Excerpt 5, Ch. 1

   I watched Alison. She smiled at me, then started to write her name on the back of her man. She seemed to know how to write it without looking at the name tag. She was probably the smartest kid in the class, even smarter than Sister Razor Blade, who wasn’t smart at all, if you’d asked me.

After a while, when I began to wonder how much longer I would have to sit under the piano, The Razor’s voice scratched through my thoughts.

“Okay, children,” she said, standing at her desk. “Gather your art projects and get ready to leave.”

Leave? I sat up. Could it be true? Between my fight with The Razor Blade, our cookies and milk, then clean-up, then art projects, and my second sit-in under the piano, the time had passed me by. But if it was time to leave, where was Michael?

“We will line up one table at a time,” said Sister Razor Blade. “As I point to your table, get up, push your chair in under the table, and form a line at the door.” She pointed to Table One. The kids stood up, pushed in their chairs, and scrambled toward the door, climbing over each other to get out. Then, Table Two got up and did the same thing. Each one did the same, until everyone was lined up in twos across the front of the room.

“Daniel, you stand at the end of the line,” Sister Razor Blade said, pointing to the back of the line to the last kid who, as far as I could see, had no eyebrows. I wanted to stand behind Alison but didn’t argue, since I hoped to be out the door any minute and didn’t want to give The Blade any reasons to attack me again, or worse—keep me there! Then The Blade walked over to the door, opened it, and led the class as they moved in a line out of the room, down the long green and gray hallway, out the giant wooden doors, and down the gray stone steps.

At the bottom of the steps people crowded around, waiting on the sidewalk to pick up their kids. I looked from one face to another as I stepped down each big, gray stone step, trying not to slip and fall and wanting to keep track of Alison, when my end of the line finally reached the bottom of the steep stone steps. Where’s Michael?

One by one, the kids went off with their big sisters or brothers, or walked off with mothers pushing baby carriages. Others got in cars which drove away. I stood still, frozen as the crowd got smaller and smaller until almost no one was left. Then, someone squeezed my arm. I pulled away. Sister Basil?

“Come on, Shorty. Let’s go.” It was Michael the Archangel, come to rescue me—again—puffing on his Camel.

“Come on, let’s go,” Michael repeated, “or I’m gonna be late getting back to class. You already made me and Sal late once today.” Sal walked beside Michael smiling.

I tried to tell him about Sister Razor Blade and the piano and Alison and bald Louis and the cookies and milk and the paper man that I crunched into a ball, and the boy with no eyebrows, but Michael wasn’t listening. He and Sal ran all the way home, with Michael pulling me by the arm the whole way.

Once upstairs in the apartment, Michael put together fast peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the three of us.

“I wanna get outta here before Frances shows up,” he said. He put one of the sandwiches down on the table for me.

“Here, eat this,” he said, and took the carton of milk out of the refrigerator, opened it, and gulped it from the spout. He gestured to Sal with the milk carton to see if he wanted any, to which Sal shook his head. Then, he grabbed a cup from the dish drain on the counter and poured some into it.

“Here, drink this,” he said. “Okay, Danny. I gotta go back now,” he said. “Stay outta trouble. Okay, Shorty?” He rubbed the top of my head and ran out the door.

I listened to him and Sal pound down the steps, heard the downstairs hallway door open, and then the outside door. I ran to the kitchen window, opened it, and pressed my forehead up against the screen. I watched Michael run up the block, until I couldn’t see him anymore.

My dear Saint Michael the Archangel didn’t know he had just rescued me from one Razor Blade and delivered me to another.


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The Archangel of Hamilton Beach