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Story ID:9972
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Gilboa New York USA
Person:Mabel Hayes, School Nurse
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By Fred Wickert

Nancy Kopp was talking about school nurses in her blog a few days ago and it caused me to remember this story. If you enjoy it, thank Nancy Kopp for if not for her it was never going to be told.

It was the beginning of June in 1951. The school year was soon to end. We were all looking forward to summer vacation and all the fun it will bring. It was traditional with the school every year that one day was set aside for a high school outing away from school for the day. Soon after arriving at the school in the morning, the kids from grades nine through twelve boarded the buses and they headed out for a lake somewhere. It was not always the same lake.

When we arrived the teachers and kids got off the buses and the kids rapidly dispersed to explore their surroundings. On this particular day I found myself in the water, swimming and playing with a number of others. There was a sandy beach at the edge of the lake. On the beach sat the school nurse, Mabel Hayes, flanked by two of the lady teachers. They were all sitting in folding aluminum lawn chairs and were enjoying conversation as they watched the kids playing on the beach and in the water. Mabel Hayes was sitting in the middle and she had something in her lap that she was doing some sewing on.

As we played and swam in the water, there was a dead fish that came floating by on the surface. A couple of the other kids shrieked when they saw it and voiced their displeasure at it‘s being there. I decided that there was only one way to handle that. It must be removed from the water. I grabbed it by the tail and then gave it a mighty heave in the direction of the beach, never thinking to look where I was throwing it. My only thought was to get it as far away from the water as possible.

The fish soared high in the air and when it came down I heard a gasp from a couple of the girls who instantly pointed. I looked where they were pointing just in time to see the dead and slimy fish land right in the middle of Mabel Hayes Lap, on top of the material she was sewing on.

Unknown to me, Mabel had seen me throw the fish and she knew where it had come from. She shouted, “Fred Wickert my daughter will bless you for this! That is the dress she was supposed to wear to the prom tonight!” As soon as I saw the fish land I was on my way out of the water and rushing toward her, sputtering my apologies. I told her I was sorry and that I didn’t mean it to hit anyone.

Mabel Hayes got up and was franticly brushing off her front and the dress. The fish had landed in the sand at her feet and she kicked at it and told me to get that thing away from her. That I did. I went back apologizing some more. She just told me to never mind and get away from her. She said the damage was already done and there was nothing I could do then.

I made myself scarce and went to do something else somewhere. I avoided being anywhere near her for the rest of the day. At the appointed time we all got back on the buses and we returned to the school in time to go home at the regular hour.

That night I had a date for the prom and I was there with my date. One of the bachelor male teachers was at the dance with a young woman I had not seen before. I inquired if anybody knew who she was. One of the kids said, “Yes, that’s Mabel Hayes daughter.” I took a much closer look then, suddenly interested in the woman’s dress. I instantly recognized the color and the material. It was the same dress I had bombed earlier that day with the dead fish. Somehow Mabel had managed to clean it off well enough so the daughter could still wear it at the Prom. It occurred to me to ask her if her mother had told her what had happened that day to her dress, but I decided some things are better off left alone.

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