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Home: The Toast

Today in Ms. Frizzle’s class we were learning about the body. “What body?” Carlos kept asking anyone who would listen. “Somebody.” Ms. Frizzle laughed uproariously every time he said it. “Somebody! That’s good, Carlos!” Ms. Frizzle was in a good mood today. There was going to be another adventure.

“According to my research –” Dorothy Ann began, then stopped abruptly.

“Class,” Ms. Frizzle said, “Can anyone tell me why Dorothy Ann has stopped speaking?” No one said anything. “If no one raises their hands,” Ms. Frizzle said, “I’ll have to assume that no one is willing to try to learn today. And if no one wants to learn today, I will write it down in my brown book here. Does anyone want me to put that mark in my brown book today?”

Hands went up. Ms. Frizzle beamed as she looked out over the sea of waving arms. “Arnold,” she said finally. “Why do you think Dorothy Ann has stopped speaking?”

“Her mouth is hurting,” Arnold said carefully.

“That’s technically true,” Ms. Frizzle said. “Dorothy Ann’s mouth is hurting. But why is it hurting, that’s what I’d like to know? How can you tell?”

“Dorothy Ann’s mouth is hurting,” Ralphie said, “because it’s bleeding.”

“Right again,” Ms. Frizzle said. “And what is Dorothy Ann learning now?” No one said anything. “Everything I do for you children,” Ms. Frizzle continued, “I do to teach. Life is a learning process, and nobody ever stops learning. What is Dorothy Ann learning?”

Dorothy Ann was very still in the corner now.

“Dorothy Ann is learning to wait her turn to be called on before speaking. Shall we call on her now?”

“I wish I’d stayed home today,” Arnold said.

“What on earth do you mean, Arnold?” asked Ms. Frizzle.

“I don’t mean anything,” he said. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I said.”

“You said you wished you were at home, Arnold. What’s home?” she said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t remember.”

“Which is it?” Ms. Frizzle asked. “You don’t know, or you don’t remember? Answer me without hesitating, please. And open your eyes.”

“I don’t know,” Arnold said firmly. “I don’t know, and I don’t remember. I don’t know. I don’t know it.”

“If you don’t know it, Arnold,” Ms. Frizzle said, “then why did you wish you were there?”

“I don’t know,” Arnold said. “I didn’t mean it.”

“But you must have meant it, Arnold,” Ms. Frizzle said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have said anything. If you said home, you must have meant something by it. What’s home? Speak up so the class can hear.”

“Home is where I was – before –”

“Before what, Arnold?”

“Before this. Before class.”

“That’s very interesting, Arnold!” Ms. Frizzle said. “Was there ever anything before class?”

No one was looking at Arnold. No one was looking at Dorothy Ann.

“Is there anything after class?” Ms. Frizzle asked.

Arnold shook his head.

“Then does it make sense that there was anything before class?” Ms. Frizzle asked. Her voice was very gentle. She loved helping students learn.

Arnold shook his head again.

“Then you can’t very well wish you were there, can you?” Ms. Frizzle said. “If it never was.”

“No – o – o,” Arnold breathed out, and tried to smile a little.

“That’s very good,” Ms. Frizzle said, then patted Arnold gently on the back of the head. “Have a piece of candy, Arnold.”

Arnold was so, so grateful. Ms. Frizzle was the best teacher we ever had.

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