Reticent, needs drawing out, Miss Rinehart
scribbled on my sixth-grade report card.
I vowed to never return, but instead
found myself rehearsing for the class play.
Co-stars Eugene and I headed a cast
of tall flowers played by the pluckier pupils
whose costumes were marvels—green wraps
with face-framing petals big as umbrellas.
Surrounded by crepe paper arms, I asked
to be a peony, but Miss Rinehart said
I was born to be The Little Girl and Eugene
The Little Boy. At rehearsal I had to hold
Eugene’s sweaty hand, then run like the wind
when he tried to walk me home.
I was to wear white shoes, so Mother borrowed
a cousin’s clunky lace-up brogues.
The star should wear sandals, I mumbled,
but Mother stuffed the ugly boats with cotton,
coated them with watery polish, and that was that.
On the dread day, the auditorium hummed,
a clamorous garden materialized on stage,
and The Little Girl and Little Boy stood
among twenty-nine bowing blossoms, some
sprouting new sandals. We remembered our lines.
The audience clapped. Miss Rinehart smiled,
took me aside, said I’d done the school proud.
I returned the shoes, avoided Eugene,
staged a life of success as best I could.