Sugar And Spice

December 8, 1896
Anna Cushing

Mud is for boys, dolls are for girls. I can understand how girls like Sarah get it confused but when the teachers at school forget, I find my patience lacking. I hate the smell of wet of clay. The slimy texture of it on my hands and then worse, later as it dries, the skin cracks. Such things are clearly for boys.

It is not as though I had a choice. I had to take the art class, Daddy insisted. I sent him letters about the class work and all he did was send me letters saying how proud he was of my efforts. Not exactly the response I hoped for, but then everything has a price and overall it has been worth it to come to Primrose.

Today was my biggest challenge and while I may not have excelled in this one thing, at least I have not given up. The semester’s final test of my artistic ability came early this morning. The air was still chilled enough to see our breath in the classroom when we arrived.

Fortunately, the cold was fleeting. Once the kiln was fired up, the room became uncomfortably warm. We rolled up our sleeves and dug into our blocks of damp clay. Some of the girls claim they feel a release of tension as they massage their fingers through the wet mud, but personally I think they are allowing their imagination to run a little too wild. One does not massage clay like they would a man.

The test seemed simple enough; mold the clay into a vase, glaze and fire the finished product which with luck should stand on its very one base and hold water. I agree a vase that does not balance itself would not be very functional although I can think of ways to correct for the minor instability. However, a leaky vase is another matter entirely and so it was certainly at the top of my lists of things not to accomplish.

As my usual, I started with my clay too wet and then allowed it to get too dry. The middle ground necessary to mold the clay without it becoming mush or dry as a brick often eludes me. In time I got it right and the final project came together with better success than I expected. I must admit I am pleased with myself and I look forward to Spring when I can put some fresh flowers in it and keep it next to my bed.

It was almost not to be. Emma Chesterfield was up to her usual. Dirty looks and snide remarks under her breath as if she thinks I will ever care what her demented mind thinks. On my way back from Primrose Hall she started throwing snowballs at my back and nearly knocked me down. The vase went flying through the air and I was certain it would be shattered into a million pieces.

Luckily, it landed softly in a bank of snow. Enough was enough, but Daddy taught me long ago you do not play fair, you play to win and so I did. I ran behind the snow bank where my vase had found safety and packed a mean snowball in my hand. It was not long before Emma showed herself.

“Are you afraid?” Emma taunted.

“No, but you should be.” I replied.

“So, why don’t you come out and face me or are you crying?” She continued.

I shrugged and stood up to face her. She threw another snowball at me but I ducked aside and it sailed passed. Then I threw mine. It hit her in the chest with a thud.

“Ow!” She screamed.

Emma lost her balance on the icy sidewalk. Her legs scrambled as though trying to run but it was never going to be enough. Suddenly she was tumbling backward with her feet in the air and her butt smacking hard, down against the concrete. I tried to not to laugh, really I tried.

On the ground, she was sniffling and her hands were rubbing her chest. I picked up my vase. Her fingers found the small rock I had packed in the middle of my snowball and the look on her face was one of true understanding.

“You are crazy!” She shouted.

I smiled at her and walked away. Maybe she will wizen up over the holidays, but I doubt it.

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