Gooney Bird and the Room Mother Page 2

"Ready?" Gooney Bird said. "Everyone got that left sock off?"

The children nodded. They wiggled the toes on their bare left feet and waited for their instructions.

"At the count of three, pass your left sock to the person on your left. That will be the person beside your bare foot. Malcolm, Mrs. Pidgeon will help you. One. Two. Ready? THREE."

Each child handed a sock to another child.

"I got a girl sock," Tyrone said. "I don't want no girl sock."

"A sock is a sock," Gooney Bird said. "Anyway," she added, "you happen to have Chelsea's sock, and Chelsea is one of the smartest girls in this class. Some of her smarts may still be in that sock and they may rub off on you, Tyrone. You've got a very lucky sock there.

"Now. You can all guess what comes next, on the count of three. You put on your new sock. One. Two. THREE."

In a moment all the children were wearing unmatched socks. Even Gooney Bird's original pair of one red, one yellow, had become a pair of one red, one white with a blue stripe.

They all looked down and admired their feet.

"There is not a single pair of boring feet in this classroom now," Gooney Bird announced.

"Except mine," Mrs. Pidgeon said with a laugh.

"Except Mrs. Pidgeon's," Gooney Bird agreed. "Now, class, on the count of three..."

"Do we switch socks again?" Beanie asked.

"Nope. We get to work on this Muriel, because it needs to be done by the pageant. One. Two.


Very shortly after the count of three, when all the children had picked up their crayons and gone to work, the intercom squealed and a deep voice spoke.

"This is your principal, John Leroy. Good morning."

"Good morning," the children said to the intercom.

"We should have done this last month," Mr. Leroy explained, "or even in September. But I got busy with the selection of crossing guards, and I had to deal with certain issues and problems of playground behavior, as you know..."

Gooney Bird and the Room Mother

He paused. Malcolm looked up guiltily. Malcolm had been a playground behavior problem.

"...but now it is definitely time to select room mothers. We will need a room mother for each classroom. Teachers, please ask your students to inquire at home. If ... ah, just a minute..."

Through the intercom they could hear Muriel Holloway whispering to Mr. Leroy. Then he returned to the microphone.

"I have been reminded that last year we did have a room father in the third grade. Bailey Stevenson's father did an admirable job, his cupcakes were unusually fine, and we're sorry that he has found a job and is not available again this year. Well, we're not sorry that he found a job. That's not what I meant at all."

Mr. Leroy coughed and cleared his throat. "I meant that we will miss Mr. Stevenson's cupcakes. Now back to work, students. And teachers? By Friday I would like you to turn the names of the room mothers in to Muriel Holloway in the office.

"Have a good day."

The intercom squealed, buzzed, and turned silent. Carefully Gooney Bird began to color Squanto's second feather red, just beside the blue one.

Felicia Ann looked over at the one red, one blue feathers and smiled. "Like my socks," she pointed out in a whisper.


Gooney Bird and the Room Mother

"My mother says absolutely not, no way, no how," Tyrone announced. "Not unless it pays minimum wage."

Mrs. Pidgeon laughed. "Afraid not," she said. "Room mother is a volunteer job. No pay."

She looked around the room. "Did everyone ask? What did your mothers say?"

Chelsea was scowling. "My mother said if I come home wearing Nicholas's stinky dirty sock again, she's going to call Mr. Leroy and complain. And no, she won't be room mother. She already did the bake sale and she's treasurer of the PTA. Enough is enough."

"My sock was not stinky dirty!" Nicholas bellowed.

"No, it wasn't," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Those were just grass stains on your sock, Nicholas. Anyone else?" She looked around. "Keiko? Maybe your mom?"

Keiko shook her head. "My mother says she is very sorry but she has to work in our store. My father needs her there."

"Yes, of course he does," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "I've been in your family's store, Keiko. Your mother works very hard.

"You all have hard-working moms, I know," she said with a smile.

"Do you have a hard-working mom, Mrs. Pidgeon?" Beanie asked.

Mrs. Pidgeon's smile turned to a sad look. "Not anymore. My mother is very, very old. She lives in a nursing home. I visit her every Sunday afternoon at the Misty Valley Elderly Care Facility. I always take her a bouquet of flowers. She seems to like that."

She looked around. "Malcolm? Did you ask your mom?"

Malcolm made a face. "My mom has trip—"

"Oh my goodness, of course she does. How could I forget that? Someone who has brand-new triplet babies at home can't possibly do anything else, and we shouldn't even have asked."

"When I asked her, she screamed," Malcolm said.

"How are those babies, Malcolm? How are they doing?"

"Bad," Malcolm said. "They have diarrhea."

"My goodness. No wonder she screamed. Anyone else?" asked Mrs. Pidgeon. "Beanie?"

Beanie shook her head. "My mom takes me to swimming lessons on Monday afternoon, and ballet on Tuesday, and horseback riding on Wednesday, and confirmation class on Thursday, and violin on Friday, and she says if I ask her to do one more thing..."

"I understand completely. Anyone else? Felicia Ann?"

Felicia Ann looked at the floor and shook her head.


Barry said no.


Nicholas was scowling. "My socks are not stinky dirty," he said loudly. "Chelsea's socks are stinky dirty. Chelsea's underpants are stinky dirty."

Chelsea hit Nicholas over the head with her spelling book.

"Enough, enough," Mrs. Pidgeon said with a sigh. She went to Nicholas and rubbed his head. She glared at Chelsea. "Let's turn to our arithmetic. We'll talk about room mothers tomorrow All of you ask again at home. Unless..." She looked hopefully around the classroom one more time.

"Gooney Bird?" she asked.

Gooney Bird stood up. Today she was wearing a long velvet skirt and a sweatshirt with a picture of the earth on it.

Mrs. Pidgeon peered at the sweatshirt and smiled. "By the way, I like your shirt, Gooney Bird," she said. "Look, children, at what it says under the globe."

"Mother Earth," they all read aloud.

"We were just talking about mothers," Mrs. Pidgeon pointed out.

Gooney Bird and the Room Mother

"Read my back," Gooney Bird said. She turned around.

They all read the back of her sweatshirt. "Love Your Mother."

"Well, fine," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "I wish the earth would volunteer to be room mother. Unfortunately the earth doesn't make cupcakes."

"It would make stinky dirty cupcakes," Nicholas said grouchily.

Mrs. Pidgeon glared at Nicholas. "Did you ask your mother, Gooney Bird? Not Mother Earth. Your real mother?" she asked.

"Yes, I tried to cajole her."

Mrs. Pidgeon started to laugh. She always laughed when Gooney Bird used a new and interesting word. She turned and wrote CAJOLE on the board. "Dictionaries, class," she said.

Beanie was the first to find cajole in the dictionary. "It's hard reading," she said.

"Of course it is," Mrs. Pidgeon agreed. "It's a grownup dictionary. It stretches your reading skills."

"Stretch stretch stretch," murmured Malcolm as he picked up an elastic band. Mrs. Pidgeon gave him a look. He put the elastic band down.

"Give it a try, Beanie," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "You can do it."

Beanie stood and read the definition of cajole slowly to the class. " To persuade someone to do something by flattery or gentle argument, especially after a reasonable objection."

"So your mother had a reasonable objection, Gooney Bird?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked.

"Yes. She is a terrible cook and her cupcakes are always lopsided, and also she has to go to China on Thursday."

"And so you tried to persuade her with flattery?"

"Yes, I told her that she was a wonderful cook and I had heard a rumor that she might be invited to be chef at the White House, and probably it would be good practice for her, being room mother."

"And that didn't work?" Mrs. Pidgeon was laughing.

"No, she said that if I were Pinocchio, my nose would be three feet long."

Gooney Bird scowled. "She meant I was lying, of course, but you all know that I never ever lie."

All of the children nodded. They knew that everything Gooney Bird said was absolutely true.

"I really had heard that rumor. I said it to myself and heard myself saying it. So it was absolutely true.

"But she said no, thank you, she did not want to be room mother, especially if she was going to work at the White House, because she wouldn't have time."

Mrs. Pidgeon pointed to the word on the board. CAJOLE.

In small handwriting she wrote its definition next to it.

"Children," she said, "tonight, please try to cajole your mothers.

"We really, really need a room mother," she said with a sigh.


There was a brief knock on the classroom door, and then, without waiting for a reply to the knock, Mr. Leroy appeared. The children gasped. The principal! Usually he was only a voice on the intercom. But here he was, in person, wearing a dark blue suit and his UNICEF necktie, standing right in front of the second grade.

"Just checking in," he said cheerfully. "I was wondering if—"

Mrs. Pidgeon shook her head. "Afraid not," she said. "Not yet."

"Hmm." Mr. Leroy looked concerned. "Well," he said, "keep me posted."

He turned to leave, then stopped and said, "I like your shirt, Gooney Bird Greene."

"Thank you. Read my back." Gooney Bird turned around.

He read it and smiled. "A very fine admonition," he said. "Love your mother. Yes, indeed." Then he left the room.

"Class," said Mrs. Pidgeon, who was already writing ADMONITION on the board, "get out your dictionaries."



Gooney Bird and the Room Mother

Not a single mom wanted to be room mother. Not one.

"Oh, dear," Mrs. Pidgeon said with a sigh. She looked at the board, where the word CAJOLE was carefully printed near the end of the word list, just above ADMONITION. "I guess cajoling doesn't always work."

"Well," said Tricia from her desk, "we learned a new word, anyway. That's always a good thing."

Mrs. Pidgeon nodded. "True," she said. "And you know, class, they say that if you use a new word three times, it is yours forever."

"Who says that?" asked Beanie.

"I don't know," Mrs. Pidgeon replied. "They."

Barry Tuckerman stood, suddenly, beside his desk. "Cajole, cajole, cajole," he said loudly. "Now it is mine forever. No one else is allowed to say it."

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