Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from Gretta Moorhead. Earlier this month, we asked: Who showed you that books are more than text printed on a page? Describe one specific interaction with this person and the book that was discussed.
Mrs. Hobson was my fourth grade teacher. She was a quiet woman, round and soft, friendly and firm. Every day after recess she read to us, twenty-eight sweaty, spent fourth graders. I’d settle into my wooden chair, wrap my feet around its legs, nestle my head in the nest of my arms, and close my eyes.
One day Mrs. Hobson read a story set in ancient China. The flare from a burning pen of pigs stung my eyes. My stomach knotted in fear. While the embers smoldered a child stuck his finger into the side of his dead pet pig, pulled it out and licked it. I tasted the warm savory juice of the pig.
Once we spent three weeks in a dark Southern swamp, a boy drifting without a paddle, hoping somehow to get home. My skin chilled when a snake uncoiled and dropped into the gloomy water. My heart raced when a muskrat’s red eyes appeared ahead. The smell of the fetid swamp made my nose narrow and my eyes run. I imagine the boy eventually got home; I don’t remember. But I do remember the terror of that swamp. I do remember what it was to be lost there, even though I’d never been lost and never seen a swamp.
The week Mrs. Hobson read us a story about Ella, a girl who learned to walk again after contracting polio, I became mindful of the power of a book. The day Ella surprised her mother with her first steps I cried, in class, in front of others. I cried about a person who wasn’t even real. I knew then the might of a book.
I don’t recall the titles of the books Mrs. Hobson read. But I remember a rising awareness that books could take me somewhere new in the world and somewhere new inside myself. I knew in fourth grade that being read to after recess was the best part of the day. Mrs. Hobson had shown me the enchantment and the mystery of books.
Gretta can be reached at grettamoorhead(at)gmail(dot)com.
A new Literary Reflections writing prompt is published the first weekend of every month. Responses are accepted until the 15th, and I promise to comment shortly after that. Look for it – we’d love to hear from you.