Development by Nan Wigington
In the development, nothing grew except concrete, asphalt, pink ranches, and brown split levels.
So when the wind came, it lifted inches, acres of barren dirt and flung them at our backs and into our hair, eyes, ears. Mrs. Taylor blew her whistle and made us all go inside. We flocked to the windows, watched the house across the street. It was December, and they’d already put out a creche. Mary had been knocked down. A shepherd lay on top of her, his staff stuck in her back. The baby Jesus had broken loose and was tumbling head over heels down the street. Mrs. Taylor, who had already put her sweater on the back of her chair, came up behind us and pulled all of the blinds.
“Third grade,” she said. “It’s time for Math.” We tried – operations and algebraic thinking, base ten, fractions, measurement and data – but nothing could drown out the sound of sand screeching down the windows.
Mrs. Taylor closed her book and handed out coloring sheets. We could make as many green trees as we wanted, yellow sun flowers, red roses. She turned on music and we bent our heads.
Halfway through a violin sonata, there was a thump. Everyone looked up
“I guess we can check,” Mrs. Taylor said. She pulled one row of blinds. We saw a tether ball, its tattered rope waving frantically as it bounced into fourth grade’s door, then fifth’s. We saw the tumbleweeds caught in the school’s chain link fence, the drifts of sand that had built up behind them.
“That’s bigger than Little Stevie,” said Anita Marks as she pointed to one particularly high drift.
Little Stevie pushed up his glasses and swallowed.
“Third grade,” Mrs. Taylor said, “back to your desks.” She turned up the music and many of us hurried to finish our coloring. Most of our trees were storms of black or brown.
At noon, the light outside our school had dimmed. Mrs. Taylor, who had been on the phone with the office, hung up, and marched us to the cafeteria. Even though the cafeteria had no windows and you could hardly hear the monster that was outside raging, no one wanted the tomato soup and grilled cheese the cafeteria offered. Even Anita Marks picked at her oatmeal cookie. When they should have let us go out for recess, they announced the school would be closing. Our parents would come for us. No one was to leave until their parents came.
There followed a parade of gray-faced adults. Child after child got up and took a hand or wordlessly followed a retreating back until it was just Mrs. Taylor, Little Stevie, and me.
“God doesn’t give us what we can’t handle,” said Mrs. Taylor.
Nan Wigington lives in a Colorado retirement community on the eastern edge of Denver. Her work has appeared in Six Sentences, 101 Words, and Pure Slush.