Mr. El and the Princess
should try one of these sundaes,” said Mr. Smitty.
Miss Joan nodded in agreement.
“I’ll get around to it,” Mr. El replied as he looked across the large Dairy Center tent. The three teachers were at their school’s Back to School Fair. It had grown into a major annual event, sort of a mini county fair.
“What are you staring at, Mr. El?” asked Miss Joan.
“I think I’ll stroll over there and talk to the County Dairy Princess,” Mr. El replied.
“She is beautiful,” Mr. Smitty remarked.
“I hadn’t noticed,” said Mr. El, trying not to smile.
Miss Joan rolled her eyes.
“Actually, my interest in her is purely professional,” Mr. El stated. “I might learn something about the dairy industry that I can share with my fourth graders.”
Mr. Smitty broke in, “Besides, he likes that new resource teacher, Miss Cheryl.”
“Miss Cheryl is kind of cute,” Mr. El admitted. “I like the way her eyes cross when she’s annoyed.”
“Why is it that you know how everyone looks when they’re annoyed?” Miss Joan asked.
Mr. El chose to ignore the question. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he walked toward the dairy princess.
Miss Joan and Mr. Smitty relaxed on a bench as they enjoyed their sundaes and watched Mr. El approach the princess.
Mr. El and the young lady seemed to be having a pleasant conversation when suddenly the princess walked away with a much less than pleasant expression on her face.
When Mr. El rejoined his friends, Miss Joan could not contain herself. “I’d give a million dollars to know what you said to her!” she exclaimed.
“You don’t have a million dollars,” Mr. El responded.
“I’ll buy you one of these giant hot fudge sundaes for the story,” Mr. Smitty proposed.
“Deal!” said Mr. El. “I was asking her what qualities the judges look for in choosing a dairy princess.”
“And?” Miss Joan demanded.
“Well it just goes to prove that a sense of humor isn’t one of the requirements,” Mr. El replied.
“What did you say?” Miss Joan asked with that “What terrible thing have you done?” look that she did so well.
“Just to add a little levity to the conversation,” Mr. El went on, “I asked her if looking like a cow was one consideration.”
“You did what?!” Miss Joan practically screamed.
“I think this is worth a double hot fudge sundae!” Mr. Smitty announced.
“I thought she’d know I was kidding,” Mr. El stated. “I say stuff like that to my students all the time and they know I’m kidding.”
“That’s because they’ve learned not to take you seriously,” Miss Joan said.
“Well this girl, who’s at least twice the age of my fourth graders, ought to know that she doesn’t look anything like a cow. You can’t win a competition to be a princess of any kind without knowing that you’re smart and good looking.”
“Maybe she thinks that you think that she looks like a cow,” Mr. Smitty offered.
“Why would she care?” Mr. El countered.
“Good question,”said Miss Joan. “But don’t you see the damage you’ve done?” she added.
“Damage, what damage?” asked Mr. El.
“Up until today she was a self-confident young woman, destined for greatness. She might have become a scientist whose inventions would have saved millions of lives. She might have gone on to be a great leader who would bring peace and prosperity to the whole world!” Miss Joan paused to catch her breath. “But now,” she continued, “she’ll spend the rest of her miserable existence hiding her face. She’ll live her entire life wearing a character costume at some amusement park so that no one will ever gaze upon her cowlike features! And needless to say, she’ll never save the world!”
“You could just go over there and apologize,” Mr. Smitty suggested.
“That might just make things worse,” said Mr. El. “In a few minutes she’ll forget I exist; she’ll forget what I said, and she can go on to save the world.”
“I’ll have my sundae now,” Mr. El reminded Mr. Smitty. “Didn’t I hear ‘double hot fudge’?”
As Mr. Smitty walked off to buy the sundae, Mr. Kay, the principal, came by. “Mr. El,” he said, “I have a nice surprise for you. I’ve lined up your student teacher for this fall. Her name is Miss Lee. She’s already a very accomplished young lady. In fact, you may have noticed her at the fair.”
“She’s here? I’d like to meet her,” said Mr. El.
“That’s her over there,” Mr. Kay said. “She’s wearing that shiny little crown.”
“You mean that Dairy Princess crown?” asked Mr. El.
“That’s her,” said Mr. Kay.
Miss Joan, who couldn’t help hearing the conversation, had a broad smile on her face. Mr. El was not smiling.
“Excuse me,” said Mr. El, “I have to rush to my room and prepare a lesson plan!”
“A lesson plan?” asked the principal.
“Yes,” sighed Mr. El, “A lesson about thinking before speaking.”
1. What lesson did Mr. El learn from his experience?
2. Can you think of any examples of someone making a similar mistake?
3. Do you think that it’s always possible to know how someone will react to something you say?
Reading Comprehension, Vol. 8, No. 4, September 15, 2003http://rhlschool.comCopyright 2003 RHL
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