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A married couple with twelve children, living in the country are won over, amazed and delighted by the energy and innovation of a young woman who comes to teach 'the little ones'.

Submitted: July 26, 2016

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Submitted: July 26, 2016




A Short Story

 Nicholas Cochran

Isabella Green is the new girl that’s teachin’ the little ones here in  Steegen Wisconsin; well not right here, but in Burgen; that’s here in Wisconsin too; about fifteen mile from us here. And she may have some little ones from all around here too, I guess.
We; that’s Clemand me; we live on Peach, Street, here in Steegen, Wisconsin. Everybody we tell our add-ress to is always askin’ somethin’ ‘bout a peach; like, were there really peaches in Wisconsin; or, do you have peaches near you; or, do you and your family have a peach tree in your back yard? and when we said no, and that there’s just me and Clem left here in Steegen ‘cause our kids all moved away, well then they ask; well, do any of your neighbors have peach trees in their back yards? ; or, aren’t they in New Orleans? 

And we’d say “no”, they’re right here next door to us, in Wisconsin all right; but you’re probably thinkin’ of Peachtree Street in Atlanta, and then most would say, ‘yes, probably’, and leave it at that; but there have been some who just keep askin’ more and more silly questions ‘bout peaches. 

Well anyway,Dan; Mr.Rastenberry; DanRastenberry, is our next door neighbor on Peach Street.
Dan is the Assistant Chairman of the School Board and that includes kindergartens and all the grades clear through to senior year in the high school.
Now, it isn’t a very big District ‘cause there are so few people livin’ in Steegen, or even anywhere close to Steegen, and so the number of kids isn’t all that big and so there’s only a few schools. A handful, you might say.
And so Mr. Rastenberry, as I said, we call  him Dan and he calls me Betty, for Barbara, and he calls my husband Clem; for Clem.
Well, not that long ago, this or that whole thing about pre-school learnin’ landed right  smack here in Steegen and with it, a strange young girl—well, she’s not really a girl, sort of a young lady, like, called Isabella Green.
Now Clem and I both think she’s kinda sweet; she’s quite young and a bit weird like, but, as I said, she seems kinda sweet.
Well I can’t quite get me into words as to just what it is that  makes her seem sorta odd to me . . . and to Clem,and, I might add, to the Assistant Chairman Rastenberry; Dan.
He done told us he’s not really too sure what to make of Miss Green

neither; but he thinks she’s very dedicated and that she’s very involved 

in her line o’work.
But he hasn’t come right out and said that she’s a weirdo; least not to us, me and Clem, at least; but now, maybe he has to others. 

I mean Steegen is small by a lot of standards and the Good Lord knows 

that we’re off the beaten track alright, for sure. There’s not a train—nor 

even a reglar bus—that comes here; but there’s a County bus you can 

catch in Milwaukee that’ll bring you to Burgen; that’s the closest town to 

Steegen; and it has ‘bout thousand or more people there all told. 

But we’re here in Steegen and there can’t be many more than two hundred of us. But Steegen and Burgen are in the same School District and so Dan has them to worry about as well.

And Miss Green goes over there to Burgen to talk to the young mothers and have coffee or tea and talk to the old mothers with recent little ones of their own, ‘bout whatever it is she really tells them ‘bout.

And I’m still not very sure of just what it is that she doestell them, but I asked Dan the other Sunday at Church how Miss Green was doing and his face just lit up like the Fourth of July, I tell you. 

Now Clem’s just sure as can be that Dan’s taken a real shine to Miss Green . . .  but not to the point where’s he’d doin’ anythin’ about it, you see, ‘cause Dan’s married to Ruth, but everybody calls her Ruthie, Ruthie Rastenberry, and they have five kids.

The oldest one’s ‘bout to go into the seenor year at that high school in Burgen.

There’s a school bus of course and maybe that’s how MissGreen gets around.

And Clem thinks so too. Miss Green just hitches a ride on any ol’ school bus and goes to whatever any ol’ community there is for her to visit and that way she don’t have to spend lots of money for gas and all and she can keep her mileage down on her pretty new car.

It’s one of them new hybreeds—like Posey Nichols’ roses, I guess, ‘though I’m not yet fully certain as to where them roses fit in the car thing.

But Miss Green is pretty tight with a dollar too, because whoever’s payin’ her sure isn’t payin’ her much ‘cause she dresses very plain like, and doesn’t seem to put on much make-up neither, or so it seems from my one glimpse of her as she waved at Clem and me from one of them school buses she rides after Dan got off from his hitchin’ a ride.
And her shoes come from the Walmart in Sturgen, which is about thirty or forty miles or so from us here in Steegen. And folks are always askin’ them how’s the fishing doin’ and I still don’t know why, but I think I’ll ask Miss Green if she ever stops by; but I can’t think of why she would, seeing as Clem and me have only raised children. Twelve; eight boys and four girls. They’ve all left Steegen but they haven’t gone far.

Most of them are in Burgen and a few in Sturgen.

And of course Adam is in Milwaukee at some secret government place where he can’t tell us even ‘bout what he’s doin’.

He’s the youngest and he’ll be forty-one here come December and so our oldest is Ruth , not to be confused with Ruthie, Mrs. Rastenberry; no, Ruth is just Ruth. From the Bible. She’s now about to be fifty-three and she’s been doing hairdressing all that time.
Now Ruth has seven kids and so with her seven and all our other kids’ kids, we have seventy-seven grandkids; and my, my, is that some problems with them birthdays and Christmas and the like; but I have me a chart on the wall of my canning cupboard that Adam done up for us when all them things began to get confusion like.
Adam has no children. His wife is Penelope, or Penny, and Penelope’s never been too hot on the idea of children, I guess. I’m sure they could. I mean Adam told me, ‘cause of course he’s never wantin’ to talk to Clem about those such things, like that he was just fine physical-like and so was Penelope, or Penny; I call her Penelope whenever I see her which has been a few years now.
She goes to Christmas with her folks and their kin somewhere out west of here. I believe it’s in Phoenix or some place like that but me and Clem are pretty sure she and her kin are in Arizona.
But they are both very busy with their work, like Adam with the government and Penelope is a lawyar of some sort who works in some office near Milwaukee that isn’t private; it’s not the Federal Government like, but some sort of government thing. Public anyway.
And she’s in that office as a defender, is what Adam tells us. Like she takes up the problems of people that can’t pay her for her helpin’ them, who have done somethin’ bad or not legal, and she tries to help them. Very admirable; I think that there’s what you’d say.
Adam says she doesn’t win very often, is how he puts it, so that I guess sometimes her helpin’ doesn’t help. But I like her pretty much. 
That is when I see her and that’s been, oh, let’s see, about . . . I guess must be getting’ on to about ten years ago when she and Adam was drivin’ his car with her to her folks’ place and then they were goin’ to go all the way across the country to San Francisco, there at the ocean.
Now Adam tried to get me and Clem on the alternet or something like that, and we just threw up our hands and laughed and Clem kinda padded him on the back and says to him that we’re a couple of them old dogs you keep hearing about; why I was almost fifty-five at the time; my goodness, after twelve kids and now seventy-seven grandkids, we sure as shootin’ are them old dogs; and them new tricks just ain’t gona’ happen. 

At least not with the alternet; and I kept tellin’ Adam that, as well as Penelope, because he could tell her for me, so Adam did up this really neat chart like and there they all are: all our kids and all their kids’ kids with all of their birthdays and their birthstones and their horryscopes.

On top of all that, are lists of their favorite toys, as well as what they’ll be doin’ for fun, you know, their interests like. Besides school that is.
Why even a full half of our kids have kids that’s interestin’ to Miss Green. At least that’s what Salome tells me. She’s the tenth kid. Also from the Bible.
But I must say that Clem and I went round and round 'bout it before we was happy with namin’ the girl Salome. Even if it is from the Bible.
Clem has some pretty firm ideas ‘bout the Bible. And I has to do too. And so do all my kids, ‘though I’m not hearin’ a lot of scripture from Adam; nor Penelope neither, at leastwise not in their letters or their phone calls.
Actually, the letters came and stopped a long time ago right around when Adam was trying to shove the alternet over us.
Just like that. No more letters. But there were a lota calls. They’ve got this real good deal where they’re only havin’ to pay ten dollars a month and they get a hunred minutes a month, which isn’t all that much I guess, but they travel a lot now, and when they’re gone they’re not using their phones and so when they come home, they may have five or six hours or more of minutes to call and they sometimes keep us tied up for upwards of an hour or so just tellin’ us how they are and where they’ve been and what they’ve seen and all. And Clem gets on that there extension and we have ourselves just a grand ol’ time.
Penelope ’s very nice on them calls, ‘though after a coupla  minutes it seems that Adam has all the questions to be askin' and all the tales to be tellin’. Of course he’s a much better story teller than Penelope and so that’s why he tells them stories and not her. But it’s just so nice to hear from them at least three, four times a year, you know, after their minutes have build up.
‘Course we don’t call them . . .  my goodness, if we called and talked to all our children and all of them seventy-seven grandkids of ours, why my goodness, we’d never have time to turn around, let alone watch the television or read ourselves some scriptures; or like that. Or even to do some cookin’. Or to can. Cana corn or cana beets or cana peaches. Or to eat, even, for that matter.

So we just wait for them calls and they come in every now and then, usually when the weather’s bad in Burgen or Sturgen; and especially in the winter when there’s not much to do outdoors.

So. Dan, our neighbor, just told us yesterday about Miss Green ’s talkin’ with his neighbor the Grimes’ kid, Juliet, who has a three year old 'bout to turn four. Galaxie is her name; like a car.
Hubert, her husband is a Ford salesman in Sturgen and wanted that name for his daughter.
She’s an only child. Galaxie, that is. 
Juliet has eight other brothers and sisters and they don’t have but three kids between them, and that I just don’t understand. Just think about how lonely those three little dears will be with no brothers or sisters, or neither in most cases—well seven actually, now that I think about it.
Just the first kid had the three kids. So, anyway, Juliet ’s been talkin’ to Miss Green and apparently they’re gettin’ along real swell like, because Ruthie says she hears nothin’ but laughter comin’ from that house when Miss Green is in visitin’ Juliet and Galaxie. Laughs and laughs—a pretty laugh says Ruthie; Miss Green’s I mean, cause we all have known about Juliet’s laugh and it’s a good one too. Makes you feel real good; I mean real good.
I have to say I sometimes feel tears in my eyes when I hear her laugh it’s so pretty and so sweet and so like a tinklin’ around Christmas, like the bells on the horses as they go by our house on the road, well, in the snow ‘cause we don’t get ploughed out but once every other week, and everyone in the sleighs is laughin’ and the bells are tinklin’ just like Juliet’s laughter.
Ah, well; I’d like to hear Jenny and Miss Green laughin’; it would be very nice; just to listen and smile because they’re havin’ such a good time.
Well, Ruthie says, and  Dan too, that Miss Green is makin’ a lot of the mothers real nervous. Yup. That’s what he said. Nervous like. But, he said, in a nice way. Now I’ve got to stop and think about that one. Nervous and nice. I thought some on it when Dan first told me in our front yard out beside the ’59 Caddy Clem’s got up there on blocks for workin’ on.
He’s a sucker for old cars and that’s to be the last one far’s I’m concerned. That makes seven in the front yard alone and I can’t barely see them tomato plants or them corn stalks in the summer, or that path to the snow covered road, wherever it might be, in the wintertime.

Well, last night I cornered Clem near the ’59 Caddy;  the last of the sunlight was a real pretty orangy yellow with some pink cause it was shinin’ through the smoke from the burnin’ alfalfa fields; it’s October now, see, so them sunsets get wildly wonderful some times.

I asked him like straight out.

“So tell me Clem, what’s Dan be meanin’ by sayin’ the mothers who Miss Green sees is nervous like; but in a nice way?”
Well Clem hemmed and hahed and was tryin’ to figure out the right language—words to use to me ‘cause I know what I hear but I don’t pretend to understand most of it.
Well, anyway, he tells me that Miss Green has a bunch of new fangled ideas about what the little ones should  be learnin’ real early in their little lives; that will really help them when they grow bigger and have problems to solve and people of other lands and language and customs or like that ; that are different from us.
And then Clem tells me that Miss Green wants the mothers to come to the school with the kids anytime they can ‘cause the little ones get nervous and some cry and like that; but if mom is there apparently the little ones are more quiet and relaxed; and they learn better and faster.
I think that’s a real good idea and I told Clem so and he says he’ll tell Dan the next time he sees him; and he’ll even tell Miss Green if he every is in her way somewhere like at the feed store; or when he’s buyin’ a new feed cap at Lottie’s on the main street here in Steegen where the fellers stop by more to talk to Lottie than they do to buy a feed cap; or some other thing she might be sellin’.
I have to admit that Lottie’s a looker all right and yet she don’t seem to know that; no airs; nothing to make you think she’s stuck up ‘cause of her good looks. No, Lottie ’s real purty and everyone loves her. 

She has a little boy about five and a little girl about seven.

Her husband ran off with the traveling saleswoman; jewelry; do not think it’s real; them jewel things; they look real phony to me, but maybe that’s ‘cause I really like Lottie and I sure didn’t like Jack, her husband, at all. 

I think she’s gettin’ some papers from Mr. Calderwood; he’s the lawyar here in town; real nice fella. Married and has five kids. He send them somewhere to school now that they’re older. Don’t see much of him; Bruce; anymore. I think he’s travelin’ around visitin’ his kids and his grandkids; probably have some great grand ones soon; he’s a real healthy fella; runs and has a bunch of weights and a thing he runs on in the winter; barbells and pull things that give you muscles.

Have to say; in the summer, whenever Bruce is out on his bike or out for a run, he looks pretty muscley to me; so I’m thinkin’ he’ll live long enough to have great grandkids.
Don’t think Clem and I will.
Clem ain’t never doin’ any exercisin’ and whenever I feel the urge to go out and walk all over the place, I jus’ lay me down until that silly feelin’ just goes away. Then I’m up and full of beans and ready to do some serious cannin’.

Well, Clem told me some other things that Miss Green wants to teach the little ones and that’s another language; like Chinese or Russian or Eyetalian; like that.

Well, I guess if they catch on to our language pretty quick like, then maybe there would be time for them to be learnin’ some new way of talkin’; but some of them lingos have them some real odd lookin’ alphybets, that’s for sure. Some don’t even have the letters we do.

I just can’t imagine how they get along when nothin’ looks at all like our letters. Huhn. I asked Clem and he just shrugged and huhned too; I’ll ask Dan. Dan; he‘ll know.

Maybe him and Miss Green have been talkin’ about new languages and the like for the little ones.
Along with the new languages, it seems that Miss Green thinks it would be a good idear to have the little ones know all ‘bout all the other parts of the world and who lives there and even how long it takes to fly there.
Course we’d—or they’d—have to go to Milwaukee to get any kind of a plane that would take you out of our country; our states; but folks seem to be travelin’ everywhere any time of the day or the night it seems.

Anyway, Miss Green thinks the more the little ones learn ‘bout other little ones in some –maybe all of the other places in the world, then they’d all get along better when they were big kids; and have, like pen pals and such.

Clem thinks it’s a waste of time and he’s goin’ to tell Miss Green if he ever sees her.
But me; I think it’s a swell idear; just around here it would be nice if the little ones talked more to each other and visited and even had them as pen pals; then they would’t just cuss and drink and fight all the time when they grow up.

Some of the older boys who was with some of Clem and my kids in school, have even been sent off to work jails; call them nice things like ‘schools of industry’ and‘vocational schools’ when they really be nothin’ but re-form schools with a few classes.

But then again, Bobby Barton did  a stretch in oneah them ‘schools of industry’ and he come out and started his own metal and woodworking shop in Sturgen, and he now has him ten employees and sells his stuff that’s made, to people as far away as California—even Canada.
Now he’s the only one I know personal who has done real good after a stretch in one of them ‘joints’, I think they call ‘em.
The others who was classmates with some of Clem and mine are now in the state pen; very sad for their moms and their dads.
A few I know did real well by their kids and hoped they’d be goin’ to college or learnin’ a skill; some even to be goin’ to a university and such.
But none of them got much past high school in Sturgen; if they even ever got that far.


Dan says that now Miss Green has the little ones asingin’ a lot; learnin’ songs and even to sing together, like in Church but not in Church; but together; like a choir.

She even got them some things for them to play; paid for most of them outa her own pocket, no less; some horns and a tuba and then some things like a fiddle that sound real good when someone good’s playin it who knows how; like really knows how.

Today, Clem says Miss Green is now listenin’ to all the kids and their troubles and even when their mom’s are there; and sometimes the moms get real huffy like and give Miss Green a bad time, but the other mothers come to her help and Miss Green never gets mad or nothin’ which I got to say is raree; if that’s the word; like it don’t happen often that a person who is being yelled at or cussed at don’t get upset and cuss back.

I like that; and Clem says Dan tells him that Miss Green’s the calmest and most understandin’ young woman he’s ever met. A real gem, says Clem.

Now Dan’s tellin’ Clem who’s tellin’ me that next month, Miss Green’s goin’ to have the little ones put on a play-like; you know, like a skit or a talkin’ show ; give the little ones a chance to play act and all. They’re goin’ to be in some costume and have lines and the little ones are so excited

They have practiced and all; like whatever you call them; reversals—or somethin’ like that where the little ones practice together for the show.
Miss Green has invited all the parents and other family people and even asked Clem and me; with a thing in the mail; like askin’ us or invitin’ us; like that.
It has the day and the time and it’ll be in Burgen, but they think folks may go all the way from Sturgen to Burgen to watch the little ones do their play thing.
Don’t know why everyone’s invited but to me it sure sounds like fun, and
Clem and me are goin’ for sure; if he can get just one of them cars in 
the front yard to start. Otherwise it’s the old Ford truck and we all now 
that’s chancey; Fix Or Repair Daily; the old joke. I heard it just the other 
day at the beauty parlor. Oh I wasn’t here for nothin’, I was there just to 
pick up Ruthie; Dan’s wife; Mrs. Rastenberry.
She‘s been goin’ there a lot since Miss Green come to town.
I had to ask Ruthie what a tudor was and she told me it wasn’t like them old English things, but a person who helps another person; like a helper; or a teacher; like Miss Green.
Seems like Miss Green has offered to tudor some of the slower little ones on the weekend or after school.
Now that there’s a fine thing to do for her, Miss Green; and she don’t get more pay for it neither; just somethin’ she really believes in I guess; like all the other things Clem and Dan says she’s doin’

Dan told me yesterday that Miss Green had started a new subject of Space and it’s not necessary, but if the little ones want to learn over their lunch period Miss Green will show them movies and things from the space folks and maybe even have a space person come and talk from Marshall or somewhere like that there; from way south of here; in Alabama.

Miss Green sent out a bunch of letters to the NASA people askin’ them to come.
No one did; but there’s a young girl in the space program who grew up in Sturgen and she’s comin’ to talk to the little ones and tell them about space and all.

Last Saturday, Miss Green has had an open house at the school and any of the little ones or their parents can come by and have snacks and cold drinks and talk about ideas  for getting the little ones learnin’ earlier; and better. And she’s goin’ to keep on them open houses because the first one was a big hit, like and very poplar.

And on Sundays,  after Church, Miss Green has open house at her apartment and talks with parents about questions or problems that the little one, or ones, are havin’, like not learnin’ real good; things like that.

Bad news today. Cause there’s being a rumor that has it that Miss Green’s gettin’ married and movin’ away. 

Don’t know where she’s goin’ but wherever it is, they’ll be sure as shootin’ lucky to have her teachin’ their little ones.

Weddin’s gonna be in Milwaukee; but  Dan and Ruthie is goin’ and Dan asked me and Clem if we’d like to go along.  I told him I’d have to think about it some.

Yesterday,Dan told Clem that Miss Green started up a buddy system with the older little ones; you know, like a lookout for the little one; someone to help the little one and talk to them and like that.

Even the teachers in the bigger grades; farther up, like, have started this thing too; like I think it’s called a meantor; or mantor; I’m  not sure at all; maybe mentor; but whatever you call it, it  works real well, Dan says. 

In fact he’ll be recommendin’ a thing like that for the whole school system, that he watches; you know, like it’s his job to keep gettin’ little ones—and the bigger ones too, but someone to look out for some other kid. 

Someone to help the kid; look out for the kid; specially the girl kids; someone to stand up to the bullies, you  know, and like that.

Yesterday I told Clem and Dan that I sure wanted to go to Miss Green’s weddin’ and all.
They was a bit surprised I think, though they didn’t tell me why, but I’ll find out from Clem some day; he’s a pretty softy sort and I can hug and kiss him into tellin’ me, but right now I can hardly wait and go to that weddin’. 

That man who’s marryin’ her, I figured out, has to be one real lucky fella.

But the little ones she teaches when she’s back from her honeymoon and all; them little ones will be gettin’ the best dang teacher I ever heard of.

I talked to Clem about all them things she’s done here and I just hope the new teacher does what Miss Green has done; even half of what she’s done; them little ones will grow up to be real smart people, I reckon; real smart.





© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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