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Rubber Bands

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 10/27/2005

Rubber Bands Transcript

It’s the anniversary of the invention of the rubber band this month, and that has given some stretch to today’s story from Shelley Fraser Mickle. 

No child’s life has ever been the same since the rubber band made its appearance on Earth. Put one in a young child’s hand, and pretty soon he figures out how to hook one end around his thumb and the other at the tip of his index finger, then cock his thumb and let go. 

In my third grade, every time Mrs. Hopkins stepped out of the room, I was shot with a rubber band somewhere in my back. I would turn around and say, “Now who did that? I mean it now, who did that?” A whole row of boys would stare at me and say, Huh? Then they’d look especially dumb when Mrs. Hopkins came back into the room and I told her I’d been shot by a rubber band. More than once I rolled up my sleeve to try to find the mark. Once I even had Mrs. Hopkins dig around in my scalp where I assured her a rubber band had popped me silly. 

All the fall and winter the shooter never came forward. Mrs. Hopkins thought I was becoming neurotic and an obsessive liar. But when she saw smoking guns surrounding my desk, limp tan rubber bands that resembled dead worms, she made the whole class of boys stay in at recess. By spring, the shooter was bold enough to hit me while Mrs. Hopkins was writing on the board. Of course, by then his aim had improved and more often than not, the rubber band struck me between the shoulder blades with a dull thump. By then, too, the rubber bands were red and green and blue. I moved from being a squealer to a stoic. I became fully capable of doing a whole page of multiplication while brushing off the thud of a shot below my neck. 

It was on the day of the class picnic that my outlook on the rubber band sharpshooter changed. Lloyd Cunningham sat down beside me on the bus seat. At first, he didn’t say anything, but then, while the boys behind him teased him for sitting next to me, he asked, “Want some gum?” 

When he pulled a package out of his pocket, a wad of blue and red and green rubber bands fell out, too. Intuitively, I knew not to make an issue of what was between us on the bus seat. For somehow I also knew that the ways of courtship are complicated. Silently, together, he and I picked up those rubber bands. And I held them while he carefully put them back in his pocket.

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