburg for hardware so he wouldn’t have to hear about owning the hardware store anymore. 

“What do you wanna do Smiv?”  

“I don’t know, what do you wanna do?”  

“I asked you first” Larry answered.  

“Well, we don’t have much time before you have to help with milking…” 

“You mean washing” Larry interrupted.  

“Yea, I know.  Let’s go up in the haymow.”  Smivey loves playing in the haymow.  Even though Larry doesn’t live far from town, to Smivey it’s a different world when goes to Larry’s house. 

The two boys walked into the barn through the milk house.  That’s where the big tank is that holds the milk and chills it.  Smivey likes to look in the tank and see the milk swirling around.  

“At least we have automatic milkers” Larry said.  “It would be awful to have to do it by hand every time.”  The boys walked through the barn and climbed the wooden ladder leading up to the haymow.  Crawling through the trap door, they stepped out onto the floor.  The smell of fresh hay greeted them and they both took a deep breath.  

“I love to smell the hay” Smivey said quietly.  

“I know.  I would miss it if I didn’t live here” Larry said looking up at the mountain of bales. 

The haymow is huge.  One end of the barn is stacked high with straw, the other side with hay.  There is a wide space between, large enough for a wagon full of bales to be pulled in behind a tractor.  High up near the roof there is a clamp that looks like a giant spider with long legs.  It drops down on the bales and lifts them to the top where they are pushed over on the stack, eight bales at a time.  It takes a lot of hay to fill the mow, and it’s scary to be way up on top. 

“Let’s play wrecking ball.  Want to?” Larry asked. “Wrecking ball” is a game the boys made up where they build two walls of bales, then swing across the barn on the rope and knock them down.  Larry and Smivey each chose a side and climbed the ladders leading to the top.  There is a thick rope hanging down from the spider.  When the walls are finished, the two boys take turns swinging across the wide-open space to try to knock each other’s wall down. 

The first time Smivey tried this it took him almost an hour before he found the courage to take hold of the rope and swing out over what seemed like a bottomless pit just waiting for him to fall.  He almost wet his pants, but he didn’t tell Larry.  Now the higher he swings, the better he likes it.  

 Another thing Larry and Smivey love to do is tunnel through the hay.  They have built tunnels all the way across the barn through the straw, complete with side alleys and small rooms to stop in.  It’s dark in the tunnel so the only way they can find their way through is by feeling.  It’s scary to think what might be in the tunnel.  

One time, Smivey was crawling through the tunnel and his hand landed on fur.  The cat squealed and it scared Smivey so bad he tried to stand up, which he couldn’t do because of the bales above him.  He was glad it wasn’t a skunk or a raccoon which Larry has seen before in the barn. 

Just as the boys were getting ready to rebuild their walls they heard Cob’s voice boom up from downstairs.  Neither of the boys knows where Cob got his name, but Larry thinks it’s a nickname, probably for corn on the cob.  Cob is creepy.  He’s tall and thin, and always looks like he needs to shave.  Larry doesn’t know where Cob lives, but he has worked on the farm with his dad for as long as he can remember. 

“Larry!  Are you up there?”  

“Yes!”  

“Come on down, it’s time to get started. Your dad will be out in a minute” Cob yelled.  “Darn it.  I wish I didn’t have to do this all the time.  It’s not fair” Larry grumbled.  

“I should probably go home for dinner anyway” Smivey said.   

 Smivey and Larry swung across the hay mow one more time before climbing down the ladder.  They slipped through the trap door and went down the second ladder.  Larry headed for the milk house to retrieve his bucket and sponge. 

“See you at school tomorrow, Larry” Smivey said.  

“Okay, Smiv” Larry answered without looking up.  

As Smivey started his ride home he thought about how neat it would be to live on the farm with Larry. 

Smivey Stepward in Love and Other Misery: Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1 – SMIVEY STEPWARD 

The house is haunted, there’s no doubt about that.  At least not for Smivey.  He sleeps on the second floor of the old funeral home all by himself.  He never goes to the third floor because of the tall shadow he saw standing on the narrow steps when he was much younger.   The voices he hears outside his bedroom door late at night wake him up.  They don’t come every night but he’s still afraid to go to sleep. 

Smivey has a double bed with a nightstand, an old dresser and a desk. There are several shelves on the wall holding some books, a picture of a dog he cut from a calendar, two bobble-head football players and a small plastic trophy he won for memorizing Bible verses in Sunday school. Several model airplanes hang from the ceiling. In the back of the large closet is a small door to the attic above the porch. Smivey keeps a small metal box there full of small pieces of paper and a few other secret possessions.

The darkness in the house is not relieved by the many large windows.  The floors, doors,  stairs and walls are all very dark wood.  The huge living room inside the front door is separated from an equally large dining room by double doors of wood and glass.  The small side room in the front is where Grandma Hippelmeyer’s pump organ remains after nearly a hundred years.  No one plays the old organ and Smivey’s mother won’t let him touch it. 

The long hallway beside the stairs leads to his parents’ bedroom and the kitchen.  When Smivey was small he used to run down the hall, through the kitchen and dining room and back down the hall.  The wide creaky stairway to the second floor has a thick banister. Smivey slid backwards from the top and hit his butt on the post at the bottom.  He did it one time. 

The kitchen is big enough for a table, even with many tall cupboards and countertops but the family eats at the long dining room table with heavy chairs that also belonged to Grandma Hippelmeyer. The big cabinet with glass doors is filled with dishes that are only used on Sundays and holidays when the house is filled with people.

Smivey’s great grandparents owned Hippelmeyer Funeral Parlor.  The house where Smivey lives.  Dead people in coffins were in the living room.  Undertaker Ira Hippelmeyer had a room in the basement where he prepared the bodies to be buried.  There is a rope elevator he used to lift the people to the main floor.  It opens through a small door into the kitchen.  Smivey believes the voices he hears at night are ghosts from all the bodies that were in the house. 

Smivey wishes he could live in a different house but he knows it will never happen.  He wishes a lot of things.  He wants his mother to learn how to whistle instead of screaming “weeeooooweeooo” when she needs him.  He wants his dad to buy a clothes dryer so his mother will stop hanging his underpants on a clothesline in the backyard two blocks away from school.  He wishes his father knew Smivey has no interest in Stepward & Sons Hardware.   His father talks about the store all the time.  “Smiver,” that’s what his father calls him, “Smiver, someday I’m going to own the store and one day I will pass it on to you.  You just wait.  It will be the best day of your life!”   

The store was first opened by Feniman Stepward, Smivey’s great great grandfather, just after the town was established in 1887.  The store has been passed down to the Stepward sons ever since.  It is one of a long line of stores along Main Street in Amshover, Missouri, a small town with not much happening.  On the big front window is painted, “Stepward & Son’s Hardware Established 1887, Feniman J. Stepward.  Just about anything you’ll ever need.”  Some of the letters are scratched and the paint has faded, but you can still tell what it says. 

The only time Smivey likes going to the store is when it’s very hot outside. His grandfather, known as “Archie” to his customers, has a soda machine just inside the front door. Though the store is old and messy, it’s funny how his grandpa knows exactly where everything is. When his father can’t find an item someone needs, Grandpa Archie knows without searching exactly where it is, buried under dusty things no one has touched for years.

Out on the sidewalk are four old wooden chairs.  Archie likes to sit out there during the warm months and visit with people who come by and have time to sit and talk.  They mostly talk about the weather, or fishing, and sometimes about baseball.  The big blue canvas awning hanging over the sidewalk keeps everyone in the shade. 

Some people like to go in the store just to look at all the old stuff on the shelves and walls. There are tools, oil cans, posters, fishing poles, bait boxes, a big barrel of old faded yard sticks (what Grandpa Archie calls “whippin’ sticks”), mouse traps, and many old books and newspapers. There are lots of things no one uses anymore but Archie keeps them on the shelf because they have always been there.

Smivey’s life is a mixture of old and older. His father drives an ugly green station wagon. No one drives station wagons. Larry Murfin is Smivey’s best friend. His family has a truck, which Smivey thinks would be great for his dad. He tried to talk his dad into looking for a truck but he said, “The old wagon just keeps going, no sense in thinking about a different vehicle when there is nothing wrong with this one. It’s important for us to save our money and take care of the things we have and use them as long as possible.”

Two wishes control Smivey. The very worst thing that keeps him from being everything he wants to be is his name. He hates it more than anyone can possibly understand. When he was born, his mom and dad combined their names, Smitty and Vivian. So they came up with Smivey. He thinks it’s stupid.

Smivey would love the name, Mack.  Mack is a football player’s name.  It’s tough, proud, bold and confident.  All the things Smivey isn’t.  Mack would be the sports star of the school.  Everyone would talk about him and all the girls would love him.  Everything would be perfect if his name was Mack. 

Smivey tried out for the football team at the beginning of the school year.  He is about average size compared to the other guys, so he thought he could make the team.  He didn’t really think it was important that he didn’t know anything about football.  He just knew that if he were going to be a star he would have to be on the team. 

On the first day of practice, he tried to catch a pass the coach threw to him and instead of hitting his hands, the ball hit him in the eye.  He had to leave practice and go home.  He arrived at school the next morning with his eye black and swollen.  It did make him feel a little important because everyone wanted to know what happened.  That was the end of his football career.   

Smivey’s best wish, the dream that will never come true, is to talk to Elizabeth Musker, the girl he has loved since first grade. 

Tuesday Teacher: Mrs. Yalmauer’s English Class

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

Tuesday Teacher: Mr. Gorschanski

This is an excerpt from Chapter Five of my middle grade novel, “Smivey Stepward in Love and Other Misery.” Author: Dale Parsons, all rights reserved.

This is the day of the week Smivey dreads. Fourth hour Band is replaced by Gym class. He would rather play his clarinet all day long, which he never wants to do, compared to playing dodge ball, which is what Mr. Gorschanski said they were going to play today.  

“Let’s go! Let’s go!” Mr. Gorschanski shouts as the boys hurry into the locker room. “Get dressed and get out on the floor! Let’s go, men!”  

Mr. Gorschanski is a tall man with lots of muscles. His short sleeves are tight on his arms and his chest muscles stick out. Someone said he can make his chest muscles bounce up and down but no one has seen him do it. It’s probably a lie. His short haircut makes him look mean. He is the varsity football coach at the high school and he treats all of the junior high boys like his players.  

“Fulkins, don’t you leave this locker room without tying those shoes!” Mr. G, as most students call him, yells in a booming voice. 

The boys all have to wear identical white shorts and t-shirts with the name of the school printed on them in red letters. The shorts and t-shirts wouldn’t be bad if the gym wasn’t freezing cold.  

“All right, men, get warmed up! Jumping jacks first! Ready, set, one, two, one, two…” Mr. G’s voice thunders through the gym. “Fifteen squat-thrusts! Let’s go! Let’s go!” he shouts.  

“I hate doing these” Larry said to Smivey.  

“Me too” he answered, trying not to say it too loudly.  

“Fifteen push-ups, let’s go! Down! Down! All the way down!” Mr. G orders as he walks through the rows of boys. 

“Okay, men, three laps around the gym! Get going!” “Murfin and Stepward! You two get moving or you’ll be doing laps for the rest of the hour!”  

The two boys pick up the pace, not realizing they are almost a lap behind the rest of the class.  

“I don’t know why we have to have gym class anyway,” Smivey said as he and Larry trotted along together.  

“Great job, men! It’s time for dodge ball. Today it’s every man for himself. If you get hit, you’re out. Last one standing is the winner,” Mr. G commanded.  

After the boys were lined up against the wall, Mr. G put all the volleyballs in the center of the gym.  

“Okay, men, when I count to three, the battle begins. One, two, three!”  

Instead of running to the center of the gym, screaming wildly like the rest of the boys, Larry and Smivey ran to the opposite end, trying to avoid becoming targets. Volleyballs started shooting through the air, followed by dull thuds and howls as many of them hit kids. Soon classmates discovered Smivey and Larry trying to stay out of the fight. Volleyballs started flying at them from every direction as the boys attempted to avoid being hit. Running, jumping and ducking they were successful for a few seconds but soon both of them were out. 

A ball rolled near Smivey’s feet and with a burst electrifying energy he grabbed the ball and threw it as hard as he could at one of the other boys. The ball sailed high and instead of hitting the intended target, hit Mr. Gorschanski in the back of the head, knocking his glasses off which broke in several pieces when they hit the floor. 

Smivey instantly felt as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped over him as the blood drained from his face.  

“Who threw that ball!” Mr. G howled in a monstrous voice.  

It was instantly silent in the gym and every boy stopped dead in his tracks.  

“I said, who threw that ball!” he shouted threateningly.  

Smivey slowly walked forward, looking down at the floor.  

“I-I threw it, Mr. G. I-I didn’t mean to hit you, I was throwing it at…”  

“Stepward! It was you?!”  

“Yes, sir” he answered softly, terrified of what might happen next.  

“Are you sure it was you?!” Mr. G hollered even louder. 

“Yes, sir.”  

“Do you play football, Stepward?!”  

“No, sir.”  

“Baseball?!”  

“No, sir.”  

“Why not?! That ball had a ton of mustard on it! You should be playing ball!” Mr. G shouted. 

Mr. Gorschanski continued, “Gentlemen! I want each of you to learn a lesson from Mr. Stepward today! It took a lot of guts to step up and claim responsibility for hitting me in the head! He could have kept quiet, or blamed it on you. But he stepped right up like a man, ready to take the punishment!”  

Then looking at Smivey whose knees were shaking said, “Stepward! Are you sorry?!”  

“Yes, sir” Smivey said quietly.  

“Good job. Okay men, hit the showers!” 

As the class ran for the locker room, Smivey turned to join them. Mr. G, who had begun picking up what was left of his glasses said, “Stepward, come over here.”  

Smivey was suddenly terrified again, feeling a rush of fear charge through his body. “Yes, sir?”  

“You grew a foot today, son. Don’t you ever forget this.”  

“I won’t, Mr. G.”  

“Okay, shower and get to class.” 

When Smivey reached the locker room someone yelled,  

“Stepward, you are so lucky, I can’t believe you didn’t get in trouble.”  

“I know it” he answered.  

Larry was waiting for him, “I thought you were dead Smiv.”  

“So did I. I think Mr. G is going to be my favorite teacher from now on.” 

As the two boys put their gym clothes away and dressed for class they heard a loud commotion. Knowing that Mr. G usually went to the office to get a cup of coffee after class, several boys were trying to pull Jimmy Silvers out into the hall totally naked. Two had his hands and two held his feet as he screamed and tried to kick himself free from their grasp. They got him just outside the door when they all heard the familiar voice that shook the building.  

“What are you clowns doing?!!”  

They dropped Silvers on his butt who quickly scrambled back into the locker room trying to cover himself as he went.  

“Crimmel! Vickers! Froberson! Beltzer! You numbskulls have pulled your last stunt! Get your butts to the office this instant!” Mr. G screamed loud enough that the entire school probably heard him.  

The four boys who by this time looked sickly pale headed for the office. 

“Wow, I think those guys will probably get a lot worse because of everything that already happened in class” Smivey said to Larry as they walked away from the gym. 

Copyright 2022 by Dale Parsons

Tuesday Teacher – Mr. Shermer, Choir

Excerpt: “Smivey Stepward in Love and Other Misery” by Dale Parsons, All Rights Reserved

“Why do I have to learn how to sing? Why does the school need a choir? Whose idea was this, anyway?” Smivey thought as he walked to choir class. As he shuffles along, getting closer to the choir room he hears the voice of Luciano Pavorotti wafting through the hall. Every day it’s the same thing. Mr. Shermer plays the same music as students enter the room.

“Choir, just listen to this tremendous voice!” he always says, like it was the first time he ever said it, and the first time the students ever heard it. “Listen! Try to drink in the power of his voice, the depth of his emotion, the incredible strength of his spirit!” As the song concludes, Mr. Shermer continues, “Choir members, listen to me. Music carries the emotion of the soul like nothing else! Music communicates when every other voice is silent! Music can lift the spirit, give strength to the weak, courage to the fearful!” Smivey thinks maybe Mr. Shermer used to be a preacher. He doesn’t know where else he could have learned to give speeches like this.

“Choir, take out Springtime In My Love’s Caress, by Truman Calver” Mr. Shermer said, stepping to the podium.

“We shouldn’t be singing songs like this” Smivey thought as he found the music in his folder. “It’s so embarrassing.”

“Altos, I would like to begin with you today. Please start at measure fourteen. Miss Kirtz, their note please.”

Gretchin Kirtz has been taking piano lessons since she was four years old. Smivey can’t stand to watch her. She acts like she’s playing in front of thousands of people. She always sits straight up and nods when Mr. Shermer tells her what to do. She lifts her hand slowly, and gently brings her finger down on the key like she’s afraid it will splinter into a million pieces if she touches it too hard. “Okay altos, one and two and…”

“Softly, softly, walking through the meadow

“Feeling such a warmth within my breast…”

It’s the word “breast” that is just too much. “We shouldn’t be singing this. Why can’t we sing something by the Beatles? No one has ever heard of Truman Calver or his stupid song about something warm in my breast” Smivey thought as he heard muffled laughter coming from the back row.

“Gentlemen!” Mr. Shermer yelled as the altos stopped singing. “How many times must I tell you that the term “breast” in this song does not mean what you’re thinking! The breast is referred to as the deepest part of the heart. The songwriter is expressing his deep feeling for his one true love. Please choir. You can do this.”

“Okay, altos, one more time. One and two and…”

“Softly, softly, walking through the meadow

“Feeling such a warmth within my breast

“Gently, gently, she comes ever nearer

“Longing for the touch of my caress…”

“Very nice, very nice. Okay, choir, let’s start at the beginning. Miss Kirtz, the introduction please, one and two and…”

Gretchen plays the introduction perfectly, just like she does every time, and the choir began singing. In spite of Smivey’s thoughts about the song, it actually sounded pretty good. When Mr. Shermer first gave them the music Smivey decided to just stop singing when they got to the word “breast.” It reminded him too much of hearing his mother talking about healthy bowels.

“Softly, softly, walking through the meadow

“Feeling such a warmth within my breast”

Just at that moment there came a loud snort from the back row. Mr. Shermer stopped the choir. “Thomas Mindler, you go to the office this instant! Mr. Stoker, do you want to join him?”

“No,” Michael Stoker answered.

Mr. Shermer asked, “Mr. Herney, what is wrong with you?”

Steven Herney was laughing so hard his face was radish red but he hadn’t made a sound.

“Answer me!” Mr. Shermer demanded.

When Steven tried to talk he sprayed spit all over Smivey’s back.

“That’s it,” Mr. Shermer hollered, “You go to the office, too!”

Once the commotion had ended, Mr. Shermer started again. “Okay, choir, from the beginning of Mr. Calver’s piece. One and two and…”

Just at that moment the bell rang. Smivey was never so glad to hear anything in his life.

“Choir, remember, fall concert is coming up in three weeks. Make sure your parents have it on their calendar!” Mr. Shermer yelled as everyone hurried out of the classroom.

Copyright 2022 by Dale Parsons