Following is an excerpt from Chapter 20 of THE LONG BRIDGE RUNNER
Dorothy came early Christmas morning as everyone gathered 'round the Christmas tree. There was, off to one side, a large package in shiny green paper that Daniel had not seen the night before. He believed it to be from his mother and because it was the largest he opened it first. It was not until he saw Dorothy's surprise that he realized the gray two-reeled eight-millimeter movie projector was a gift from Mrs. Gray. He was so transfixed by this thing, the actual physical embodiment of his imaginings, daydreams, obsessions, that he hardly noticed another gift. Dorothy was furious.
"Why would a school teacher give him such a present?" she asked, plainly miffed that the "star" present was not her own.
Kimberly could not explain the reasons behind the present herself. Buying such a gift for a student was a bad practice, but worse, Kimberly found herself thinking of Daniel all through Christmas day.
Daniel was embarrassed that all he had given Mrs. Gray was a simple card and he vowed to make up for it by carefully executing upon brown wrapping paper a twelve-page "book", each page illustrated with line drawings filled in with water color.]
"It is the Story of David," he 47+explained his first day back at school.
Each page was devoted to an important event in the King's life. Goliath was slain, David played the harp and Bathsheba bathed in the nude.
Kimberly looked again at the picture of Bathsheba, "Daniel, why did you draw Bathsheba with her clothes off?"
"Well, she was bathing and my Aunt Florence helped me draw a woman from behind."
"Your Aunt Florence?"
"She's been visiting, she's an artist herself. I told her how much you've taught me and she said that someone like you would want things to look real."
"Well, Daniel," said Mrs. Gray, "Perhaps it's a little too real for a seven year-old. I wouldn't show it to the other children."
Daniel's face suddenly flushed as he said, "I could change that page."
Mrs. Gray didn't speak for a moment, "The book is very nice, Daniel, except for that one place."
Daniel's present had been rejected, he thought as tears filled his eyes. "I don't feel too well, Mrs. Gray," he said as he ran from school clutching his "book".
"I'd like to have the book, Daniel," she called after him.
"That's ok," he said, his voice off pitch.
The picture in question was not offensive, Kimberly thought. Of course it would not do for other children to see it, but why, in her own case, did the picture offend her? Why? Was it because a child had drawn it? It was true to reality, after all Bathsheba was bathing. Still Kimberly was thankful that the picture was not a frontal view. She could not imagine her reaction to that possibility. But why, she wondered, was her reaction so pronounced.
Kenneth, her husband, had called her prudish. She walked to the mirror on the back wall and looked in. Was that a prudish face? She pondered, who would be embarrassed by her own private thoughts but a prude? She threw an eraser at the blackboard in anger, then slumped down onto a chair.
"I am not a bad person. I am a good person," she said and she knew her own heart was kind. "I've tried," she cried aloud, "I've tried."
This day, as every day, she took schoolwork home and carefully prepared the next day's lessons. Perhaps this and her thoughts about Daniel caused dinner to be late. Kenneth was angry and returned to his office without eating. She saved as much of the food as she could then staring into the darkness she touched her face where it needed to be kissed.
Somewhere in the world was a man for her, she thought and thus startled herself; for the first time in her marriage she realized that Kenneth was perhaps not the man she needed. That realization drew her up sharply. She was filled with shame. She wondered, "Had it always been so? Had she fooled herself? Had she married a man for his personable smile, for security? Did she even know her husband?"
"Merrry Christmas," she thought as she cried herself to sleep.
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