Alphabet Allergy

by students in Elon University’s “Story Magic” Class in collaboration with Susie Wilde, 2005

Alphabet AllergyI’d rather eat broccoli in a mud puddle than sit down and look at some boring book!” mumbled Reid.

Sitting in his classroom, surrounded by a sea of books, he knew the most horrible day of his life was creeping nearer. He’d been fearing it since the day before, the day he started first grade.  Someday soon, he knew he’d be the one who had to read aloud. Facing the possible torture, Reid opened his book for reading time.  Almost simultaneously the letter W jumped from the page and nestled in his straight red hair.

“Oh, my gosh,” yelled Little Simon, “Everyone look at Reid’s hair – he’s growing W’s!”   Immediately a wave of laughter roared through the classroom and crashed on Reid.  That night, Reid had nightmares where he fought a hopeless battle against armies of letters.

The next day, the moment Reid had dreaded finally came.  “Reid, it’s your turn to read aloud, “said Ms. Wright as the class giggled.  Reid’s stomach flipped like it had on the roller coaster at the State Fair.  He looked at the page and opened his mouth, but nothing came out.  Suddenly, he felt like there were thousands of letters circling around his head.  “Reid can’t read!” shouted one student in the back.  The classroom erupted into laughter, then stopped.

Reid’s teacher stared at him with a look of horror on her face “Reid, you’ve broken out in letters!”  He looked down and saw alphabet letters covering his arms.  Reid rushed to the mirror and saw letters all over his body.  He scratched the spots as his teacher exclaimed, “Go straight to the nurse!”  Some one in the back of the room snickered, “We can read you like a newspaper!”

Reid dashed down the hall to Nurse Paige’s office so embarrassed that the letters on his cheeks swelled and burned.   Nurse Paige greeted him with a smile warm enough to melt chocolate.  She pulled a picture book from a shelf and motioned for Reid to come sit next to her.  In minutes, Reid was calmed by her gentle voice and the story of a girl who was covered in stripes.  He relaxed, the letters on his face faded, and the W’’s in his hair vanished.  Reid was so involved in the story, he didn’t even realize he was reading aloud until Nurse Paige closed the book.  He sighed with pleasure.

Nurse Paige handed him the book, “This is my gift to you,” she said and Reid skipped out of her office, clutching his new book, excited to go home and share it with his family.

At dinner that night, eating his mother’s horrible broccoli casserole, Reid cheered himself up by thinking, “I’m having a book for dessert!”