The School Marm Chapter 15 by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

The School Marm Chapter 15 by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

The School Marm

By Winslow Parker and Joan Myles



In 2021 Joan Myles answered the call of fellow Behind Our Eyes member Winslow Parker to write a chain story. They emailed chapters back and forth for nearly a year, each twisting the plot and creating new characters without much discussion. Once completed, the story needed only a bit of tweaking and a reader. They appreciate any who find it enjoyable.


Chapter 15



“I need to visit all the parents of my students. Would you like to come with me, Aunt Birdie?” Lucy asked one Sunday afternoon.


“Yes, that would be a capital idea. I need to get out of the house. Let’s hook up the buggy. It will give our feet a bit of a rest.”


“Howdy ma’am,” Lucy said after knocking on the door of a neat frame house. “I’m the new school teacher and want to meet the parents of my students. Are you Martha’s mother?”


“Yes, I am. Come in, come in! I’ve been wanting to meet you. I saw you in church last week, but there were too many people around to say anything to you. Is Martha in any kind of trouble?” she asked as they settled themselves around the kitchen table.


“Oh, no, not at all. She’s a sweet little girl. No trouble at all. She could use some help with her alphabet because she writes some of her letters backwards. It’s not uncommon for a first grader. Could you do some practice with her at home?”


The woman flushed red. “Well, miss, I’m not sure I can help. I have no book learning. Never went to school. That’s why I’m so glad you’re here to give Martha a chance I never had.” She lowered her eyes, appearing to be ashamed.


“How about this,” Lucy said. “I’m sure there are others in town who have never attended school. There is no shame in that. This world isn’t always a fair place. How about if you and others who never went to school get together at Aunt Bir—I mean Aunt Beatrice’s house one evening a week? I’d be glad to help you so you could help Martha.”


“Oh! Would you? Could we? That would be so wonderful. I’ve always envied those who can read the Bible and the newspaper when one finds its way this far into the wilderness.”


“Certainly. Aunty, what would be a good evening?”


“Well, the knitting circle meets on Monday and prayer meeting is on Wednesday, how about Thursday evenings at 7?”


“Would that work for you?” she asked the woman.


“I’ll make it work. My Fred will watch Martha for an hour or so. He’s a good man.”


“It’s settled then. See you Thursday at seven. Invite anyone you like to join us.”


They said their farewells and returned to the buggy.


“That’s right nice of you,” Lucy’s aunt said.


“It’s not all out of the kindness of my heart,” said Lucy. “I figure I can get a lot of information from the women as we talk, but I do love to teach, so it certainly won’t be wasted time. Besides, the mothers will be making my teaching a lot easier by coaching the children at home.”


They met three other families, with seven of her pupils among them.


“I’d like to meet Billy’s father. Billy is such a precocious child. I’ve wondered what his father is like. Also curious about some bruises I’ve seen on his face and arms. He’s fidgety in class though he absorbs information like a sponge.”


“Oh, no! Poor child. His father took a tumble after his mother died. He quit coming to church and the gossip mill says that he is often inebriated.”


“That would explain a lot.”


“Here it is,” announced Beatrice.


They left the buggy and approached the house. It was surrounded by the detritus of the town. Two broken buggies without wheels, a splintered ox-bow, a door, odds and ends of furniture, a bicycle’s twisted frame. The shack itself was made of warped and splintering wood planks. Gaps between boards let wind and occasional rain into the interior which they could no longer protect.


Lucy knocked on the door frame next to the cowhide-covered opening from which the discarded door had obviously been taken. There was no answer to her knock.


Billy suddenly poked his head around the side of the house, squinting at them, puzzled.


“You lookin’ for me?”


“No,” Lucy said, “I see enough of you all week long.” Her grin told him she was teasing. “Looking for your pa.”


“He’s asleep. Don’t want to wake him. Sunday is his only day off.”


“Who’s that, Billy?” came slurred words from within.


“It’s her aunt. Tain’t nuthin. Go on back to sleep.”


A moment later, a red-eyed unshaven man pushed aside the hanging cowhide and poked his head out. “Howdy miss,” he slurred.


“Hello, Mr. Bushnell. As Billy said, I’m Miss Phillips and you probably already know my Aunt, Beatrice Krane.”


“That I do. I’m still grateful for the kind words Reverend Krane said over my wife after she died. He wouldn’t take nuthin’ for his services neither. Never known a reverend to not take money for his services.” His voice faded into silence and he seemed a bit perplexed at his own observation.


“Jonathan was a wonderful husband and human being,” she said. “I miss him, but the community misses him too.”


“Yer right there,” he replied. “What can I do for you ladies?”


“Well, I’m the new school teacher and I’m trying to meet the parents of all my students,” explained Lucy. “I only have Sunday afternoons, so am trying to meet as many as I can each week until I’ve met them all.”


“Billy tells me a lot about school. Seems he takes to it right well.” His voice was less slurred now.


“He’s a bright boy. He’ll be head of his class before long. He’s eating it up. He’s also a very talented artist.”


“Didn’t know that,” mused Billy’s father. “The chestnut doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess.” His smile revealed his pride.


“Are you an artist too?”


“Used to be. I was close to a major exhibition in New York City, then got consumption and had to move to Arizona Territory for my lungs. It worked, but haven’t painted since. ‘Sides, too tired. Blasting is tiring and dangerous work. Don’t have much energy left over for frills.”


“Do you have any of your paintings? If so, I’d like to see them,” said Aunt Birdie.


“Well, mebbe. Let me think.” He turned back into the house. After a few moments, he returned, holding a cardboard tube. He thumped one end, then pulled out a rolled canvas. Spreading it with his hands, he turned it to them and held it open.


“Beautiful!” exclaimed Lucy.


“It’s my wife,” he said, his voice gruff with emotion. “She was right pretty.”


“You captured her very nicely. It looks like she is about to pull a prank or say something funny. Look at the corners of her mouth, just ready to break into a grin.”


“That was her most of the time…” his voice trailed off into silence.


“Can I see, Pa?”


“I guess.”


He tilted the picture toward the boy. Tears welled in Billy’s eyes, but he blinked them away and stared. He raced inside and returned with the sketchpad Lucy gave him on her first day in town. Quickly, he sketched his mother’s image, then turned and ran back inside.


“He does have the gift,” said Mr. Bushnell.


“I plan to foster that talent in the classroom.”


“Thank you. Maybe one of us will succeed.” He turned away.


“Do you have others?” asked Beatrice.


“Yeah, several. Can’t do nuthin’ with them, though. No one out here in this hellish place…pardon me ma’am, miss.”


“I’d be interested in seeing them sometime,” she said. “Could you bring them by my house, maybe next Sunday afternoon?”


“Why sure, ma’am. Only I couldn’t charge you for ‘em.”


“We’ll make some kind of a deal if I like them,” Beatrice assured him.


“Thanks,” he said and turned back into the hovel.


“Just one more thing, Mr. Bushnell,” Lucy said, voice firm.


He turned to face her.


“Billy has come to school several times with bruises on his face and arms.”


“Probably accidents,” dismissed his father. “You know how squirrely he is. Always running and jumping. More energy than any three other kids I know.”


“That may be, except that twice the bruises on his face were those of a handprint. Have you any idea of anyone who would do that?”


Mr. Bushnell’s face colored.


“No, but I’ll kill anyone who lays a hand on the kid. He’s all I have.”


“If there is anything I can do to help find the person responsible, let me know,” Lucy said.


“I will,” he promised, gruffly and turned away.


The bruises stopped. Billy’s classroom restlessness diminished.


The next Sunday, Mr. Bushnell was in church. He nodded to Lucy as he passed her on the street after the service. He wore a patched but clean suit. His fingernails were stained with a rainbow of colors.





About the Authors:


Winslow Parker is retired and lives with his wife of 50 years in Portland Oregon. He has, during his work years, been a hospital chaplain, schoolteacher (which taught him more than he taught), associate pastor, Mental-health tech, social worker and finally an adaptive technology instructor at the Oregon Commission for the Blind. He flunked Freshman comp the first time around and did not begin to write seriously until 2007. Since then, he has self-published several books, including Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence a book of short stories and Hitler’s Hell a book of iconoclastic Christian theology. He wrote his first poem, a year, and a half ago. “Tears,” at the suggestion of another member. Always delighting in word manipulation, he finds BOE a receptive and welcoming environment in which to sharpen his quill.

Find his work at:


Joan Myles has always been a child of Wonder as well as a spiritual seeker. When she lost her sight at the age of 12, these qualities and writing poetry saved her from despair.


Joan earned a B.A. in Education, a Master’s in Jewish Studies. She married, raised four lively children, worked as a Rehabilitation Teacher, and taught Hebrew and Judaics for over 15 years.


Her first book of poetry, One With Willows, vividly expresses Joan’s child-like joy. She considers her poems to be a kind of footpath for readers, an opening into Wonder and Awe as a means to reclaim their own sense of spiritual playfulness.


Joan’s words also reveal the invisible link between one human being and another, between humans and Nature, between the physical realm and the Spiritual. The idea of the Oneness of Creation flows through her work, the understanding of living in the world as a journey of discovery, of stepping into and between the various layers and levels of existence. the poems in One Glittering Wing represents this kind of journey, specifically through Joan’s yearlong passage from the deep pain of her mother’s death toward reconciliation with Life.


And of course, One Goes to the Sea is her way of asking, “What can we learn from imagination as we dream our days and nights away? And can these lessons help awaken us to Love?”


Joan currently lives in Oregon with her best friend, who also happens to be her husband.

Find her work and contact her at:





One Comment

  1. Yes, the saga continues…thanks dear Patty for sharing it with your readers!

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