Let resolve be
birthed from the depths of despaire. Fate shall
often reward thy choice to meet her with open
Translated from Storia Di Incanto;
Linda Gets A Blue Sheet
AT SEVEN OCLOCK IN THE MORNING, Linda Peabody
checked her mailbox in the faculty room at Great
Oak Middle School. She had become accustomed to
doing this each Monday because it was critical
to a teachers welfare; Mondays were when
important notices showed up, like which reports
were due by the end of the week. The notices
came on orange sheets, so a teacher couldnt
If you pay
attention to your orange sheets, youll stay out
of trouble, Eunice Bluestone barked during
teacher orientation last month. In addition to
being Linda's boss, Eunice was an intimidating
woman. She looked more like a tackle on a
football team than a school principal and had a
personality to match.
Linda also learned that a blue sheet might
occasionally appear in a teachers mailbox. This
was a bad thing because it meant Eunice was
giving the teacher extra work. Blue sheets were
the way Eunice punished teachers in her little
school, one she ran like a military
more than six blue sheets in a year and the axe
descends upon you, Eunice bellowed, moving her
arm in a chopping motion while she marched in
front of the teachers like a drill sergeant. Her
eyes glittered brightly, as if she would enjoy
hacking a teacher with an axe. Linda resolved
never to get a blue sheet right then and there.
Linda removed the thin stack of papers from her
mailbox, she stared with horror at the blue
sheet lying on top. The words on the sheet made
it even worse. Linda Peabody see Eunice
Bluestone immediately. This means now!
grief, what could I have done? Linda muttered.
She had been teaching at the school for only a
month and the blue sheet made her feel like a
failure. Looking around, she hoped none of the
other teachers had noticed the blue sheet. Tears
formed in her eyes and she bit her lip to keep
from crying, something she did a lot of lately.
Watson, the kind of busybody who stuck her nose
into everyone elses business, was watching
Linda. She swooped over and snatched the blue
sheet right out of Lindas hand. Doesnt
resemble any blue sheet Ive ever seen, she
announced, passing it around for everyones
neither, said Bernice Baumgartner, a hook-nosed
woman who had been teaching at the school for
six years. Usually, the old battleaxe lists
your mistakes and your punishment for making
them. I should know she gave me five last
have done something really stupid, Coach Dobson
exclaimed. See Eunice Bluestone immediately?
Wow, I feel sorry for you.
shes going to fire you, George Mulroney
whined. He taught history and seemed afraid of
his shadow most of the time.
sheet had now reached Pamela Dickson. She was a
large and bossy woman who thought she was the
best teacher in the school. However, Linda had
heard all of the comments she could stand. She
grabbed her blue sheet from Pamelas hand and
marched down the hall towards the principals
excuse me, Pamela said haughtily, offended
Linda hadnt waited for her opinion about the
an attractive young woman. Her blond hair was
usually tied up in a ponytail and the freckles
across her nose made her appear younger than her
twenty-three years. In fact, she didnt look
much older than many of her students. All of her
life, Linda had walked around with a perpetual
smile. Unfortunately, she hadnt found much to
smile about recently. A cloud of bad luck seemed
to follow her around a cloud she couldnt
had begun about six months ago. Back then, the
most important event in her life was her
forthcoming marriage to Michael Benson, a young
man she started dating several years earlier.
Both Linda and Michael were studying to become
teachers at Wilson College when they met. Their
ideas and interests were almost identical and
they quickly became friends. Soon, they wanted
to be together all of the time. This led them to
develop a plan; they would get teaching jobs at
the same school after graduation. That way, they
could continue their relationship.
challenge to their plan arose at the end of
Michaels senior year. He had accepted a
teaching position at Huddleston Academy, a
prestigious private school two hundred miles
away. Linda still had another year of college,
which meant they wouldnt see much of each other
for a while.
Linda was a
popular girl and Michael didnt want her dating
anyone else while they were apart. After
thinking it over, an idea came to him they
could become engaged. The more he thought about
it, the more he liked the idea; they could be
married when Linda graduated the following year.
All he had to do was persuade her to accept his
thought about how to ask her for days. Finally,
he came up with a clever notion one so silly
and romantic she would have a hard time turning
him down. Right before graduation, he dressed up
like a clown and hid in the bushes outside her
dormitory. When Linda walked out the front door,
he leapt from the bushes while singing her
favorite song from the opera, Pagliacci. As he
did this, he held out a sign reading: Marry
Me and Ill Be Your Clown for Life. Everyone
who witnessed the event thought it was
hilarious, mainly because Michael had an awful
filled Linda with so much happiness that she
said yes immediately. Then she collapsed in a
muddle on the front steps and cried for thirty
minutes. Hoping for their support, Michael had
secretly told Lindas friends about his plan.
They rushed out behind her, cheering while he
danced around and played the fool.
engagement required Michael and Linda to become
serious about their plans. Since Linda was the
top student in her class, they believed she had
an excellent chance of landing a position at
Huddleston Academy too. Therefore, their next
objective was to secure her a job there, one
that would start the following year.
amazement, everything worked out perfectly at
least initially. Just as they had hoped,
Huddleston announced several openings at the
beginning of Lindas last semester. Linda
quickly applied, and three weeks later, Percival
Smith, the head of the English department,
invited her for an interview. After it was over,
she knew Percival had been impressed. Sure
enough, she received an offer of employment
within a month. Linda graciously accepted and
immediately turned her attention to planning her
wedding. A few weeks later, Linda learned she
would be Valedictorian of her class. Marveling
at her good fortune, she wondered if life could
get any better.
Michael and Linda weren't together every day
during her last year of college. Still, he
visited on weekends, telephoned every night, and
sent e-mails whenever he had a spare moment.
Everything seemed to be fine, but several months
before her graduation, Linda noticed Michaels
attitude was changing. The nightly telephone
calls began to dwindle and the e-mails slowed to
a trickle. Then various excuses for missing his
weekend visits came along. After Michael hadnt
come to see her for a month and the telephone
calls and e-mails had stopped completely, a
letter from him arrived.
carried the letter around for several hours
before reading it. By then, her hands were
shaking so badly she could barely open the
envelope. In the end, it really didnt matter.
She already knew what was in it. Tears streamed
down her face as she read his words. He was so
very sorry. He had met someone else, another
teacher who was truly his soul mate; their
engagement was off. The big rat, he didnt
even tell me in person, Linda thought.
Michaels letter, Linda became a wreck. A grim
expression replaced her perpetual smile and her
eyes clouded with tears at the slightest
provocation. Her friends gave her hugs and
gently prodded her to move on with her life, but
that wasnt easy for Linda. Her heart was
broken. Of course, she could no longer consider
teaching at Huddleston Academy. She wrote
Percival Smith an apologetic letter and rejected
his offer of employment, thank you very much.
clueless about what to do after her graduation.
She had only applied for a job at Huddleston
Academy. All the other teaching jobs she might
have considered were no longer available. Not
that it mattered as far as Linda was concerned.
She couldnt muster enough energy to interview
for a job anyway. Instead, she moved back into
her parents house and moped around.
parents were sympathetic to Lindas plight, they
were a tough, no nonsense sort, and didnt hold
with a lot of self-pity. They firmly believed
Linda would snap out of her depressed state if
she got busy and found a job. So her father sent
out a message to their relatives around the
state. Linda needs a teaching job, preferably
as an English teacher. Let us know if there are
any openings at your local school.
everyones surprise, Lindas eighty-two year old
Great Aunt Gilda responded right away. She
reported that the English teacher at Great Oak
Middle School had broken both legs in a
motorcycle accident and could no longer work.
The school was in a bind because the kids were
starting school in a few weeks. No one had
showed the slightest interest in the job, let
alone anyone who might be qualified.
telling Linda, her parents mailed her resume to
the schools principal. Almost immediately, a
letter offering her the position came from
Eunice Bluestone. Her parents opened the letter
and were ecstatic. The job was Linda's no
interview was necessary. Of course, such a quick
offer might have made some people suspicious.
However, Lindas parents felt her circumstances
required immediate action, so they investigated
no further. Their next challenge was to persuade
Linda to take the job.
evening, her parents explained the whole thing.
It was a simple decision really all the pieces
were in place. Great Oak was only a few hours
away, so Linda wouldnt be far from home. There
was plenty of room for her in Aunt Gildas old
rambling house and the school was close by.
Linda would be doing the family a big favor too.
Aunt Gilda was getting along in years and needed
a little looking after. As an added incentive,
Lindas dad offered to put new tires on her old
yellow Volkswagen and fix the transmission,
which refused to go in reverse no matter how
much she begged.
hardly say no. She needed a change, something
new and challenging to help her forget Michael.
The job in Great Oak made perfect sense. Nothing
else had come along and Aunt Gilda was one of
her favorite relatives. It was an easy decision,
one requiring little thought. She sighed,
blinked out a few tears, and said, Ill do it.
breathed a collective sigh of relief. They were
sure everything would work out fine, perfectly
peachy keen. Linda was getting back to normal,
and the rest would take care of itself.
sign that life in Great Oak might not turn out
exactly as imagined was when Linda caught her
initial glimpse of Aunt Gildas house. Her
father had said the house was roomy, which was
true, but he had not said the house was so old
it resembled a haunted mansion in a horror
movie. After living there for a month, Linda
still hadnt gotten used to all the creaks and
groans of the house during the night.
As for Aunt
Gilda, she needed a lot more than a little
looking after in Lindas opinion. Oh, she was a
sweet and kind old woman and Linda truly enjoyed
her company. Nevertheless, she was so full of
wacky ideas and quirky behavior, Linda
constantly worried about her mental state.
Sometimes, Aunt Gilda seemed perfectly normal.
Then she would do or say something, which made
absolutely no sense. For example, she wore her
pajamas backwards whenever she wanted to dream
about her deceased husband, or painted her
fingernails and toenails green before working in
the garden so the plants wouldnt be afraid of
her. Every morning when Linda left for school,
she wondered what weird things Aunt Gilda would
do while she was away.
just laughed when Linda phoned and told him
about some of Aunt Gildas antics. We always
thought she was a bit batty, he said, in
between her stories.
didnt find much humor in the situation. Dad,
you dont understand. She believes her husband,
Charles, still lives here. She talks to him all
the time, and hes been dead for ten years.
tidbit only made him laugh harder. Dont worry,
Charles was a good man. If hes still around, he
wont hurt anyone.
However, Linda was worried...and not only
about Aunt Gilda. Her teaching job was a
disaster, Eunice Bluestone wasnt the least bit
friendly, and the other teachers mostly ignored
her. That is, unless Linda asked a question at a
teachers meeting. They all laughed gleefully
whenever this happened because Eunice acted as
if Linda was an idiot.
building itself was a half-century old and
resembled a prison more than a school. Tall
towers stood at each end of the two-story
structure, serving no apparent purpose. Linda
sometimes thought guards should be up there,
armed with machine guns to keep the kids in
line. That would be more in keeping with the
high chain-link fence surrounding the grounds
and the schools oppressive air.
students desks and other furnishings, although
still useable, seemed even older than the
building. They bore the scars of many years of
abuse. All of the overhead projectors,
computers, and other equipment were so obsolete;
Linda doubted if repairs were even possible
should anything break. The school had no budget
for repairs anyway, and the other teachers
didnt seem to care whether things worked or
students were what really aggravated Linda. They
were rude, lazy, undisciplined, and just plain
mean. All they wanted to do was waste time or
pick on each other. In short, they were a
horrible bunch of brats who quickly shattered
her fantasies about the rewarding life of a
So the appearance
of the unexpected blue sheet pushed Linda past
the breaking point. She had gotten her fill of
Eunice and her demeaning ways. Not only was she
ready to tell Eunice what she thought about her
school, she was ready to quit and move back home
with her parents.
Smithson, the schools secretary, sat hunched
over a computer in the outer office of the
principals suite when Linda stormed into the
room. Claire was a tall, thin woman with a long
neck and a vulture-like nose. Her personality
resembled that of a vulture too, or so Linda
believed. Well, well, Linda Peabody, just the
person were waiting for, Claire said wryly.
the blue sheet furiously. I received this, she
giggled as if she had done something terribly
funny. Got your attention, didnt I? Sorry, but
Eunice wanted you right away. You really didnt
earn a blue sheet at least not yet. Go on in,
shes expecting you.
Linda protested, her anger withering like a
time for chitchat, Claire interrupted, pointing
towards Eunices office. Get in there!
smiled broadly when Linda entered the room. Then
she thrust a slim file-folder in Lindas
direction. You are about to have a wonderful
experience. We have a new student transferring
from New York, and Im assigning him to you. Sit
down and read the boys records.
opened and she stared at Eunice. She was
girl, hop to it. The boy and his aunt will be
here any minute, Eunice barked.
word, Linda sat down and scanned through the
file. Besides grade records and aptitude test
scores, it contained a psychological profile
identifying the boys strengths and weaknesses.
After noticing he had an astonishingly high IQ
and perfect grades, Linda focused upon a few of
the boys personality traits. His teachers wrote
that he was exceptionally bright, articulate,
and a pleasure to teach. He was also shy,
insecure, nave, and overly sensitive about his
poor athletic ability.
closed the folder and stared at Eunice, her eyes
brimming with excitement. Why, hes practically
a genius, she said.
marvelous? Think how his ability will improve
our academic ratings. Well put him on the
Scholars Team right away.
frowned. Hell have a tough time fitting in
ignored Lindas comment and continued. Imagine
how surprised Hickory will be when we unveil him
our secret weapon. They have slaughtered us in
the regional contest for the last fifteen years.
Delia Smoot, the principal, treats me as though
Im running a knucklehead farm up here. This is
my chance to show her.
her head. Id be worried about other things if
I were you.
you know. Our kids are an ill-mannered bunch and
fight with each other constantly. You can
imagine how they will treat an outsider from New
York, especially one as unusual as this boy.
Eunice roared, slamming a beefy hand down on her
desk. Theyre a little rambunctious, thats
all. She glowered at Linda for a few seconds.
Besides, its your job to make sure the boy
fits in here.
the door opened and Claire Smithson appeared.
She made quieting motions with her hands, but
only succeeded in looking like an ungainly bird
trying to take off. Then a young woman and a boy
entered the room. Claires voice assumed a
dignified tone as though announcing the Queen of
England. Mrs. Bluestone, permit me to introduce
Sally Winston and her nephew, Hamilton Davis
the boy said. I prefer to be called Davey.
wonderful to have you in our little family,
Eunice said, sweet as sugar. Come in and meet
Linda Peabody, Hamiltons home room teacher.
the boy repeated, much louder this time.
almost exploded for a second. She didnt
tolerate interruptions, but she managed to
retain her composure. Well, all right, excuse
meDAVEY. As I was saying, Miss Peabody will
make you feel welcome here wont you, Linda?
certainly will, Linda said, studying Davey with
interest. He was a nice looking boy, but a bit
small for his age. A pair of oversized glasses
hid most of his face. His brown hair was of
average length and neatly combed across his
forehead. Hanging over his shoulders was a
rather empty looking backpack.
nicely you are dressed, Eunice continued. I
wish our other students would dress half as
well. Maybe your example will inspire them.
shrugged nervously. Its what I always wear to
a sudden impulse to strangle Eunice. With her
typical lack of discretion, she had embarrassed
the boy. Even so, she was right about his
outfit. He was dressed like a model from a
prep-school catalog. Covering his slender frame
was a navy-blue blazer with a crest on the front
pocket, a crisp white shirt with a tie at the
collar, and a pair of pressed khaki slacks.
Brown loafers completed his ensemble. If the
other kids see him this way, theyll laugh
themselves silly, Linda thought.
dont you take Davey for a quick tour and show
him where his locker is, Eunice suggested.
Ill go over a few parenting type things with
relieved because Eunice had finally said
something sensible. Davey seemed reluctant to
leave his aunts side, so Linda quickly turned
him towards the door and gave him a little
shove. Come on, Davey. Lets have a look at
your new school, she said cheerfully.
stepped into the main hallway, he looked
longingly at the schools front entrance. On his
face was an expression of despair. Maybe I
should make a run for it while I have the
chance, he thought.
reason, Linda could sense what he was thinking.
Perhaps it was because a similar idea had
occurred to her a short time ago. She put her
hand on the boys shoulder and gently pointed
him towards the classrooms. Its this way, she
his head down and remained silent as they walked
her best to help him relax by chatting merrily.
I know youre probably anxious about starting a
new school. Trust me; the feeling is perfectly
understandable. Ive only been teaching here for
a month and I still get nervous. The feeling
usually hits me first thing in the morning, so
whenever you feel that way, come and see me.
Ill think up something fun for us to do
something special. After all, I want you to
enjoy it here.
smile fluttered across Daveys face. Thanks,
Id like that.
her heart go out to the boy. Fate, as though
sensing her loneliness and frustration, had
given her a new purpose. Im going to help
this unusual boy. Somehow, Ill find a way for
him to thrive in this horrible school, she
Linda didnt know that her decision marked a
milestone in her life. Nor did she realize
something very important.
Boehm was a lot more unusual than she thoughtlot more unusual than