daughter excels," Ms. Finkle said. "Your daughter knows her numbers from
one to a hundred. She adds with ease. Watch." Ms. Finkle's hips turned
the undersized chair toward Fran. Her hands, dusted in chalk, rested on her
knees. "Fran: eight plus six."
"Five plus seven."
"See? A whiz. A very unusual child for her age." She touched Fran's
chin with the tips of her fingers as if she had invented her.
I smiled. "I was always good in math, but I veered away from it."
The teacher looked startled, patted my knee, left the white shadow of
her palm behind. "We don't always go with our strength," she said, then
looked back to Fran. "She's good in art too. Look at that." She pointed
her dusty finger at the mobiles dancing down from the ceiling. "There's you
and Fran." I looked at the mobile. Fran and I spun in orbit around each
other. Ms. Finkle looked at me -- imagining my loss.
"Now, watch this," she said. Read." She held up flash cards.
"Purple. Monkey. Sunshine. Lamp," Fran read.
I looked at the teacher. The teacher looked at Fran, her chalked hand
pressed down on Fran's shoulder, her index finger flicking nervously against
my daughter's neck. "Look again. Start over."
"Lamp," Fran said.
Ms. Finkle sat back. She tapped the card, leaving white dust on the
last letter. "Is that a ‘p’?"
"No." Ms. Finkle's hand shook. "No. It's a ‘b.’ She looked at me as
if this was my doing. She put the flash card in front of Fran and stood,
almost knocking over the chair. Her hair brushed a family of five, dangling
from the ceiling. I stood with her. "No matter," she said. "She's
ready. I've never had a student so ready." Ms. Finkle smiled. I smiled.
A stick child nested in her hair. She shook my hand. Chalk puffed out
around our grip. A phantom breeze caught the mobile of Fran and me, bobbing
us back and forth in the cloud of dust that filled the room. Fran sank into
her chair, white specks salting the back of her head while she picked at the
paper corner of the flash card.