Jim Schroeder wrote this Valentine - February 14th 2015.
He writes Hawthorne stories like Rockwell paints.
Mrs. Simpson

The Kiss by Jim Schroeder

       The shrill bell summoned the children from the rectangular recesses of the field at York Street School. The school was segregated by grade and divided neatly by York Street itself. Well-marked crosswalks, traffic signs and ever-vigilant student "safeties" made sure that all students were universally protected while crossing York Street. The 2nd grade classrooms were located on the west side of York Street whereas the Kindergarten classroom was fenced off to keep that sorry batch of loser babies in isolation.

       I had recently hit nine years of age – leaving the confines of Kindergarten an infantile memory of graham crackers crumbs, the dreaded nap time, and finger painting. Strictly kid’ stuff. I was a BMOC (big man on campus) this year. Reveling in this status, I came sauntering off the field of combat with a group of lads surrounding me – slapping my back in congratulations after a thrilling dash to glory in a contest of Red Rover. Neither mortal man nor woman could contain the likes of "Jimmy" under a full head of steam. When the opposition called, in unison, for "……….Jimmy to come over," a collective gasp of anticipation brought spectators to their feet. A hush blanketed the expanse green field – four worn brown patches of earth showing – remotely suggesting a diamond. I nodded briefly to Jeffery, pawed the ground with my black high-top Red Ball Jets, and was off like a rocket. As I broke through the defenseless foes clasped hands, a high pitched squeal erupted from the gathered throng.

       Prominent among the crowd was one Cheri Parker, the darling of 2nd grade. Her beauty was undeniable. Cheri had dimples that defined the word cute and a wreath of curly brown hair that was the result of wearing spoolies throughout a night’s sleep. In this edition of second grade, the pecking order of girls was seemingly determined by the number of crinoline petticoats they wore to keep their dresses unruffled. Cheri Parker had enough crinoline to choke a poodle (skirt) though on this particular day, her attire consisted of a blue silk dress with short poofy sleeves.

       As I passed beneath the spread of an ancient pepper tree a sing-song voice softly called my name. It whispered on the wind, "Oh Jimmy." My eyes searched the walkway next to the okra colored stucco building. There in the shadowy recess of the Girls Bathroom was a smoldering Cheri Parker. Her petite fist extended an index finger in my direction and with two quick digital curls it summoned me to her position. I floated hypnotically toward the radiant form of Cheri Parker. Her eyes glinting of polished mahogany. She beckoned me closer and as I got within striking distance she moved like a mongoose and placed her puckered lips on my slightly flushed and sweaty cheek. I closed my eyes to absorb the implications of this first kiss of consequence, and when I opened them, Cheri Parker had vanished. Vaporized. An apparition? Was this imagined or did it really happen? A gathered crowd let me know in no uncertain terms that a surprise attack had been launched and the resulting affect would be, "………. here comes Jimmy with a baby carriage." I was stunned, flustered. I quickly doused my face in the drinking faucet outside the classroom and walked in a dreamlike state, several feet above the ground, into Mrs. Simpson’s classroom. I took my place on the rug where we congregated at this point in our daily routine, and became absorbed in the antics of Raggedy Ann and Andy, who were involved in solving the case of the missing peanut butter cookie. Cheri Parker sat Indian style across the way, never once giving any indication that I existed. I couldn’t shake the thought of "the kiss," and as I touched my cheek I felt a hum of electricity flow through my body. I was lifted from my reverie by the sudden shrill of the lunch bell. I grabbed the well-used brown-bag from my cubby and with my regular group of lads commenced consuming -- today, two slices of Webers’ bread loaded with peanut butter and jelly, thoughtfully cut into four squares by Mom. The guys discussed the ins and outs of dodge ball, the ups and downs of the teeter totter, the give and take of Red Rover. Little League try-outs were mentioned and this news should have brought me back to life as my career choice was to be the first baseman for the Cleveland Indians. But I remained uncommonly silent. I had but one thing on my mind.

       After Mrs. Simpson inspected our scoured eating area we adjourned into the sunshine of another perfect California day.

       The guys wanted to check out a ball from the ballroom and get down to some cut-throat action of four square. I was all for it until I caught a tantalizing view of Cheri Parker, dangling coyly from a swing. Her attendants were nearby, swinging haphazardly about the swings’ support poles. I gazed longingly across the blacktopped expanse. I felt something I had never felt before. Butterflies were doing the cha cha cha in the pit of my stomach. I flashed on a scene of "Little Rascals" where Spanky is torn between a meeting of the He-Man Woman Haters Club and an engagement with the divine Darla Hood. Girls are confusing creatures and in the past they just seemed to be a minor annoyance. Never really gave them much thought. But now, all I could think of was Cheri Parker, Cheri Parker, Cheri Parker.

       Fast forward 58 years. Enter the computer-age and the ability to locate friends who I thought were lost forever.

       Curiosity got the best of me. I had gone on line to see if I could track down the Cheri Parker who had vanished from the vicinity but never from my heart. The kiss had transcended nearly 60 years and now I wondered if she even remotely remembered the incident. I doubt it. It cost me five bucks to shuffle through a throng of Cheri Parkers along with a variety of last names. Low and behold a Cheri Parker Brunson fit the profile. The right age and the profile said she had lived in Hawthorne in the 1950s before moving with her family to San Bernadino. She was now living in a small town in Northern California retired after a career as a stewardess for TWA. Two kids and several grandchildren. I jumped into the car and drove 200 miles to Redding, California which was her last known address. Locating the address in a middle-class residential area, I knocked on the door. My heart was pounding in my ears. "Cheri?" I said.