Gooney Bird took the paper from Beanie and looked at it carefully. "You know what?" she said. "I don't think that was the end."
"It isn't?" Beanie said.
"You just stopped too soon," Gooney Bird pointed out.
"What if, after this last sentence—'the little cub was always skinny and scared'—you then added a suddenly?"
"But what could it say after that?" Beanie asked.
"Class?" Gooney Bird turned to the second-graders, who were all listening and thinking. "Ideas?"
Malcolm shouted, "Suddenly the big cub was killed by a lion and the little one got to eat all his food! This big lion comes and kills him, see! How about if a lion—"
"Oh, no!"wailed Keiko.
"Other ideas?" Gooney Bird asked.
"I have one," said Felicia Ann timidly.
"Remember, it should start with a suddenly," Gooney Bird reminded her.
Felicia Ann nodded. "Thuddenly," she said, "the big cub got thtuck in a bear trap! He wath too fat to get out!"
"And then what?"
"Well, hith little brother came along and wath able to reach in and help him, becuth he wath thkinny! He unlocked the trap and let hith brother out!"
"YES!" called Tyrone." Caught in a trap cuzyou acted like a sap, and along come your bro and help to let you go—"
"Tyrone," said Mrs. Pidgeon, with a meaningful look.
"Sorry," Tyrone said.
"What do you think of Felicia Ann's suggestion?" Gooney Bird asked Beanie.
Beanie nodded happily. "I like it! And it has a moral!" she said.
"What's the moral?"
"Be nice to your brother!" Malcolm called out. "Always share with your brother! Your brother is—"
Mrs. Pidgeon put her hand firmly on Malcolm's shoulder. "Let Beanie answer," she said.
"Well," Beanie said slowly."Everybody has things they can do. You don't have to be big or brave. The important thing is to be helpful."
"Sounds good to me!" Gooney Bird said. "Class? What do you think?"
"Sounds good!" the class said.
"The bear didn't die in the trap, did he?" Keiko asked fearfully.
"No," Beanie said. "He came out of the trap and went and got some fish and other stuff for his brother, to say thank you.
"The end," Beanie added.
Felicia Ann went next.
"My fable ith very, very short," she said apologetically when she went to the front of the class.
"That's all right," Gooney Bird told her.
You'll thee why," Felicia Ann said.
She was wearing a bright pink dress and matching pink tights. She went to the board. Carefully she printed, under BEAR, the word FLAMINGO.
Then Felicia Ann turned to the class and unfolded her paper. They could all see the very short sentences printed neatly on it.
"The title ith 'The Fable of the Flamingo,'" Felicia Ann read aloud.
Oneth there wath a flamingo. It didn't mind being bright pink.
But itth legs were pink, too. And that made it embarrathed. The flamingo thought that itth legth should be brown, like other birds' legth.
Tho it tried to hide them. It pulled one leg up to itth tummy in a folded way tho that no one would thee it.
But thuddenly, when it pulled the other leg up, it fell over.
Tho it only hid one leg at a time.
And it had a very hard time walking.
Everyone noticed that Felicia Ann was wobbling a bit. She had read her fable standing on one leg, with the other leg tucked up as high as possible.
After she read, "The end," she sighed with relief and put her leg down.
"I almotht tipped over," she said, "tho it had to be short."
"It was a good fable, though," Gooney Bird told her. "Class? Didn't you think so?"
The other second-graders, all but Nicholas, who was scribbling aimlessly on a piece of paper, nodded.
"And the moral?" Gooney Bird asked. "Do you want the class to guess, or would you like to tell us?"
"I'll tell the moral," Felicia Ann said shyly. "It'th thith:You should be very proud of what color you are."
The class cheered and clapped.
"Even your legth,"Felicia Ann added. She grinned. Then she went back to her desk.
Mrs. Pidgeon stood up. "Class," she said, "we have time for just one more fable before lunch, and then we'll do some more tomorrow.
"Nicholas?" she asked. "Would you like to be the final fable today?"
But Nicholas, looking miserable, shook his head no.
"Well," Mrs. Pidgeon said, "I can see that three of you—Chelsea, Malcolm, and Tyrone—are eager to have a turn. I wish you'd raise your hands with that much enthusiasm during math!
"Let's see. What do you think, Gooney Bird?"
"Well," Gooney Bird said, looking at the list on the board, "we've had three girls already today. So we should give a boy a turn."
Chelsea groaned and stopped waving her hand.
"And," Gooney Bird went on, "we've all been sitting and we probably could use the exercise. So let's let Tyrone do his. And let's all stand up for it.
"You too, Nicholas," Gooney Bird added, after the class had stood up but Nicholas was still slumped at his desk. Grudgingly, Nicholas stood.
With a grin Tyrone made his way to the front of the room. He carried no paper, but he had a shiny pie tin in his hand, and when he reached the front of the room, he hung the pie tin, which had a string attached to it in two places, around his neck.
"My fable is—" he began, his sneakers already tapping on the floor.
"Write your animal on the board!" Chelsea called. But Tyrone only grinned and moved his feet.
"Go ahead and yell it but I dunno how to spell it,"he chanted, "can't write it on the list cuz my spelling might be dissed, so I tell the story 'bout it and if you wanna you can shout it..."
The whole class began to tap their feet and hum along with Tyrone. Even Nicholas looked up with interest.
The Tale of Tyrannosaurus Rex
You got it, it be TEEEE REX, TEEEE REX—okay for you to shout it cuz there ain't no way about it—this creature, he come along and he be so strong, sooo strong...
Tyrone twirled around and came to a stop, his pie tin dangling and bouncing on his chest.
...he got armor plates so no enemy can bite him, and he never gets in fights cuz everybody scared to fight him, and he taller than the trees and he never gets no fleas, and he don't say thank you and he don't say please, cuz he rule the earth since his mama give him birth...
"Lemme hear it!" Tyrone said, and the class, accustomed by now to his style, repeated the words. "Since his mama give him birth, since his mama give him birth..."
There was a brief knock at the classroom door. It opened, and Mr. Leroy, the principal, appeared. He was wearing a tie that had candy canes on it, and some holly berries. "I heard some strange sounds from this classroom," he said, smiling, "and I suspected that the famous Tyrone was performing. May I sit in?"
He tiptoed over and sat down at Tyrone's empty desk. Mr. Leroy was a tall man, and sitting at a child's desk made his legs fold in an odd way, with his knees sticking up, but he never seemed to mind.
"It's a fable," Tricia whispered to him from the next desk. "Tyrone's doing a fable."
Mr. Leroy don't be bitter, gonna hear about this critter, Teeee rex, Teeee rex...
"Teeee rex, Teeee rex," the class chanted. Mrs. Pidgeon and Mr. Leroy joined in.
He be one huge dude, every minute needin' food, and he's chompin' up the scene, eatin' everything that's green...
Tyrone danced across the open space at the front of the room, grabbing at imaginary things with his teeth, imitating a large animal grazing. "Lemme hear it!" he called, and the class, and Mrs. Pidgeon, and Mr. Leroy all chanted with him:
"Everything that's green, everything that's green!"
Then Tyrone stopped dancing, stood still, and lowered his voice to finish his fable.
Big T rex, he rule the earth and he rule the moon, but he be in trouble really soon, cuz one fine day as quick as a wink, he go to wake up and he now extinct.
Tyrone bowed while the class clapped and cheered, as they always did for Tyrone's performances. Mrs. Pidgeon, laughing, said, "Great as always, Tyrone. But haven't you forgotten something? What does a fable always have?"
"Gettin' to that," Tyrone explained. He turned to the class. "Wanna hear a moral?"
"I can't hear you!" Tyrone called. "Wanna hear a moral?"
"Wanna hear a moral!" the class chanted.
"WANNA HEAR A MORAL!"
Tyrone resumed his position, tapped his feet, and finished his rap.
Big be nice, and big be cool, but big don't mean that you gonna rule, cuz here's the moral of ole T rex:
BIG MEAN NUTHIN' IF YOU DON'T DO SCHOOL!
"School! School!" the class repeated, chanting and clapping.
"Well," said Mr. Leroy as he unfolded his long legs and stood up, "thank you, Tyrone. That made my day.
"Made my day," the principal chanted, dancing toward the door. "Made my day. Big mean nuthin' if you don't do school. "He disappeared, still chanting, into the hall.
Mrs. Pidgeon went to the board and wrote TYRANNOSAURUS REX below FLAMINGO. "Now: lunchtime, class," she said with a smile.
"Mrs. Pidgeon?" Tricia asked the teacher at lunch. Sometimes the teachers all sat together at a separate table, or even ate their lunch in the teachers' room. But today Mrs. Pidgeon was eating with the children. She had even made a trade, and given Gooney Bird a nice red apple in exchange for the five olives-stuffed-with-anchovy that Gooney Bird had brought as an hors d'oeuvre.
"I think lunch ought to have courses," Gooney Bird always said. "I like to have an appetizer—sometimes I call it the hors d'oeuvre—and a salad, and an entrée, and a dessert course. I'd do a soup course, too, but every time I've tried it, my soup has spilled before lunchtime. And I do hate it when my dessert gets wet."
Today Gooney Bird, to everyone's amazement, had taken something made of embroidered cloth out of her lunchbox. She unfolded it carefully and tied it around her neck.
"That's a bib!" Malcolm bellowed. "That's what babies wear! Babies wear bibs!"
"I know that," Gooney Bird replied calmly. "Actually, I bought this one in the baby section of the Goodwill store."
"But why would you wear a baby thing?" Beanie asked.
"It's sensible," Gooney Bird replied. "Babies wear bibs to keep their clothes clean. That's a sensible thing to do. I am a sensible person. So I have decided to wear a bib." She smoothed the bib over her chest. It had an embroidered duck on it.
"But aren't you embarrathed?" Felicia Ann whispered.
"I am never ever embarrassed," Gooney Bird replied.
Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Malcolm said, "We have a whole lot of bibs at home. A million bibs. We have—"