The classroom smelled of chalk and vegetable soup from the cafeteria down the hall.
Second grade room of Miss Martin, a kindly plump hen clucking over her chickens. Her nose was a beakish little thing in the middle of her soft face.
The group of 20 students, all shiny and ready for the battles only second-graders knew how to fight: to get the highest and the best attention from the woman who ranged above them.
Annie and Caroline were natural enemies, the two very smartest in the group, always vying to read aloud first, answer the question best, go to the board and let the satisfying feeling of chalk against blackboard carve their immortality into symbols so pleasurable to scribble. Annie loved how the piece of chalk left a dusty dent on her third finger. Caroline daintily cleaned her right hand with a tissue after each journey to the board.
Annie, tall, slender, dark 8-year old from a progressive Jewish home, proving that all Atlantans were not southern bigots, as she already had a nascent political life nurtured by her liberal parents; and Caroline, shorter, blonde blunt haircut, chubby and rich off the fortune of her Coca-Cola inventing family, smug in her perfectly managed whiteness, also 8 years old.
Early Democrat versus baby Republican.
And their battles were fierce, with both their left arms tiring by the end of a school day of shooting them up in the air begging for attention. Hungry puppies.
Inside Caroline, she had intimate feelings of privilege and knowing that no matter what, she would prevail.
Annie was realizing for the first time, that hatred existed within her, and she relished the joy her dark feelings against Caroline felt. She would beat this blond girl at her own game, and live to tell the tale.
Her life would be a struggle against all the blonde girls.
They even vied for who could make their large $1.00 dill pickle last the longest at lunch and into the afternoon: whoever went home at 3:00 with a fragment of the precious pickle left to suck on was the winner of that day’s joustings.
Lunchtime was soon, and Annie’s mouth watered at the thought of the crunchy pickle she would soon buy and bite into, to go with the mayo and turkey sandwich her Momma had thrown together for her. Caroline’s lunchbox was a neat jigsaw puzzle of cut fresh veggies and cubes of Swiss cheese, cut by her housekeeper.
She thought of her purchased pickle as dessert.