Somehow John has woken up as a child. His body is solid and round, though still on the thin side. His lungs are clear, and he awakes without choking. "Hello. Good morning. How do you do?" He tests his voice, and it is higher and lighter. He remembers how to speak though, as he could not do coherently when he had really been six. He is about two feet shorter. Interestingly, when he looks at the calendar, he sees it is September. His clothes still fit around him, they are just too long. He cuts the pants and shirt sleeves and rolls them at the bottom, tucking in the shirt. He cuts the drawers short. The vest is alright. There is nothing he can do about his shoes - even with newspaper they would look like a clown's. His socks work out if he pulls them very high, up over his knees, the heel halfway up his calves. He buckles the sock braces beneath his calves to hold them up, somehow. There is nothing he can do about the waistcoat and jacket either, so these he leaves off entirely. A little clumsy with the scissors, big in his unaccustomed small hands, the cuts are slightly jagged, but they are hidden. His hat is big, but not so very much too big. The head grow least, he knows, and his has always been large. It will do.
John sees the 'other' boys starting down the street with brightly coloured knapsacks. He has nothing of the sort, but does possess a nice leather writing case, so he takes this up and follows the others, to start school. He believes in nothing so much as education, in learning and the training and inspiring of the young to professions and higher learning. He started school when already in his teens. Now, he is six, somehow, he wants, as he has always wistfully thought, to be taught to read and write, to see what is said now about the history he has lived, to excel at mathematics, to begin Latin again, and to watch children learn.
Somehow, he wants to teach, as a child, as a peer. Schools have been closed to him, as an adult. He thinks bitterly of the episode in Tombstone, when he had been barred from speaking to the children. Not for impropriety in his words or actions, but because he drank, gambled and killed and because the conservative fearful townsfolk disapproved of his friends.
By the time he gets to school he notices that the other children are accompanied by parents. He queues up behind them all in the big hall - an immense dry-smelling room with a geometric pattern of lines and apparatus tied to the walls. There are tables set up for various sizes - ages he is sure - of children. He is largely unnoticed in the activity. Finally he reaches the front of the line and the smiling teacher is holding out her hand for his birth certificate.
"Where are your parents? Didn't they get the letter about your papers? Have you got your books?" So many questions that he is bewildered, but not much is expected of a lone six year old, especially one obviously dressed in clothing of an older brother.
"My mama is ill, Ma'am," John says finally in his strange new voice. He takes off his hat and holds it to his chest, bowing politely.
The teacher's attitude changes at once and becomes more gentle, feeling sorry for him. "What is your name? Have you had breakfast? You can bring your papers another time, alright? Do you know what class you will be in?"
John says, again very politely, "Dr. John Holliday, at your service, Ma'am." No, that is not right. "John. My name is John, Ma'am. John Holliday."
She seems charmed by his manners. "So, you want to be a doctor, when you grow up?" She comes around the table and pats his head, then takes his hand to bring him to the lunchroom where they are handing out milk boxes and peanut butter sandwiches to the children who look hungry.
"A dentist, Ma'am," He answers.
"Do your teeth hurt? Do you want to see the nurse?" She seems determined to take charge of him - a very polite disadvantaged little boy with huge blue eyes and soft white curls, the scar marring and stretching his upper lip. He finds he is irresistible.
He also finds that it is not just his form that has changed. His emotions are thin and trivial and overwhelming. After recess, the kind woman comes out to find him weeping under the slide, pressed tight against the ladder. He is still clutching a crumpled but remarkably sophisticated pencil-crayon drawing of a woman dressed in clothes of a hundred years earlier, holding by the hand a boy who is clearly he himself, and a page-filling congregation of less precisely drawn older children behind. There is no father. She smooths it out and questions him some more. "What is wrong? Are you ill? Has someone been hurting you? Are you scared? How ill is
He turns and clings to her, unnerved by the new school methods and educational standards. He sobs into her skirt, weakly repeating two words over and over. "Creative Spelling."Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 885
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Nulli Virtute Secundus