I recently did a play where a cast member gave me, Where The Red Fern Grows. This week, “Apalachicola”
With a loud crack, all the students but one, jumped, when they heard the 5th grade teacher slam the ruler on her desk.
“Now that I have your attention, let’s begin. Good morning class. Today we’re going to study Florida, the 27th state. Can anyone tell me where Florida is?” The class sprung to life.
The smart kids in front, stiff and rigid, heads held high, politely raised their hands, a bit smug from the years of self-reliance. The unprepared ones, knowing such an easy question and wanting to be called upon, waved wildly, and in the room you could hear, “Pick me! Pick me! Miss Renfro, pick me!” Yet Brian, still staring out the window, didn’t raise his hand, fixed on what was going on just yards away.
Noticing, the teacher wanted to engage the lackadaisical student.
“Yes, Miss Renfro.”
“Young man, will you please tell the class what you find so interesting, outside of that window?”
Staring out again, he said, “Um, It’s the clouds, Miss Renfro. That’s what it is. I’m, uh, looking at the clouds.”
“Well, you do seem to have your head in them. Tell me, Mr. Wilkins, where is the city of Apalachicola?”
Brian turns to her, his mind still not all there says, “I think it’s next to, um, half-a-glass-a-cola?”
The classroom erupts in laughter.
“He’s so stupid.”
“Brian is whack.”
“That boy, he crazy.”
“You know he ain’t going to be smarter than a 5th grader.”
Brian’s attention, now back to where it belonged, closed his eyes and starts to feel the flush of embarrassment on his face. “I’m such an idiot,” he says to himself, and sinks down into the desk.
Walking home, books in hand, and a map of Florida folded in his back pocket, he got from the school library, he tries to forget homeroom and what the 27th state did to him. He sees the only person his age he cares about, Sophie, a neighbor from across the street of his Shreveport, Louisiana home.
“Not a good day today, huh Brian?”
“No, it sure wasn’t. But now I do know, Apalachicola is 80 miles southwest of Tallahassee, and has over 2000 people living in it, and is named after Indians, American Indians, not the ones from Turkey.
“Well, I thought it was funny, what you said today.”
‘Thanks, but I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
“It was funny, anyways.”
“Yea, I guess it was; Half-a-glass-a cola.”
They walked down the suburban line of houses, upper-middle class, most with two stories, but Sophia lived in an odd dilapidated place, no curtains or things that said a lady lives there. She asked, “Brian, what was it that had you so fixed on outside?”
Brian got excited.
“You’re not going to believe this. Principle Young was talking to Mayor Roy and they were really going at it. They were moving their arms around and pointing to each other’s face. I heard Principle Young say, "You know those cemetaries are not to be distributed.”
Mayor Roy then said, “I don’t care if a thousand ghosts are going to get in my way, that land is mine.” The mayor pushed Principle Young and stormed off in my direction. When the mayor passed the window, he saw me lookin’ and it gave me a scare. That’s when Miss Renfro asked me the question about Florida.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
“I couldn’t. My mind was racin’. All I heard was Apalachicola, and then I thought, Coke-a-cola, then I thought, half-a-glass-a-cola. It just came out, Sophia.”
“Yea, I say dumb stuff like that when I get nervous. One time, in church, I was supposed to say “Jesus Saves” and it came out, “Jesus shaves.” My daddy laughs about it all the time. In the morning, I can hear him in the bathroom.
Brian asked, “Do you think he’s alright, Principle Young?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should just see what happens,” and both were now in front of their houses.
“Well, I’ll see you later Brian.”
“See you later, too, and don’t tell anybody what I said. OK.”
“No, I won’t.”
Brian walked into his house feeling much better and felt relieved that the Apalachicola incident was behind him. His mother, always happy to see her only son was waiting in the kitchen and asked how his day went. He gave the always “fine,” threw his books on the table and went into the living room, turned on the TV and started to play some video games. Just as he grabbed the joysticks, he heard a knock on the door and wondered what Sophia wanted. He got up, opened the door, and it was Mayor Roy.
“Hello, Brian. Is your mother home?”