Excerpt from “Good Morning, Miss Dove” by Frances Gray Patton ~~Kiss~~

picture-GoodMorningMissDove-PattonSlowly Randy Baker raised his hand. The sounds stopped. Silence like a caught breath hung on the room. Miss Dove could see beads of sweat on Randy’s brow. His open palm was damp and gleaming.
“Yes, Randolph?” she said.
Randy stood up. Miss Dove’s pupils always stood when they addressed her. He smoothed his plump stomach with his hand. “I got a letter from Tommy yestiddy,” he said.
Received, Randolph,” said Miss Dove. “You received a letter from your brother yesterday. That was nice.”
“Yes, Miss Dove,” said Randy. He hesitated. Clearly, he was floundering. “He sent me a dollar he won playing poker in the convalescent hospital.”
“I am sorry to hear that Thomas gambles,” said Miss Dove, “but we are all very proud of his war record. If you have nothing more interesting to tell us you may take your seat, Randolph.”
“H-hr-rmph!” went the boy behind Randy.
“He’s been decorated,” said Randy, “for bravery beyond the call of duty.” The high words seemed to inspirit him. “He sent a message to the class.”
“Did you bring the letter?” asked Miss Dove. “If so, you may read that part aloud.”
Randy took an air-mail envelope from his hip pocket.
The class stirred. The ghost of a titter rippled the air.
“Attention, please,” said Miss Dove.
Randy opened the letter. The paper was smudged and crumpled. Obviously, it had suffered many readings in many hands. Randy cleared his throat. The sound he made was not a link in the chain signal. Miss Dove could tell the difference. “It’s sort of long,” Randy demurred hopefully.
“We can spare the time,” she said.
Randy began to read. His voice was high and clear; it had the girlish sweetness that comes just before the breaking point.
“The funny thing about the world,” Randy read, “is that it looks just like you think it does. When they flew me back to Cal. in a hospital plane I looked down, and, heck, kid, I might as well have been looking at those diagrams on the geography board back in dear (ha, ha!) ole Cedar Grove. I spotted a peninsula. A body of water almost entirely surrounded by land. I saw some atolls, too. And they really are made in rings like doughnuts with palm trees sprouting out of the cake part and blue water in the hole in the middle. The water is the colour of that blue chalk I swiped once and drew a picture of Miss Dove on the sidewalk with. Remember?”
He swallowed hard.
“Proceed, Randolph,” said Miss Dove.
“You want to know if I was scared when the little yellow insects from –” Randy blushed but went on – “from hell” – in his embarrassment he brought out the word with unnecessary force – “dive-bombed us. The answer is, you bet. But it came to me in a flash that I wasn’t much scareder than I was that time old lady Dove caught me bragging about how I could beat her up at the drinking fountain. ‘I didn’t run that time,’ I told myself, ‘so I won’t run now.’ Beside there wasn’t much place to run to.”
The class laughed nervously.
“And later,” Randy read on doggedly, “when I was bobbing up and down like Crusoe on my raft, what do you guess I thought about? It wasn’t any pin-up girl. It was Miss Dove. I thought about the fishy stare she used to give us when we needed a drink of water. So to make my supply hold out I played I was back in the geography room. And even after the water was gone I kept playing. I’d think, ‘The bell is bound to ring in a few minutes. You can last a little longer.’ It took the same kind of guts in the Pacific it did in school. Tell that to the guys in Cedar Grove.” Randy stopped abruptly.
“Hr-hrmph!” went someone.
“Is that the end?” asked Miss Dove.
Randy looked directly at her. For a fleeting moment she thought he was going to say yes. If he did, that would be that. Randy shook his head. “No, Miss Dove,” he said. “There’s a little more.” His face turned the colour of a ripe tomato. “He says here” – Randy gulped – “he says” – Randy took a deep breath – “he says: ‘Give the terrible Miss Dove a kiss for me!’”
Miss Dove came down from her platform. She inclined her head with her cheek turned in Randy’s direction.
“Well, Randolph,” said Miss Dove, “I am waiting.”
There was an electric stillness that was followed, as the full meaning of her words penetrated the children’s consciousness, by a gasp. Randy folded the letter and put it back into his pocket. Then he began to walk toward the teacher. He walked with deliberate stoicism of a martyr going to the chopping block. He did not come any closer than he had to. He leaned forward stiffly from the waist and placed his puckered lips against her cheek. His kiss resounded, a small explosion in the room.
“Thank you, Randolph,” said Miss Dove. “You may give Thomas my regards.” She straightened up and faced the class. To her surprise, nobody was grinning.
Jincey Webb spoke. She did not raise her hand for permission. She just spoke out.
“It’s like a medal,” Jincey said softly. “It’s like he pinned a medal on Miss Dove.”
For a moment a lamp seemed to burn behind her face. Then over the light swept a shadow. It was as if Jincey had glimpsed some universal beauty – of sorrow, perhaps, or of nobility – too poignant for her youth to bear. She began to cry. She flopped her head down on her desk with her red hair falling forward and spreading out like a crinkly fan.
All the other girls wept with her. All the boys stared sternly into space.

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2 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Literature

2 responses to “Excerpt from “Good Morning, Miss Dove” by Frances Gray Patton ~~Kiss~~

  1. Frances Gray Patton was born in North Carolina, USA on 19 March 1906, and died on 28 March 2000, aged 94 years. “Good Morning, Miss Dove” was published in 1954.

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