"It is too a story!" Barry replied angrily. "I learned all about it in the encyclopedia!"
Mrs. Pidgeon went to the front of the room, holding up her "Quiet, please" hand toward the class.
"Barry," she said, "you provided us with a real learning experience. I never knew there was a nickel with a buffalo—excuse me, bison—on it. And your report is very interesting. One of these days we will have a lesson about doing reports, and we will each have a chance to present one.
"But a report is nonfiction."
"What's that mean?" Barry asked. He was looking down at his nickel.
"Well, it means facts. And a story is made up, and uses your imagination." Mrs. Pidgeon looked out at the class. "Gooney Bird? Did you have your hand up?"
Gooney Bird nodded. "Barry can make his buffalo report into a story," she said. "It can be an absolutely true story, and it can have a suddenly."
"Barry?" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Want to try that?"
"I could help you," Gooney Bird told him.
"Well, okay," Barry said. "But it should be about a bison, not a buffalo, because the National Bison Association prefers the correct name."
"Bithon thtarts with a B," Felicia Ann pointed out.
Barry nodded. He went to the board, erased the word BUFFALO, and replaced it with BISON.
Gooney Bird Greene went to the front of the class and stood beside Barry. Today she was wearing bib overalls on top of a ruffled blouse, and a pearl necklace.
"It's a good idea to start out with the word once," she whispered to Barry.
Barry scrunched his nose. He took a deep breath.
Once over sixty million bison roamed the plains.
Gooney Bird nudged him. "That's nonfiction, still," she said. "Try this." She whispered a sentence to Barry.
Barry began again, using Gooney Bird's opening sentence.
Once a young bison lived with his herd on the plains of North America.
He paused and looked at the class. "Is that okay?" he asked. The second-graders nodded.
"How big was he?" asked Beanie.
"Did he have a name?" asked Chelsea.
"See?" Gooney Bird said to Barry. "They're getting interested in the character. That's an important thing, with a story."
Barry thought for a moment, and continued.
He didn't have a name. Some people liked to call him Buffalo, but the National Bison Association prefers—
"Wait a minute!" Barry interrupted himself. "I started making a report again, didn't I?"
Gooney Bird nodded. "Start over," she suggested. "We all make mistakes. But you're doing great."
Barry took another deep breath and began his fable again.
Once there was a young bison who lived with his herd. There were about eight hundred of them. They roamed the plains, eating grass and enjoying the sunshine in summer. In winter, they liked the snow, too, because they had thick fur and were never cold.
"Is that too reporty?" Barry asked Gooney Bird.
"No," she said. "Details are good. I liked knowing about the thick fur because I could picture the bison in my imagination.
"But I'd add a little action to the story now," she said.
Barry nodded and went on.
One day when they were roaming and eating, roaming and eating, hunters with guns crept up on the herd.
"Guns!" said Keiko, and covered her ears. "I don't want to hear any more!"
"Blam!" shouted Malcolm, holding up his hand with his finger aimed like a gun. "Blam! Blam!" Mrs. Pidgeon went to Malcolm's desk and put her calm-down arm across his shoulders.
"Maybe," Gooney Bird said to Barry, "some dialogue would be good now."
Barry frowned. "Bison can't talk," he said.
"In stories they can," Gooney Bird explained. "That's the good thing about stories. Anything can happen."
"Hmmm," Barry said. He was thinking.
Then he went on.
"Look!" called the young bison to his herd. "I see hunters coming!"
"Oh, dear!" an older bison said. "If they shoot us, the magnificent bison herds of the western plains may become extinct!"
"Yes," said another old bison, "once there were sixty million of us, but—"
Barry paused. He looked around. Keiko still had her hands over her ears. Malcolm was busy making a cootie-catcher out of paper. Beanie and Chelsea were beginning a game of tic-tac-toe. Mrs. Pidgeon, back at her desk, was grading their spelling tests.
"Time for a suddenly Gooney Bird whispered to Barry.
"Yes," Barry agreed. He turned back to the class and spoke in a booming voice.
The second-graders looked up with interest. Barry grinned and continued.
Suddenly the hunters came riding out of the trees on their horses, shooting their guns, and shot a lot of the bison. Even the young one.
And after that there were practically no bison left in North America.
"That's the end," Barry said. "It's a sad ending."
"Some stories have sad endings," Gooney Bird announced. "It's good to be reminded of that."
Tricia raised her hand. "But what's the moral? "she asked.
Barry stood in front of the class with his arms folded across his chest. He thought and thought."
Guns make a mess of things, "he said finally.
"One potato, two potato, three potato four, "Gooney Bird chanted, moving back and forth between the clenched fists that Malcolm and Chelsea both held out.
"Out goes Y, O, U," she concluded, and Malcolm scowled, realizing he had lost.
"You'll get your turn next, Malcolm," Gooney Bird reassured him. "Anyway, it's supposed to be ladies before gentlemen.
"Chelsea? Your turn for a fable," Gooney Bird said, as Malcolm, still scowling, went back to his desk. "Malcolm, you'll be next."
Chelsea went up to the front of the class.
"I bet we all can guess what your animal will be," Mrs. Pidgeon said, chuckling, as Chelsea picked up the chalk. "It's so obvious."
Chelsea looked at Mrs. Pidgeon, and then at the class. "No, it isn't," she said. "No one will guess."
Mrs. Pidgeon grinned. "Cluck cluck cluck," she said.
"Cluck cluck cluck?" Chelsea repeated. "Excuse me?"
"Isn't your fable about a chicken?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked.
"Of course not. Who on earth would write a fable about a chicken? Chickens get their heads cut off, and then they get eaten," Chelsea said. She put her hands on her hips. "What kind of fable would that be?"
From her desk, Keiko groaned. "Oh, no!" she said. "Head cut off?Eaten?"
"Well, my goodness," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "I certainly blundered, didn't I? I thought I knew what you'd choose because of the 'ch' in your name. Chelsea equals chicken."
"Wrong," said Chelsea.
"But what other 'ch' animal is there?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked.
"Chipmunk!" called Beanie.
"Chimpanzee!" called Ben.
"Chinchilla!" called Barry.
"Chinchilla?" Gooney Bird asked. "What on earth is a chinchilla?"
"A small rodent from South America," Barry explained. "It looks like a rabbit, but with big mouselike ears and a squirrel-like tail. It was first introduced into the United States back in—"
He stopped. "I'm giving a report again," he said. "Sorry."
"Have you memorized the encyclopedia, Barry?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked, laughing.
"Almost," Barry said. "Only the A's, B's, and C's, though. I'm working on the D's now."
"And my fable is not about a single one of those animals," Chelsea announced. "Here is my costume." She took a small leather belt decorated with rhinestones out of her pocket. Carefully she buckled it around her neck.
Then she went to the board and, after checking her paper to be certain her spelling was correct, printed carefully: CHIHUAHUA.
Tyrone made a face as he looked at the word. "Chi-hooah-hooah? I never heard of no chi-hooah-hooah!"
Chelsea explained. "It's a Spanish word. You say it this way: chi-wa-wa."
The second-graders all repeated it.Chi-wa-wa.
When she turned and held up her paper to read, Chelsea announced, "The title of my fable is just one word."
Once there was a teeny tiny dog called a Chihuahua. He lived in Mexico with a very rich lady.
He slept on a bed made out of one of her old mink coats. He had steak for dinner every single night. He had a collar with diamonds on it.
He was allowed to get on the furniture.
One day, when he was on the sofa, he looked through the window and saw many other dogs playing in the road. They were chasing one another, and biting sticks, and barking at cars.
"Woof!" he said, meaning that he wanted to go out and play with them.
"No, you must stay inside," said the rich lady. "Here. Have a cream puff and a glass of wine."
But the Chihuahua kept looking through the window. "Woof," he said again.
He kept saying it all day long, until the rich lady was so annoyed that she opened the door to the house and told him, "Okay then, go outside if you want to."
Off he went.
But when the bigger dogs saw him, they did not know what he was. Maybe a cat? Or maybe a chinchilla?
A chinchilla is a small rodent that lives in South America...
Chelsea paused. "Oh, dear," she said. "I started making a report."
"That's okay," Gooney Bird told her. "Please go on. Your fable is interesting. It has details, dialogue, and suspense."
So Chelsea continued.
The bigger dogs began to chase the Chihuahua. "Help! Help!" he cried, though in his language it sounded like "Woof! Woof!"
If the rich lady heard him, she paid no attention. She had listened to enough woofs that day. She was playing an opera on her stereo.
The Chihuahua ran as fast as he could on his teeny tiny legs. The bigger dogs kept chasing him. He was never seen again.
"That's the end," Chelsea said to the class.
"But what happened to him?" Beanie asked.
"No one knows," Chelsea explained.
"But a story has to have an ending!" Beanie complained.
"This story leaves you hanging," Gooney Bird told the class. "Some stories do."
"Oh, no!" Keiko wailed."Hanging?"
"It just means—what's the word, Mrs. Pidgeon?" Gooney Bird asked.
"I think the word would be ambiguous Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Let me look it up." She picked up her dictionary and leafed through the pages of the A's. "Here we are," she said. Then she read aloud, "'Open to many different interpretations.' Yes, Chelsea's story has an ambiguous ending."
The class was silent for a moment. They were all worrying about what might have happened to the Chihuahua.
They looked sad.
"Class," Gooney Bird suggested, "let's think about the moral of the Chihuahua story."
"What color wath the Chihuahua?" Felicia Ann asked shyly.