When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
― Theodore Roethke
It was a mystery. Someone had stolen my friend’s huge magnifying lens and I was determined to help get it back.
“We can figure out who stole it,” I told Patrick at lunch.
“How can we do that?”
“We’ll make a list of all the pupils and cross off the ones we saw in the schoolyard.”
Patrick was excited. “It’ll be like Sherlock Holmes.”
By the time the bell signaled the start of afternoon classes, Patrick and I had narrowed our list to two girls and a boy.
“No way a girl would take it,” Patrick concluded.
That left Donald MacDonald. We made up our minds to confront him at recess.
That afternoon, however, after we said prayers, we were all trouped down to the principal’s office. Mother Charlotte was a no-nonsense type who decided to take matters into her own hands.
One by one, students would go into her office, come out and return to class. Then, it was my turn. I looked at Patrick and he gave me the thumbs up sign.
I entered the unfamiliar room and was greeted by the diminutive nun standing by a statue of Mary, fingering the black rosary beads tied round her waist.
“Come closer, Paul,” she whispered. I obeyed.
She stared deeply into my eyes. “Did you take the lens?”
She patted my head. “Good boy. Then, you can go back to class.”
Within minutes the class reassembled and the familiar routine began—Spelling, followed by Reading and then, dismissal for the day.
We were reading a story about a boy who lived in a river valley. He was alone in the house and a gnome came by—apparently, he had been drawn by the aroma of mutton the boy was roasting on the fire.
I thought it odd the boy would be trusted to tend the fire when even Billy Holder, my genius friend, definitely would not.
Suddenly, Miss Tracy announced, “Okay class, it’s time to go home. Put away your books.”
I slid my reader into the slot beneath my desk and my hand touched something smooth and round. My heart sank. I pulled on it and Patrick’s huge lens slid out onto my lap.
I had no recourse, but to raise my hand.
“Miss Tracy—I found this in my desk.”
Her face fell. She saw the startled looks of my classmates, and quickly recovered.
“That’s all right, Paul. We know you didn’t take it. Somebody did and put it back in your desk. Now, let’s all stand and pray and thank God for returning the lens.”
“Yeah, but we all know who took it,” Donald McDonald yelped.
“That’s enough, Donald—you can remain behind.”
As we stood in the aisles by our desks reciting the common prayers, I reflected on the way things often turn out so badly.
I began with hopes of uncovering a mystery and ended being caught in my own trap.
Obviously, someone saw my plan and turned it back upon me. It was bad enough Patrick felt betrayed but I had disappointed Miss Tracy and that grieved me to my soul.
I could see no way out. I had tumbled into a deep black pit and my cheeks burned with shame realizing it was pride that led me there.