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DREAMSCAPES FICTION

Good Afternoon, Miss Garsha
'either you sing the scale, or you do detention for the rest of this term...'
Marcia Mascolini

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 didn’t change expression. Her eyes were glazed, she hoped. Her lips were sealed shut, never to open again, at least not in song in Froggy’s 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. That’s 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 friends.
"Did he do anything to you?" they asked in chorus.
"Naw, just ‘Miss Garsha’d’ me to death and gave me detention for life. Listen, thanks for waiting, but I have to get home. My father’s 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 home.

Heather didn’t care about singing in the ninth grade choir. She had known she couldn’t 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. She’d 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 won’t 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. She’d 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 wouldn’t.
"Froggy? He’s still at that school?" Her father grinned wide. "Why wouldn’t you sing?
"Because I can’t sing. I’m a monotone. Every note sounds the same."
"Did you tell Mr. Helmuth that?"
"No, I didn’t 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?" Father’s voice deepened.
"Miss Garsha, what he always calls me. He says it’s the American way to say G-A-R-C-I-A."

Father’s face darkened, but he said nothing. He picked up his jacket, got in his old Plymouth, and drove away. Now Heather was scared he’d either punch out Froggy or agree with him. She knew she should help her mother in the kitchen, but she couldn’t move from the front window.
Finally, father came home. He hung up his jacket, looked at Heather, and said,
"I had a chat with Mr. Helmuth. You don’t have to sing the scale, you don’t have to be in the ninth grade choir, and you don’t have detention for the rest of the term." Then he walked into the kitchen.
He didn’t tell mama. He didn’t say what he’d 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
email: marcia.mascolini@wmich.edu

DREAMSCAPES FICTION

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