I never would have compared Margret to an elephant. They were as different as caviar and PB&J. At least that’s what I thought until we had an unexpected visitor at work.
It was the Monday after Easter, and no one was in the building except Margret, me and the seven children in our care. I sat at the long green table helping little Robbie put together puzzles while Margret colored pictures with two children at another table. Three little girls played in the house area, dressing dolls. A lone boy constructed a tower at the Lego table. Everything looked to be in order. I loved it when the children could get along, playing nicely together for extended periods of time. I turned my attention back to the puzzle.
The corner was missing. I poked my head under the table, hoping that I would find the lost piece, but it wasn’t there. However, something else caught my attention. It was a small movement – just a flash of soft brown by the door – and then it was gone. My heart began to race. Surely it wasn’t what I thought it was. No, I had to be mistaken.
“Is the piece down there, teacher?”
“No, Robbie.” I said, righting myself at the table.
“Oh,” his downcast face spoke volumes. I touched his chin, and he looked at me with those huge blue eyes.
“I think I might know where it is.”
I hoped the piece would be in our “collect-all” bin. As I walked past the door, a faint movement caught the corner of my eye. I quickly turned my head, but whatever had been there, was gone. I grabbed the plastic bin and returned to the table. Robbie immediately began searching for the missing piece. My thoughts were still on the door. Everything looked normal. My brain must have been playing tricks on me.
“Look, teacher!” Robbie said, holding up the green corner.
“Wonderful! Can you put it in?” Robbie made a great show out of placing the last piece.
We both clapped, but as we did, I saw the movement again. This time, there was no mistaking it. A small brown shape scurried along the wall and ducked under the tall metal cabinet in the corner. We had a visitor, and I didn’t want anything to do with him. I looked over at Margret, but she was oblivious to the panic coursing through my veins.
“Why don’t you get started on the Elmo puzzle, while I got talk to Mrs. Reid for a moment?” Robbie got complied. I quietly gestured for Margret to meet me in the center of the room.
“Don’t look now,” I whispered, “but I think that we have a visitor.”
“The State Inspector?” Margret’s eyes shot to the door.
“No.” Though I was sure a surprise visit from the State Inspector would have been much more agreeable at the moment. “I think I saw a mouse.”
“No, really, who’s here?” Margret laughed.
“I’m not joking. I saw something small and furry scurrying along the wall.”
Margret’s eyes grew wide. “Eek!” She jumped up on top of the sand table. She flapped her skirts and hopped from foot to foot. It was like that scene in Dumbo, where all the elephants tried to get away from the mouse. All the children turned to her, looking on in amazed wonder.
Then I saw it again. The creature was working its way along the wall. Margret was going to be no help. And as much as I hated mice - those nasty little creatures - I was going to have to take care of this one myself. Thankfully, the children were all gathered around Margret, laughing and chattering. They thought that she was playing a game. Soon, all seven children were dancing on the large sand table.
I grabbed an empty lemonade container and skirted around the commotion in the center of the room. No one paid me any attention as I snuck up on that unwelcome guest. It only took me four tries but finally, I captured him in my can, took him outside and released him far from the school.
As I walked back to the building, I realized that I would never be able to look at Margret without thinking about elephants. Maybe they weren’t so different after all.
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