That was the week Ann Taylor came to teach summer school at Green Town Central. It was the summer of her twenty-fourth birthday, and it was the summer when Bob Spaulding was just fourteen.
Every one remembered Anna Taylor, for she was that teacher for whom all the children wanted to bring huge oranges or pink flowers, and for whom they rolled up the rustling green and yellow maps of the world without being asked. She was that woman who always seemed to be passing by on days when the shade was green under the tunnels of oaks and elms in the old town, her face shifting with the bright shadows as she walked, until it was all thing to all people. She was the fine peaches of summer in the snow of winter, and she was cool milk for cereals on a hot early-June morning. Whenever you needed on opposite, Ann Taylor was there. And those rare few days in the world when the climate was balanced as fine as maple leaf between winds that blew just right, those were days like Ann Taylor, and should have been so named on the calendar.
As for Bob Spaulding, he was the cousin who walked alone through town on any October evening with a pack of leaves after him like a horde of Halloween mice, or you would seem hem, like a slow white fish spring in the tart water of the Fox Hill Creek, baking brown with the shine of a chestnut to his face by autumn. Or you might hear his voice in those treetops where the wind entertained; dropping down hand by hand, there would come Bob Spaulding to sit alone and look the world, and later you might see him on the lawn with the ants crawling over his book as he read through the long afternoons alone, or played himself a game of chess on Grandmother’s porch, or picked out a solitary tune upon the black piano in the bay windows. You never saw him with any other child.
That first morning, Miss Ann Taylor entered through the side door of the schoolroom and all of the children sat still in their seat as they saw her write her name on the
board in a nice round lettering.
“My name is Ann Taylor.” She said, quietly. “And I’m your new teacher.”
The room seemed suddenly flooded with illumination, as if the roof had moved back; and the trees were full of singing birds. Bob Spaulding sat with a spitball he had just made, hidden in his hand. After a half hour of listening to Miss Taylor, he quietly let the spitball drop to the floor.
That day, after class, he brought in a bucket of water and a rag and began to wash the board.
“What’s this?” She turned to him from her desk, where she had been correcting spelling papers.
“The boards are kind of dirty.” Said Bob, at work.
“Yes. I know. Are you sure you want to clean them?”
“I suppose I should have asked permission.” He said, halting uneasily.
“I think we can pretend you did.” She replied, smiling, and at this smile he finished the boards in an amazing burst of speed and pounded the erasers so furiously that the air was full of snow, it seemed, outside the open window.
“Let’s see.” Said Miss Taylor. “You are Bob Spaulding, aren’t you?”
“Well, thank you, Bob.”
“Could I do them every day?” He asked.
“Don’t you think you should let the other try?”
“I’d like to do them.” He said. “Every day.”
“We’ll try it for a while and see.” She said.
“I think you’d better run home.” She said, finally.
“Good night.” He walked slowly and was gone.
The next morning he happened by the place where she took board and room just as she was coming out to walk to school.
“Well, here I am.” He said.
“And do you know.” She said. “I’m not surprised.”