Gooney Bird Is So Absurd Page 7


"I have an idea for something we could do for Mrs. Pidgeon."

"We could make cookies!" Beanie suggested.

"Or thend flowerth," said Felicia Ann.

"This is better than cookies and flowers combined," Gooney Bird said. She began to describe her idea.

7.

"Are you ready, Mr. Leroy?" called Gooney Bird, looking up at the open second-floor window of Watertower Elementary School. She was standing in the snowy school playground with the rest of Mrs. Pidgeon's other second-graders, all of them dressed in boots and jackets and mittens and scarves.

Mr. Leroy was at the window, looking down, and he called back to her, "No, wait!"

"Wait for what? It's cold out here and we're all rehearsed and ready!"

"I'm going to give the camera to Mr. Furillo! I decided I want to be in the video! Is that all right with you?"

"Mr. Leroy, Mr. Leroy, Mr. Leroy," Gooney Bird said with a sigh. "You didn't come to the rehearsal!"

"I know. I was busy in the office because a sixth-grader had a behavior problem in the classroom. I had to have a little talk with him. It wouldn't wait."

"Well, we'll take a vote," Gooney Bird said. "Second-graders? Is it okay if Mr. Leroy is in our video? All in favor say 'Aye'!"

A chorus of ayes came from the playground.

"Any nays?" asked Gooney Bird in a loud voice.

But there was none. The children were silent and smiling.

"Good! Thank you! I'll be right down." Mr. Leroy disappeared from the window, and Mr. Furillo, the custodian, appeared holding the video camera.

Inside the second grade classroom, today's new substitute, a pleasant, chubby man with a beard, was reading while he waited for the class to return. They didn't need him for this project.

"Brrrr," said Mr. Leroy when he arrived on the playground. "Cold out here! Where would you like me?" he asked Gooney Bird.

"Stand near Barry," she directed him, "and do what he does, and say what he says, since you haven't rehearsed. You should have worn your boots, Mr. Leroy," she told him, looking disapprovingly at the snow around his shoes. "Your feet are going to freeze."

"Too late," he said. "I'll just suffer."

He made his way toward Barry and stood beside him.

"All right, everyone!" Gooney Bird shouted. "Listen up! Look toward the camera, and remember your parts! Ready?"

"Ready!" the children called.

"Ready, Mr. Furillo?" called Gooney Bird. "Are you sure you know how to work the camera?"

"Yes," Mr. Furillo replied. "I've done it before!"

"Kids: Remember! Outdoor voices!" Gooney Bird reminded them from where she stood nearest the school building. "Okay, Mr. Furillo! Action!"

She stepped forward, looking up toward the window, where the custodian stood with the camera at his eye. For a second she stood silently. Then, in a booming outdoor voice so that she could be heard on the video, Gooney Bird announced,

"This is a Poem for Many Voices!"

She turned and faced the other children and Mr. Leroy. She held up her arms like a concert director.

"Many Voices!" all of the children called.

Gooney Bird Greene turned back to face the camera. "It is a Goodbye Poem!" she said.

The chorus echoed her. "A Goodbye Poem!"

They all stood silently while Gooney Bird carefully lay down on her back in the snow She moved her arms up and down, then stood again.

"A snow angel—" she said.

"For Mrs. X!" the children chanted.

Gooney Bird pointed toward Chelsea, who lay down and made another angel, then stood.

"For our room mother!" Chelsea called.

"Our room mother!" the chorus said.

Gooney Bird pointed to Nicholas, who dropped to the ground and made another angel, then stood. "For Xenia!" he called.

"Xenia!" the chorus replied.

As if she were directing a group of instruments, Gooney Bird pointed quickly to Ben, Felicia Ann, and Beanie. They made their angels together and chanted in unison, "And the angels are for her daughter, too!"

The chorus repeated it.

Gooney Bird pointed to Barry. Barry quickly whispered instructions to Mr. Leroy, and together they lay backwards in the snow and made angels: one small, and one much larger one. "Patricia Pidgeon!" they chanted loudly together, and the chorus repeated the name.

There was a silence, and then Gooney Bird held up both arms and made a gesture. "A good daughter!" everyone chanted.

Another silence. Then: "A good teacher!" they chanted together.

At Gooney Bird's signal, every child—and the principal, following Barry's directions—lay down in the snow. They all moved their arms up and down slowly. From the window where Mr. Furillo was looking down onto the fresh snow that covered the playground, it looked as if a whole flock of birds were preparing to fly.

Then they all stood again, in the outlines of their snow angels.

One by one they each called out a phrase:

Ben: A cake with pink candles!

All: I remember!

Chelsea: A yellow hair ribbon!

All: I remember!

Malcolm: A kitten named Jingle!

All: I remember!

Tricia: The lace collar on my mother's dress!

All: I remember!

Keiko: Ruffled curtains in

my bedroom!

All: I remember!

Felicia Ann: The fragranthe

of honeythuckle!

All: I remember!

Beanie: Fireflies!

Barry and Mr. Leroy: Fireflies!

Tyrone: Fireflies!

All: So many fireflies!

Gooney Bird called, "What happened to all the fireflies?"

The chorus of children chanted, in reply:

They're out there!

We can't see them!

But Mrs. Pidgeon's mother can!

They're lighting her way!

They all stood silently. Then they held up their hands and waved goodbye.

"This was a Poem for Many Voices," the children said.

After a moment, Mr. Furillo turned the video camera off. They could see him take his rumpled handkerchief from the pocket of his custodian uniform. He wiped his eyes.

The performers left the schoolyard and began to climb the steps to return to school.

"We didn't even wear our poetry hats," Chelsea pointed out.

"It would have been a distraction," Gooney Bird explained, "and anyway, we'd already written the poem. We didn't need to warm our brains for the performance."

"Did you think we did good?" Malcolm asked Mr. Leroy as they entered the school's large front door.

"You did great!" the principal said. He turned and exchanged a high-five with Malcolm. "Just great! I mean, we did great. Mrs. Pidgeon will treasure that video, and that poem, forever. It was wonderful.

"We shouldn't boast," he added. Then he looked down at his wet, slush-covered feet, sighed, and said, "My shoes are toast."

Gooney Bird, walking past, had overheard the conversation. She grinned and gave the principal a thumbs-up sign. "Couplet," she said. "Not bad, Mr. L."

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