Gwenn sat in her chair uncomfortably. She hitched the bar on her back brace to her small wooden chair, slightly relieving the constant pressure that the brace placed on her brittle spine. She gazed dumbly at the small ceramic horse in the hands of her classmate. The other girl's lips moved as she nervously caressed the small statue but all Gwenn could hear was the dull drone of the noisy classroom punctuated by the snickers and giggles which she knew were directed at her.
She cautiously turned her head to gaze at the wall of her classroom. Gwenn studied the mesh of metal wires reinforcing the glass in the door. Her eyes wandered to the collection of crayon drawings which each student had made. They depicted scenes from books they had read. The drawings all had bright and well distinguished colors and shapes. People with squiggly hair and Suns with happy faces brightened up the wall, except for one dark picture. Gwenn's drawing had been purposely placed at the far end of the room, half hidden by a globe. Her picture was covered so thoroughly with dark entangled lines and the combined weight of the crayons combined with the frantic scrawling of her eight year old hand had torn and mangled the newsprint.
The sharp sting of "Gwenn!" came from the front of the room and snapped her head forward like a dog on a short leash. Gwenn picked up the box she brought. "No Gwenn, it's not your turn yet. Remember, you go last until you learn how to control yourself in class."
Snickers and embarrassing grins spread lightly across the room. This was the laughter which was reserved for only her. On the playground, this was the laughter which accompanied shouts of "Terminator!" and "Cooties!" They never failed to cause Gwenn's eyes to thicken with tears. "Gwenn are you listening to me?"
Gwenn stammered "uh."
Mrs. Krantz almost seemed to smile "Gwenn, you will pay attention or you can go to Dr. Riley's office." The young girl was too afraid to answer or to look away.
A boy was called to show the class his pet salamander. The boy glared at Gwenn as he walked past her, holding his pet away from her desk. Protecting it from Gwenn, who the class had decided was not fit for any kind of contact. She loved animals and wanted to see his pet but was restrained by her brace. She pathetically squirmed and tried to catch a glimpse through the side of the plastic shoe box, but it disappeared too quickly.
After the boy had passed, she rearranged herself uncomfortably in her seat. She looked at Mrs. Krantz and thought about how dull she was. Imagining Mrs. Krantz could belong in a black and white TV show. Mrs. Krantz always wore heavy wool dresses and men's shoes. Gwenn made Mrs. Krantz's head get bigger and smaller by using her glasses as a magnifying glass. She would grab the blue plastic frames and raise the lens so her teacher's head was really big. The glasses were shifted making her head smaller. She started flipping them up and down fast, making her teacher look like an old jumpy movie.
The teacher looked directly at her "Gwenn."
Gwenn was swimming in her own thoughts but tried to respond.
"Gwenn. The sooner you come up for show and tell, the quicker the rest of the children can have recess."
Gwenn looked around at the impatient scowls of her classmates. She reached under her chair and grabbed the half rotten cardboard box. Managing to get up from the desk with some difficulty, she took the box and started towards the front of the room. The metal arch supports in her shoes made her feet cramp if she walked one way and pinched the skin painfully if she walked the other, causing her to walk like the Tin Woodsman of Oz.
The other kids grumbled at Gwenn as she placed the moldy box on the big desk. "Gwenn, what is in the box?"
Gwenn removed a sheet with a star painted on it. She placed in on the desk next to the box. Her little hands took out a small velvet pouch with a drawstring and opened it. She took out the mummified paw of a cat and placed it in the middle of the star. Mrs. Krantz grew impatient as Gwenn poured a golden oil, tracing the lines of the star. "Gwenn, you are making a mess."
The students' restlessness changed to fascination as Gwenn started to mumble to herself. The teacher became uneasy as the mumbling turned to chanting. Then, before Mrs. Krantz knew what was happening, Gwenn had a match. "Young lady, give that to me."
As Gwenn light the match and tossed it at the table, Mrs. Krantz struck her down with the back of her hand. Gwenn flew painfully to the ground but never took her eyes from the match as it flipped through the air and onto the cloth. Some children gasped as the star burst into flames.
Mrs. Krantz tried to put out the flames with a small vase of water. As her hand got near the pyre, the decayed paw opened up. The flesh of the dead cat made stale dry ripping sounds as it reached up at the hand of the teacher.
The paw jumped off the table and dug it's claws into the woman's arm. Blood washed through the white satin blouse as the paw climbed up her arm. Mrs. Krantz batted at her tormentor, getting her hands sliced open by the sharp claws. The animal nails were sharper than ginsu knives. The teacher's left arm was ripped apart like a whitefish. Bones splintering and muscles shredding it dangled like a piece of meat on a slaughterhouse hook.
The sound of her shrieks and yelps of desperation were nearly drowned out by the terror stricken cries of the escaping students. Children ran for the doors with sweat and tear stained faces yelling and crying. Beating, scratching, and biting their ways to the single exit.
The teacher's right hand grabbed for the big scissors on her desk. Her neck became the next target of the disembodied attacker. Burning moist heat dripped down her neck as her eyes started to loose focus. She collapsed to the ground sputtering her last gasps of air through a blood filled mouth.
Mrs. Krantz took her last breath holding the blade of a scissors in her own neck. The claw dissolved into powder and the flames consumed the sheet on the desk.
The fall had split open the Gwenn's brace and she sat up. Her vision was blurred. She took off her glasses and saw a small crooked man sitting on the desk. "Is that it?" she asked.
The man smiled and for the first time, so did Gwenn.
©1999 Rev Jay Goldstein