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Mini-Witch in Rome

"It is said that the Emperor Nero started the fire that burned down the ancient city of Rome," Miss Robbins told her class.

"He didn't really do it!" Mersina called out. "I saw what happened."

"Mersina, you're making up stories again," Miss Robbins scolded.

"No, I'm not. I really saw Nero. And did you know he was bald?"

The class laughed. "That's enough, Mersina!" Miss Robbins said firmly. "Let's get on with the lesson."

"I'll show all of you," Mersina whispered. She reached into her witch's bag and pulled out a little ball. It looked like a tiny globe, with all the continents and oceans on it. She mumbled a spell, bent down, and rolled the ball up the aisle between the desks. When the ball hit the blackboard at the front of the room, there was a shower of sparks. For a second, the whole room was filled with a mysterious light.

Suddenly the door burst open. A husky man in a strange costume strode in. He looked like an ancient Roman centurion.

"What are you doing in my classroom?" Miss Robbins demanded. "Did you check in at the office?"

"I'll ask the questions!" the man exclaimed gruffly. "I have orders to take you to the Emperor Nero. He is very angry at you for interrupting the games." He gave a signal, and six armed guards rushed in. They forced Miss Robbins and the whole class outside. The classroom was resting right in the middle of a huge stadium. There was a roar as they came out the door. Thousands and thousands of people were in the stands pointing and yelling. They were all wearing strange clothes. It was like - ancient Rome.

The guards hustled the class up to the Imperial Box.

"There's Nero!" cried Mersina, pointing to a man dressed in a purple robe, with a golden crown on his head.

Billy poked her in the ribs. "You were wrong," he jeered. "He's not bald."

"Just a minute," said Mersina. She snapped her fingers and whispered a magic word. A sudden gust of wind swept across the stadium and headed straight for the emperor. It lifted his crown and swept his hair off his head. The emperor's hair fluttered through the air and came down gently to rest on Mersina's outstretched hand. "See!" she proclaimed. "It's just a wig."

Emperor Nero stared at the wig for a moment. Then he raised his hand to his head. When he felt the bald scalp beneath the golden crown, he turned purple with rage. He pointed to the gates at the side of the stadium. The metal gates creaked open. Dozens of lions raced out, growling. The guards dashed for cover, leaving Miss Robbins and her class alone in the middle of the arena. The lions were closing in.

Mersina spun around in a circle, pointing at each lion in turn. The lions immediately shrank to the size of kittens. They bounded up to the children and rubbed against their ankles and purred.

For a moment Nero looked startled. Then he grew angrier than ever. Once more he waved his hand in the direction of the gates. Once more the gates creaked open. This time a group of gladiators surged out. Some had spears. Some carried heavy clubs. Some slashed with swords. And some swished flaming torches through the air. They all ran toward the children. As they approached, Nero held out his fist, and his thumb pointed downward.

Once more Mersina spun around. As she turned, an invisible dome formed around the class. The approaching gladiators bumped against it and stopped.

"Quick," cried Miss Robbins. "Everyone back into the classroom." They rushed into the classroom and slammed the door. Through the window the class could see t he gladiators pounding at the invisible barrier with swords and clubs. One man tried to throw a flaming torch over the barrier. It skidded along the top of the dome and bounced into the stands. Quickly the fire spread to the hanging draperies around the Imperial Box.

Mersina quickly picked up her tiny globe and rolled it to the back of the room. As the ball hit the back wall, the strange light again filled the room. Suddenly the classroom was back where it belonged.

"See," said Mersina, "I told you Nero didn't start the fire."

"If you're really a witch," Billy sneered, "why didn't you stop the fire?"

"You can't change history," said Mersina.



©1972, 2013 The Silversteins