Kids & Parenting
The Defense of Helen Mennelli, Second Grade Crybaby
by Dori Knight
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"Anyone who knows anything knows two things: Helen Mennelli is my best friend, and she is the biggest crybaby on the face of the universe.
"I remember when she spent the night at my house this summer, she cried when her Mama left, and then she cried when her Mama came to pick her up. She cried when she spilled her juice, and she cried when my dog barked at her. She cried when it was time to go to sleep and the lights went out, but I just finally told her to quit it or I would sock her in the arm, and she did.
"In fact, I bet if a doctor were to take x-rays of her eyeballs, he would find that Helen Mennelli has more tears in her head than any other person on the face of the universe, so really, she canít help crying so much. All them tears have to get out of her head, or they might drown her. I bet she could even get a doctorís excuse.
"Two years ago, on the first day of Kindergarten, Helen Mennelli had her biggest crying day of all. I think she mightaí broken a world record. She started crying before she left the house that morning, and didnít stop crying until her Mama picked her up that afternoon. But you know something, Mister? Even though she cried like someone was cutting her arms off, Mrs. McConnell didnít pinch her once. Nope, Mrs. McConnell just hugged her a lot and let Helen Mennelli cry all she needed to.
"Come to think of it, I think Helen Mennelli is allergic to first days of school, because she cried on the first day of First Grade, too, but not anywhere near as long as she cried in Kindergarten. I think last year she only cried until about lunchtime. I remember thinking it was weird that she didnít cry all the way through lunch, Ďcause after I saw what they were serving, I wanted to cry too. Maybe one day we can talk about the cafeteria food.
"Anyway, I know that weíre big kids now that weíre in the Second Grade, and Helen ought not to cry when her Mama leaves her, but the way I see it, itís a free country and everyone has a right to cry. I donít think the President can tell you that itís illegal to cry, even if he is the most important man on the face of the universe, because if tears want to come out, theyíre just going to come and they donít stop to worry about any laws or nothiní.
"And Mister, no matter how much she cried, stinky old Mrs. Bloom ought not have pinched Helen Mennelli. How is pinching someone going to make them stop crying? For goodness sakes, sheís two years smarter than Mrs. McConnell, and even Mrs. McConnell knows that sometimes a kidís just got to cry all their tears out.
"Now I know I ought not have bitten stinky Old Mrs. Bloom, at least not so hard, but what was I supposed to do? What would you have done if your best friend was there justaí squealing like a pig, and the stinky teacher was justaí pinching away with her face all twisted up, like she was liking it? You would do the only thing a friend could do; you would bite the ever loviní dog snot out of the stinky old teacher.
"Youíve got lots of graduations on your wall, so youíve got to be a pretty smart guy, and you must be able to see that once that teacher stopped pinching on Helen Mennelli, and me hanging onto her arm like a rabbit dog, it wouldnít be long before she took up pinching on me. So thatís why I kicked her in the shin.
"Now just between you and me, Mister, I hear that Mrs. Snotty Bloom is the meanest old snake of a teacher in this whole school, and maybe even on the face of the entire universe, and thatís saying something because there are lots of scary old teachers out there. Maybe one day, Iíll make a list of all the scary teachers for you and we can talk about it. Maybe you could make them eat cafeteria lunches until they stopped being so mean or something.
"Anyway, there ainít none of this Helen Mennelliís fault. Sheís just a big crybaby is all, and thereís no laws against being a crybaby, is there? Why just look at her out there in the waiting room . . . sheís crying already just thinking about having to come in here and talk to you. Have you ever seen anything so sad in all your life? Mister, if you ask me, Helen Mennelli has been punished enough for missing her Mama.
"Plus, I donít think you ought to call my parents either, cause I really didnít do anything but protect Helen Mennelli from Mrs. Bloomís pinchy fingers, and thatís what the bible tells us to do: weíre supposed to look after the widows and orphans, right? Well, Helen Mennelli was technically an orphan when her Mama left her here, so I was just doing the right thing.
"And as far as kicking Mrs. Bloom goes, that was just good old-fashioned self-defense, and you canít fault a kid for defending herself, can you? Nope, I think the best thing here would be to let bygones be bygones, as my Grandma says, and turn the other cheek.
"But we understand if you have to call our parents, Ďcause youíve just got a job to do, and itís probably the hardest job on the face of the whole universe. Of course that means that weíre going to have to explain the pinchy bruise to Helen Mennelliís parents, and that sure is going to be a hard one. I never did understand why grown ups get so touchy about bruises on kids.
"Then again, since youíll have them on the phone anyway, Iím sure you can explain it better than we can, and Iím even more sure that theyíll ask you to do just that.
"Well, I better get going now before Helen Mennelli floods the waiting room. Thanks for inviting me up here to your office to talk about this stuff. I really feel better now.
"You know, maybe it hasnít been a very good first day of school so far, but Iím thinking the rest of the year should shape up pretty good. In fact, I wouldnít be surprised if this was the best Second Grade on the face of the entire universe."
copyright 2004 doriknight
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The character you've created here is wonderful. Though we hear more about Helen Mennelli, we learn much about the little girl who is speaking without ever receiving a direct word about her. Excellent building of character through dialog.