The Sneeze

By Sarah Levesque (Rated G)

The dog ran into the classroom first, followed by the two children.
​“Should we be in here?” the boy asked.
​The girl shrugged. “Why not? Just ‘cause it’s a big-kid classroom?”
​“It’s Saturday,” the boy reminded her. “And we’re not even in the kindergarten wing.”
​The girl shrugged again. “So what? Don’t be a scaredy-cat, Louis.”
​“I’m not a scaredy-cat,” Louis protested.
​“Then let’s see what these fifth graders have that we don’t,” the girl said. “Look – Barky found cookies!”
​The dog had snuffled his way into a closet and had found a package of Oreos.
​“Mmm, my favorite!” the girl said. She took the package from the dog and opened it. She gave one to Barky and bit into another.
​“Don’t eat the cookies, Chloe! They’re not ours!” Louis ran over to her and tried to grab the package away.
​“Fimberf-keeperf-looferf-weeperf,” Chloe said, spewing cookie crumbs.
​“Then they’re Barky’s – he’s the one who found them!” Louis did not release the cookies.
​“Yeah, well, Mom said too much chocolate could kill him, so he can’t have any more.”
​“So how are they ours?” Louis asked.
​“Cause I said so,” Chloe retorted, and tried to wrench the cookies out of his hands.
Louis let go, and Chloe lost her balance. The cookies flew into the air and hung there for a heartbeat before falling, the package splitting open on the floor. Cookies rolled every which way – under the neat desks with the chairs on top, under the teacher’s desk, to the carpet and the bookshelves and the walls. The children and the dog scrambled after them in a race to retrieve the most cookies. The children stuffed them into mouths and pockets, while the dog snapped up each cookie he saw in one bite, his tail wagging furiously. Soon, there were no more cookies on the floor. The children collapsed, their faces covered in Oreo. The dog sniffed around before returning to them. He began to lick the chocolate off of Chloe’s face.
“Ewww!” Chloe complained, pushing the dog away. Barky turned to Louis, who made no objection to having his face licked.
“That’s gross,” Chloe told him.
Louis shrugged.
“Wonder what else is here,” she added.
Louis shrugged again.
“Ooh look – chalk!” Chloe scrambled up and ran to the chalkboard. “We’ve only got markers in our classroom.”
“I know,” Louis said, standing up and petting the dog. “I go there every day too, you know.”
Chloe pulled a chair off a desk and dragged it over to the blackboard that spanned a wall.
“You get a chair and you can have half,” she offered.
“Okay.” Louis pushed another chair off of a desk and pulled it to the board.
They covered the blackboard with drawings, sharing the blue, red and white chalk with an odd peace. Chloe pushed on the white chalk too hard and it broke.
“Hey!” Louis accused. “You broke it.”
Chloe shrugged.
“Now we each get one.”
“Okay,” Louis said, mollified.
They worked on in silence for a few more minutes.
“If we can erase it, we can draw more,” Chloe told Louis.
“I’m twelve minutes younger than you, not stupid,” Louis retorted.
Chloe shrugged again.
“Gimme the eraser.”
“It’s mine – it’s on my side of the board.” Louis stuck his tongue out at his twin, grabbed the eraser and started brushing it over the board. It left a colored streak. “Hey – what’s wrong? It’s not working!”
“Guess you’re doing it wrong,” Chloe sniped.
“Well you try it if you’re so smart.” Louis flung the eraser at her.
It hit her in the middle of her pink t-shirt, leaving a white mark.
“Hey!” Chloe squealed. “Lookit what you did! You ruined my bestest shirt!”
Louis jumped off his chair and ran to help his sister. He started brushing off her shirt.
“Nah – look!” he said. “It’s going away.”
Chloe sniffed. “Good. If it didn’t, I would’ve killed you.”
Louis shrugged as if he heard this every day.
“See if you can do any better’n me,” he challenged.
Turning her back on her brother, Chloe used the eraser to wipe the board. It smeared the chalk in a stripe.
“See – you can’t do it either,” Louis jeered.
“Maybe it’s broken. Maybe that’s why our room has a marker board,” Chloe said. She tossed the eraser to the floor. A puff of chalk dust rose up.
“Cool!” Louis said. He picked it up and threw it. It landed near the exploring Barky in another puff of chalk dust. The dog sneezed. Ca-rumph.
Chloe scrambled down from her chair and ran to the eraser. “Catch!” she said, throwing it at Louis. He missed it and threw it back. She missed it, too. A few tries later the twins gave up, tired of this game of Not-Catch.
The last throw, made by Louis, hit the board and knocked the piece of red chalk off the chalk-shelf.
“Oh I know!” Chloe said. “Let’s play house with the chalk! The red is the mommy, the blue is the daddy and the white is the baby.”
“There’s two whites,” Louis reminded her.
Chloe shrugged.
“Then they’re twins too. Here – you get the daddy and the boy twin, I get the mommy and the girl twin.”
“Okay,” Louis said.
“You better go to work,” Chloe said in a high voice as the red ‘mommy’ chalk. “It’s Friday.”
“No, it’s not,” Louis said.
“It is for them,” Chloe said.
“Oh.”
“Now go to work.”
“Okay. I’m a teacher,” Louis said in a deeper voice. “I gotta go teach my kids today. Bye kids. Bye, honey.” He placed the blue chalk back on the chalk-shelf.
“Goodbye kids,” Chloe said in her mommy voice. “Have a good day at school! Mwa, mwa.” She knocked the red chalk against the white chalk in a kiss.
Louis giggled. There was a red mark on the white chalk.
“Mom!” Chloe made her twin complain. “You got lipstick on me! Bye!” Chloe added as the red chalk. “I gotta go to work, too!” She placed the red chalk next to the blue.
“They’re gone!” Louis shouted, making his white chalk bounce around. “Let’s play!”
“C’mon! Let’s play follow the leader!” Chloe said. She led the way, hopping her white chalk up desks and down, rolling it on the floor and pretending the chalk twins were on an adventure. Louis followed, making his chalk mimic hers.
“Whatzat?” he said, pointing at Barky, who had fallen asleep in a stream of sun that came in from a window.
“Dunno,” Chloe answered. “Let’s check it out.” She snuck her chalk closer and made it hop on the dog. “It’s soft,” she whispered.
“It’s moving,” Louis added.
Barky picked up his head and looked patiently at the children and the chalk.
“Ahhh!!!” Chloe screamed.
“It’s alive!” screamed Louis.
“It’s gonna eat us!” Chloe added at the top of her voice.
The classroom door slammed open.
“What in the name of all that is holy is going on in here?” a grey haired lady demanded.
The twins looked at each other, eyes wide. Barky got up and stretched lazily.
“A dog, too?” The lady gasped. “Chloe Hart! I bet this was all your idea, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Ms. Adams,” Chloe whispered.
“And Louis Hart – you need to grow a backbone.”
Louis looked up at her quizzically.
“I think I got a bone in my back,” he said. He turned to his sister. “I got a bone in my back, right?”
Chloe nodded and ran her fingers down his spine.
“It’s right here. And it’s bumpy,” she told him.
Ms. Adams sighed.
“It’s an expression, Louis. It means you shouldn’t always listen to your sister.”
“I knew this was a bad idea.” Louis said to Chloe.
Ms. Adams took a deep breath.
“Let’s go to my office and call your parents,” she said. “I’m sure they’re looking for you.”
“I’ve never been to the principal’s office before,” Louis said.
“I have,” Chloe told him. “It’s nifty.”
Ms. Adams took each child by the hand. “Come on, dog,” she said.
“C’mere, Barky,” Chloe said, slapping her leg.
The dog shambled to her and the foursome left the room.
Kershew!
“Goodness, I thought they’d never leave,” one piece of white chalk said to the other. “I think I’m allergic to dogs!”

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