© 2012 Aaron Atkinson

Grade Four, Close Call

I was in grade four in Mr. Smith’s class, but he was out sick and we had a substitute teacher. It was one of those days that passed too slowly and I was anxious for afternoon recess. It was also one of those days where passing showers occasionally spatĀ against our classroom window. With only a fraction of math class to go before recess, the announcement came over the P.A. system that recess was rained out.

With a sigh, I closed my eyes and sank my head towards my desk. At that same instant the pencil I’d been unconsciously twirling in my hand happened to be pointing straight up and it stabbed into the center of my forehead. In a shocked moment of pain I pulled it out, and from the wound I could feel the blood start to trickle.

Quickly, I pulled a Kleenex from my desk and pressed it against my forehead. I then walked over to the Mr. Smith’s substitute and told her what had happened.

Sub: You need to go to the nurse’s office at once! You’ll need to be treated for lead poisoning.

Me: Lead poisoning? I thought that pencils were made from graphite.

Sub: Graphite is a kind of lead. Now hurry!

As I walked along the thin silver line in the middle of the hallway, holding a bloody tissue against my throbbing forehead, I remember thinking how absurd that teacher was. Lead is lead and graphite is graphite, I muttered to myself. Lead poisioning from a pencil… how dumb can you get!?!

And then I stopped, thought for a moment, and realized that on account of the self-inflicted pencil wound in the middle of my forehead, maybe I was the dumb one. And if I was the dumb one maybe she was right and I was wrong. In an instant, I could feel the poisonous lead surging through my body, and I started to run to the nurses office, hoping to make it before I expired. As I ran the blood started to flow more freely, and I knew I was almost out of time.

When I made it to the nurses office and told her that I had lead poisoning, she gave me a smile and band-aid. Then she told me that pencils are made of graphite and she sent me walking back to class.

I didn’t learn much the rest of that day. Clearly Ms. Sub could not longer be trusted with filling our young, moldable, graphite-filled minds with anything accurate and factual.

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