The Wednesday Wars

Since the crazy last few weeks I’ve finally found the time to pick up my kindle and read a few more books off our primary school ERP list – a project I embarked on a coupla months ago:
Last week I read Cynthia Kadohata’s Cracker! about a dog that served in the Vietnam war and how it got reunited with its dog handler. Prior to that I am ashamed to say I knew nothing of the Vietnam war, why the Americans started sending troops there, and I must say after reading it I know even less. What was so evil about communism? I mean I know Red Forman in That 70’s show had always used “dirty commie” as an insult but I mean the communist ideology that we studied in history didn’t sound so very bad to me. Of course the manifestations of that ideology were quite horrible in many cases but just cause it’s warped in one country doesn’t mean it will be warped in the rest in the region! Like I’m not very sure how sending boys to die to prevent another country halfway across the world from turning completely communist is all that justified, but maybe that’s why I’m not a politician.

The next book I started on was Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars about a Presbyterian kid who had no Catechism to go to or Jewish school (the rest of the town was either Catholic or Jewish) on wednesday afternoons, and so had to stay in with his homeroom teacher. This also occurred in the period of the Vietnam war – it was kind of interesting how Vietnamese immigrants to the States were treated, especially in a classroom setting. How badly other kids treated them, ostracized them, and blamed them for the tragedy that was happening in America because of their country.

The next excerpt is about the narrator’s homeroom teacher, Mrs Baker, receiving a telegram on yet another wednesday afternoon spent with the boy.

I was there on the last Wednesday afternoon of May, a cool and blue day, when Mrs Sidman came in with an envelope and handed it to Mrs Baker. She took it with hands that were trembling. She tore the top slowly open, and then stood there, holding the telegram, unable to pull it out to read it.

“Can I help?” said Mrs Sidman.

Mrs Baker nodded.

“And then I’ll take Holling to my office so that you can be alone.”

Mrs Baker looked at me, and I knew she wasn’t going to send me to Mrs Sidman’s office so that she could be alone. You don’t send someone away who has lit a candle with you.

“I suppose not,” said Mrs Baker.

Mrs Sidman took the envelope, then held out the opened telegram to Mrs Baker.

But Mrs Baker closed her eyes. “Read it,” she whispered.

Mrs Sidman looked at me, then down at the telegram. Then she read the first line: “Sweet eyes… stop.”

Think of the sound you make when you let go after holding your breath for a very, very long time. Think of the gladdest sounds you know: the sound of dawn on the first day of spring break, the sound of a bottle of Coke opening, the sound of a crowd cheering in your ears because you’re coming down to the last part of a race – and you’re ahead. Think of the sound of water over stones in a cold stream, and the sound of wind through green trees on a late May afternoon in Central Park. Think of the sound of a bus coming into the station carrying someone you love.

Then put all those together.

And they would be nothing compared to the sound that Mrs. Baker made that day from somewhere deep inside that had almost given up, when she heard the first line of that telegram.

Then she started to hiccup, and to cry, and to laugh, and Mrs Sidman put the telegram down, held Mrs Baker in her arms, nodded to me, and took her out of the classroom for a drink of water.

And I know I shouldn’t have, but I picked up the telegram and read the rest. Here is what it said:

SWEET EYES STOP OUT OF THE JUNGLE STOP OK STOP HOME IN TIME FOR STRAWBERRIES STOP LOVE TY STOP

Shakespeare couldn’t write any better than that.

That’s just some literature for all you people who don’t read books.

I would highly recommend it, but be prepared to be quite hungry, because there are almost two entire chapters on cream puffs. The author seems to have an unhealthy obsession with them – if he just wrote something like this. “My mum packed me a cream puff for lunch.” it wouldn’t be so bad, but no, he has to write about it like this: “There were no fumes. There was only the delicious, extravagant, warm, tasty scent of buttery baking crust, and of vanilla cream, and of powdered sugar, still drifting in the heated air. And stretched out on long tables, far from Whatever Surprise was being fed to Camillo Junior High for lunch that day, were a dozen trays of cream puffs – brown, light, perfect cream puffs.”

To tell the truth I don’t remember using much butter in the roux to make choux pastry. It’s usually water, flour, and egg – can’t say I remember any butter, but then it’s been a long time since I made any eclairs. Will be making durian puffs this weekend with xingyan so we’ll find out!

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