the burning of washington

This is a Catholic school story again .

I liked to have my classes make flour-and-water maps . A little geography . A little history . A little fun . There’s less and less of that kind of thing going on now in these days of testing , teaching to the test , and testing again . No test for flour-and-water mapping  !

This particular year the students each  chose a state . They made a dough shape of their state and I put the little dough states in an oven in the teachers’ lounge at a low heat to dry out .

In Catholic elementary schools , on Fridays , the school troops over to the church for noon Mass . So we were sitting in the church . One of my students said to me : Do you smell smoke , Mr. H ?

No , I didn’t .

I think I smell smoke , another student said .  I didn’t . I figured that they were grasping for any little distraction . Concentrate on the Mass , I said .

And then there were sirens . A fire truck .  Then more sirens . Fire trucks . Close by .

And then the light bulb went on in my head : I left the states drying in the oven !

I rushed out into a mass of firemen scooting around with extinguishers , walkie talkies . The school was surrounded . Fire crews were unravelling their hoses . It’s just smoke from the oven , one of them reassured  me . No ignition .

No ignition , I told the principal as she rushed into the building . Black smoke billowed out the door as she entered . Open the windows , she said . You did this ? she asked matter-of-factly .   She knew .

It was Washington , I said . It still had cardboard on the bottom and the cardboard caused the smoke .

Washington ? she said .  She looked at me with an unexpectedly tolerant stare . Help me get this smoke out of here , she said . And she was done . She never said another word about it .

The fire department always sends everyone when it’s a school , the pastor said to me as he passed me in the hallway . He was carrying a fire extinguisher . I wonder what happened ? he said to the principal .

It was Washington , she said to him . He looked at her briefly as if he should know what she meant , and then he sped away with his extinguisher .

Good one , Mr. H.  ! , one of my students softly whispered to me later . You burned Washington .
There was a fathomless measure of collegial sympathy in his conspiratorial gaze .

1 Comment

Filed under humor

One response to “the burning of washington

  1. Was the burning of WA payback for how you treated Dusty in the last post? Good post here. Laughed out loud. Great last sentence.

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