And Did You Bring Enough for Everyone?
1283 words long
It's hard enough adjusting to your first year of school without special circumstances futzing up your expectations.
Notes from the author:
At “the end of the end” of E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet, when the magical adventures at last are over, the five children unexpectedly receive a final gift from that bothersome, beloved Bird: a box full of “everything that the children had always wanted—toys and games and books, and chocolate and candied cherries and paint-boxes and photographic cameras....” It seems only reasonable that some of the toys should be handed down to successive generations. And what if some of them were magical, but taken for granted by the grandchildren who grow up playing with them?
This Fictionette is brought to you by the words “hull” and “scope,” by the mob of children running around during my freewriting session, and by that fine, upstanding tradition of Psammead Trilogy fanfic.
Headmaster Blackwell met Toby in early Autumn when Ms. Oriole sent him to her office. She would have been “Headmistress Blackwell” back when Toby’s Great-Aunt Panther was in primary, but these days it was considered wasteful to make special titles just for women when the titles men were using already worked perfectly well for anybody. So she was Headmaster Blackwell to Toby, and also to her secretary Mr. Beezley, and to Toby’s reception year teacher Ms. Oriole.
Ms. Oriole had emailed Headmaster Blackwell first, to warn her of Toby’s arrival. “Toby’s always bragging about his expensive toys to the other children. I fear he thinks himself superior by virtue of his family’s wealth.”
Mr. Beezley, who had received a carbon copy of the email, had suggested that perhaps Toby was not so much bragging as comforting himself. He was just four years old, about as young a reception scholar as you might ever have, and being away from his home and toys and parents all day must be difficult for him.
Headmaster Blackwell said “Hmm,” which nobody heard because Toby had not been sent back to her office yet. She pressed the intercom button on her phone and asked that he be sent back now. Presently her door creaked open and the little boy was peering inside.
Now, Headmaster Blackwell enjoyed a reputation among the older primary school students for being a friendly and welcoming sort, a Headmaster whose office you wouldn’t fear being sent to. Toby, not having learned this yet, stood fearfully in the doorway. “Come on in, Toby,” Headmaster Blackwell said. “I hear you’re unhappy. Why don’t you tell me about it?” She opened her famous biscuit tin and held it out. It was the sort that has six different kinds of biscuits, each kind stacked in a crinkly paper cup, and Headmaster Blackwell didn’t take it away after Toby took a shortbread wafer, either. She kept offering it to him until he’d taken a sandwich creme and a ginger snap, too. Toby’s disposition towards Headmaster Blackwell changed completely at this point, as you might imagine.
Foremost on his mind was the deplorable state of the classroom toys. If you stood up a pair of action figures facing each other and told them to fight, why, they just stood there. He knew this was wrong, because his toy soldiers would host splendid battles with just a word from him. And the people living in the family dollhouse would have dinner, and play cards with each other, and even visit the lavatory just like real people if you had not asked them to do anything else special. And, see here, even his rusty little spyglass gave a more interesting show than the classroom View-Master, which was so unimaginative as to display merely the same sixteen stills, one after another....
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