Wake up!" Mrs. Rath was shaking him. "This is the fourth time
you've fallen asleep this week. There must be something wrong.
I want you to go home right now and come back with a note
from your mother."
Eric worried all the way home. How could he tell his mother
that he had been sneaking downstairs after the family was
asleep to watch the Late Late Show? But when he got
home, his mother was out shopping.
Eric waited for a few minutes, watching out the window for
his mother. Then he ran to the typewriter and typed out a
note to Mrs. Rath. He typed his mother's name at the end.
With a quick glance up the street to make sure his mother
wasn't coming, Eric dashed off to school.
The schoolyard was empty. "It must be later than I thought,"
Eric worried. He ran through the open door and down the hall
to his classroom. He dashed in through the door and stopped
short. No one was there!
He stood for a moment and listened. There wasn't a sound in
the whole school. And as he stared around the classroom, he
had the strangest feeling -- as though someone (or something)
was watching him.
There was a rustling behind him. Eric whirled around. He thought
for a moment he had spotted a movement out of the corner of
his eye. Was that a book flying through the air? But when
he looked straight at it, the book was lying on a desk. Then,
suddenly, there was a scratching noise from the blackboard.
Eric turned around again and blinked.
A piece of chalk was writing on the blackboard -- and there
was nobody holding it! Slowly the words took shape: WE ARE
HOLDING THE TEACHERS AND PUPILS PRISONER. THEY ARE HOSTAGES
FOR THE SAFETY OF THE BOOKS.
books?" Eric exclaimed.
THE OLD TEXTBOOKS, printed the chalk. THEY MUST NOT BE BURNED.
Eric watched, amazed, as the chalk printed on. The black-board
eraser raced along behind it, clearing spaces for more words.
Slowly the story came out.
It had all started a week before, when a new shipment of textbooks
arrived. The old books were tied into bundles and carried
down to a storeroom in the basement -- the room next to the
going to be burned on the next cold day!" the old books shivered.
if we're next?" thought the desks and chairs.
about us?" worried the blackboard erasers. Fear spread quickly
through the objects of the school. Even the clocks on the
walls moaned as their hands swept out the hours.
One night, when the school was dark, there was a meeting in
the auditorium. Books and globes, movie projectors, desks
and chairs crowded in to discuss what they could do to protect
themselves. They decided that they must move boldly.
So in the chemistry lab, test tubes and beakers mixed and
measured chemicals. When they were ready at last -- today
-- a hypnotic gas flated through the halls and rooms.
Soon the principal, the teachers, and all the pupils were
in a trance. They lined up quietly and marched down to the
storerooms in the basement, and the doors clicked locked after
NOW WE MUST DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH YOU, the chalk printed.
Through the open door of the classroom, a test tube and a
beaker drifted in.
Eric yelled, racing over to grab the test tube before it could
tip over and pour its chemicals into the beaker. "You've made
a mistake! The books aren't going to be burned! I saw a letter
all about it when I was sent to the Principal's Office last
GET THE LETTER, the chalk ordered.
dashed down the hall to the office. The principal's desk lamp
and pen set and the clock on the wall watched suspiciously
while Eric searched through the filing cabinet. Finally he
found the letter he was looking for. It was from the principal
of a school in India.
Eric raced back to the classroom waving the letter. "See?"
He spread it out on the desk, and the books, blackboard erasers,
and chalk gathered around. The clock peered down from the
It was true! The old textbooks were not going to be burned!
They were going to be sent to a school in India that was too
poor to buy new books of its own.
The books fluttered their pages happily while the chalk scratched
out a new message on the blackboard: LEAD EVERYONE BACK TO
THE CLASSROOMS. WHEN THE WINDOWS BANG THREE TIMES, THE PEOPLE
WILL RETURN TO NORMAL AND WILL NOT REMEMBER ANYTHING THAT
Ten minutes later there was a series of bangs throughout the
school. Suddenly teachers and pupils took up their lessons
again as though nothing had happened. Eric looked down at
his desk and noticed a beaker half full of chemicals sitting
there. A test tube with some powder in the bottom was lying
beside it. "I wonder what would happen if I poured them together,"
he thought. He tried it.
Instantly a puff of smoke came out of beaker, and Eric's head
Mrs. Rath was shaking him. "Wake up! This is the fifth
time you've fallen asleep this week!"
2013 The Silversteins