Excerpt of The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky
(Page 2 of 5)
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"Well, one step at a time," said Cubby's mother. "Let's wait
and see if you get leprosy first."
Now Miss Renshaw stepped forward, leaving the newspaper
on the desk. Miss Renshaw was tall, noble, and strong. Her hair
was red and springy. She was like a lion. She stood at the
classroom door, waiting while the little girls found their broadbrimmed,
blue-banded hats, in preparation for leaving the
safety of the school grounds.
Theirs was a very small class. There were only eleven of
them, like eleven sisters all the same age in a large family.
Cubby, Icara, Martine, Bethany, Georgina, Cynthia, Elizabeth,
Elizabeth, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, and silent Deirdre. Because
it was such a very small class, they had a very small classroom,
which was perched right at the top of the school. Up four flights
of stairs, way up in the sky, like a colony of little birds nesting
on a cliff, blown about by wind with the high, airy sounds of the
city coming up the hill in the ocean breeze.
"Girls!" called out Miss Renshaw, smoothing her springy
hair as they ran to tumble down the stairs, sixty-seven steps in
total. "Hold hands and do not run."
Cubby grabbed Icara's hand, just as she had on the very first
day she had arrived at the school, terrified and alone. Cubby
preferred Icara to Martine or Georgina or Cynthia or Bethany
or Deirdre or Elizabeth or Elizabeth or Elizabeth or Elizabeth,
although the last Elizabeth wasn't so bad; she had a little brother
who couldn't walk and had to go to a special school on a special
bus and once Cubby had been to her house when her little
brother was home, and they had pushed him around the garden
in his wheelchair and how he had laughed as he threw back his
thin neck, laughing out loud like a kookaburra.
The little girls moved in a cloud down from the classroom
through the playground, to wait, as they had been taught, hand
in hand at the yellow gate that led out to the big world. Miss
Renshaw moved among them across the stone pathway. She
wore a drooping crimson dress with a geometrical pattern of
interlocking squares and triangles in green and purple. Around
her neck on a string of leather swung a tear-shaped amber bead
that glinted in the sunlight.
"Now, girls," said Miss Renshaw, "no screaming, squealing,
or screeching. Remember, outside these walls, you are representing
She turned the latch. The gate swung open with the softest
creak, and out they ran, eleven schoolgirls in their round hats
with their socks falling down, hand in hand, like a chain of
Miss Renshaw strode majestically at the rear in her droopy
geometrical dress. She had no trouble keeping up with them,
even though she was old. Of course, she wasn't as old as some
of the teachers in their school. How frightened Cubby had been
on her first day she had never seen so many old women!
Their hair was white and gray or even yellow, and they smelled
of ancient perfumes and powders and cigarettes. One teacher
was so bent over she was like an old washerwoman from a fairy
tale, her face always to the ground, scuttling off into the dim
linoleum-floored hallways with books under her arm, muttering
to herself. Another wore a net in her hair Cubby had
never heard of such a thing and several had buns piled on top
of their ancient, powerful faces, like African women in books
bringing home pitchers of water from the well.
The little girls ran down the back lane behind the school,
between the stinking mounds of rubbish and gurgling drains.
They ran by sleepy, barefooted men and half-dressed women
smoking on their doorsteps, and along the short wall outside
the smudged church that lay under the shadows of the towers of
flats. Their black shoes clattered one after another down the
sandstone stairs, heading for the trees and bubbling water of the
Ena Thompson Memorial Gardens.
Excerpted from The Golden Day
by Ursula Dubosarsky. Copyright © 2013 by Ursula Dubosarsky.
Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.