Afternoon, Miss Garsha
you sing the scale, or you do detention for the rest of this term...'
Froggy hit middle
C on the piano. It did not prompt Heather to sing. Instead, she stared
out the window at a leafless tree. She had been staring at the tree
for 15 minutes. She expected to stand there for another 15. She didnt
change expression. Her eyes were glazed, she hoped. Her lips were sealed
shut, never to open again, at least not in song in Froggys office.
She peeked at Froggy, then made herself stop. Froggy fascinated her.
His eyes bulged out of their sockets. When he blinked, a long, slow
blink, his eyelids seemed to go up and down over his eyeballs in stages.
Thats why everybody at school called him Froggy.
Another middle C brought Heather out of her reverie. Froggy smacked
his long thin lips, then popped them open. Heather tried not to look.
She did not want to see him catch a fly with his tongue or catch her
with it either, which is what he looked about to do.
Instead, he said, "Now, Miss Garsha, either you sing the scale,
or you do detention for the rest of this term." Heather stared
at the tree.
"Good afternoon, Miss Garsha. I will see you in detention."
Heather flew down the school steps and into the arms of her waiting
"Did he do anything to you?" they asked in chorus.
"Naw, just Miss Garshad me to death and gave
me detention for life. Listen, thanks for waiting, but I have to get
home. My fathers on leave and teaching us to behave the
Navy way again. The Navy way is we have to eat supper together."
Her friends rolled their eyes in sympathy, as Heather turned to walk
Heather didnt care about singing in the ninth grade choir. She
had known she couldnt sing since second grade when Mrs. Skyler
told her to move her lips but not to make a sound when the other children
sang. She knew she would never be able to sing. She was a monotone.
Shed looked it up.
Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. This would all have to blow up while HE was
home. Mama would have shrugged and said, "Do the detention if you
wont sing," and that would have been it. Now it would become
a federal case. The Navy way probably meant she had refused a command
by a superior officer. Shed have to walk the plank or something.
"Why are you late, Heather?" her father asked before she managed
to close the door behind her.
She looked at him closely, maybe for the first time. He was sort of
square, maybe five foot eight. Muscles bulging inside his t-shirt. Black
crew cut with a whitish spot in the middle where the barber had cut
too close, kind of boyish. Heather decided not to lie.
"I had to stay after school."
"How come?" he asked.
"Mr. Helmuth wanted me to sing the scale, and I wouldnt.
"Froggy? Hes still at that school?" Her father grinned
wide. "Why wouldnt you sing?
"Because I cant sing. Im a monotone. Every note sounds
"Did you tell Mr. Helmuth that?"
"No, I didnt want to make excuses. Mr. Helmuth said, Now,
Miss Garsha, either you sing the scale, or you do detention for the
rest of this term. Now I have detention till the end of term."
"What did he call you?" Fathers voice deepened.
"Miss Garsha, what he always calls me. He says its the American
way to say G-A-R-C-I-A."
Fathers face darkened, but he said nothing. He picked up his jacket,
got in his old Plymouth, and drove away. Now Heather was scared hed
either punch out Froggy or agree with him. She knew she should help
her mother in the kitchen, but she couldnt move from the front
Finally, father came home. He hung up his jacket, looked at Heather,
"I had a chat with Mr. Helmuth. You dont have to sing the
scale, you dont have to be in the ninth grade choir, and you dont
have detention for the rest of the term." Then he walked into the
He didnt tell mama. He didnt say what hed said to
Froggy, but Froggy never called Heather Miss Garsha again. Heather thought
it was ok to have a father in the Navy. She told him so in a letter
after he left. He sent her a large stuffed toy. It was a Navy seal.
Marcia. Mascolini April 2003
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