Section C

What Is in Larry's Mind?

The day my son Larry started kindergarten(幼儿园) he gave up trousers with bibs(围嘴)and began wearing blue jeans with a belt. I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that a stage of my life was ended. My nursery-school(托儿所)child with the sweet voice was replaced with a confident character in long trousers, who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me.

He came home the same way, the front door flying open, his cap on the floor, and the voice, suddenly rough, shouting, "Isn't anybody here?"

At lunch he spoke impolitely(不礼貌地)to his father, spilled his baby sister's milk, and remarked that his teacher said we were not to take the name of the Lord in vain(滥用上帝的名义).

"How was school today?" I asked, acting very casual.

"All right," he said.

"Did you learn anything?" his father asked.

Larry regarded his father coldly. "I didn't learn nothing," he said.

"Anything." I said. "Didn't learn anything."

"The teacher spanked(打)a boy, though." Larry said, while eating his bread and butter. "For being fresh," he added, with his mouth full.

"What did he do?" I asked. "Who was it?"

Larry thought. "It was Charles," he said. "He was fresh. The teacher spanked him and made him stand in a corner. He was awfully(非常)fresh."

"What did he do?" I asked again, but Larry slid off his chair, took a cookie(饼干), and left, while his father was still saying. "See here, young man."

The third day — it was Wednesday of the first week — Charles banged a see-saw (翘翘板)on to the head of a little girl and made her bleed, and the teacher made him stay inside all during morning break. Thursday Charles had to stand in a corner during story-time because he kept pounding his feet on the floor. Friday Charles could not use the blackboard because he threw chalk.

On Friday of that week things were back to normal. "You know what Charles did today?" Larry demanded at the dinner table, in a voice slightly amazed. "He told a little girl to say a word and she said it and the teacher washed her mouth out with soap and Charles laughed."

"What word?" his father asked unwisely, and Larry said, "I'll have to whisper it to you; it's so bad." He got down off his chair and went around to his father. His father bent his head down and Larry whispered joyfully. His father's eyes grew larger.

"Did Charles tell the little girl to say that?" he asked in a serious tone.

"She said it twice," Larry said. "Charles told her to say it twice."

"What happened to Charles?" my husband asked.

"Nothing," Larry said. "He was passing out the crayons(蜡笔)."

Monday morning Charles forgot about the little girl and said the bad word himself three or four times, getting his mouth washed out with soap each time. He also threw chalk.

Then it was the first Parent-Teachers meeting, and I wanted very much to meet Charles's mother.

My husband came to the door with me that evening as I set out for the P.T.A. meeting. "Invite her over for a cup of tea after the meeting," he said. "I want to get a look at her."

"If only she's there," I said in hope.

"She'll be there," my husband said. "I don't see how they could hold a P.T.A. meeting without Charles's mother."

At the meeting I sat restlessly, scanning each comfortable mother's face, trying to determine which one hid the secret of Charles. None of them looked stressed enough to me. No one stood up in the meeting and apologized for the way her son had been acting. No one mentioned Charles.

After the meeting I identified and sought out Larry's kindergarten teacher. She had a plate with a cup of tea and a piece of cake; I had a plate with a cup of tea and a piece of cake. We were cautious as we moved toward one another, and smiled.

"I've been so anxious to meet you," I said. "I'm Larry's mother."

"We're all so interested in Larry," she said.

"Well, he certainly likes kindergarten," I said. "He talks about it all the time."

"We had a little trouble adjusting, the first week or so," she said rigidly, "but now he's a fine little helper. With occasional mistakes, of course."

"Larry usually adjusts very quickly," I said. "I suppose this time it's Charles's influence."


"Yes," I said, laughing, "you must have your hands full in that kindergarten with Charles."

"Charles?" she said. "We don't have any Charles in the kindergarten."