The tickle in my throat distracted me from the multiplication problem. With mouth closed, I coughed as quietly as possible to relieve the irritation.
The scratching intensified.
I focused again on my workbook, but I couldn’t hold back any longer. I coughed. And then I kept on coughing. Mrs. Wile looked my way, as did my third grade classmates. I knew what she was going to say, so I gathered up my pencil, math homework, and a book.
I was being sent to the hallway.
I don’t remember if there was a chair waiting for me or if I had to take the blue plastic one from my desk. I wasn’t made to stand or sit on the floor since this wasn’t supposed to be punishment. I was disruptive, but not on purpose.
The second floor hallway was deserted. After spending many an afternoon story time here, banished so that my classmates could hear Mrs. Wile read the next chapter of a book, I had memorized every surface. The artwork on the walls rotated, the cracks in the paint lengthened, but nothing else changed.
Noticing a few open classroom doors, I strained to listen in over the muffled slap of tennis shoes and the subdued thud of basketballs on the gymnasium floor. I heard nothing of interest, so I focused on the math homework balanced on my lap.
I barked once more. The sound echoed.
I liked the solitude of the hallway. Here, no one would know that I was finishing the homework first. I didn’t have to force myself to work more slowly. I could gawk and eavesdrop as much as I wanted and still be able to complete the problems before everyone else.
Yet, being sent to the hallway was its own horrible mix of special attention and standing out. Being blessed with extra trips to the drinking fountain did not outweigh the curse of a painful, persistent cough that drew the stares of classmates. Of course, the alternative was worse. I’d rather look like a miscreant than stand beside Mrs. Wile’s desk, mouth open, eyes squeezed shut, tensing in anticipation of the Chloraseptic spray. I always flinched and ended up with numb lips and a nasty taste on my tingling tongue.
I finished the last problem just in time to hear footsteps on the stairwell. I leaned forward to catch sight of a fifth grader on his way to the third floor. Hall pass dangling from his fingers, he smirked at me.
I didn’t know his name. Did he know mine?
Happy third birthday, Yeah Write!