Ray Bradbury

A Story of Love

That was the week Ann Taylor came to teach summer school at Green Town Central. It was the summer of her twenty-fourth birthday, and it was the summer when Bob Spaulding was just fourteen.

Every one remembered Anna Taylor, for she was that teacher for whom all the children wanted to bring huge oranges or pink flowers, and for whom they rolled up the rustling green and yellow maps of the world without being asked. She was that woman who always seemed to be passing by on days when the shade was green under the tunnels of oaks and elms in the old town, her face shifting with the bright shadows as she walked, until it was all thing to all people. She was the fine peaches of summer in the snow of winter, and she was cool milk for cereals on a hot early-June morning. Whenever you needed on opposite, Ann Taylor was there. And those rare few days in the world when the climate was balanced as fine as maple leaf between winds that blew just right, those were days like Ann Taylor, and should have been so named on the calendar.

As for Bob Spaulding, he was the cousin who walked alone through town on any October evening with a pack of leaves after him like a horde of Halloween mice, or you would seem hem, like a slow white fish spring in the tart water of the Fox Hill Creek, baking brown with the shine of a chestnut to his face by autumn. Or you might hear his voice in those treetops where the wind entertained; dropping down hand by hand, there would come Bob Spaulding to sit alone and look the world, and later you might see him on the lawn with the ants crawling over his book as he read through the long afternoons alone, or played himself a game of chess on Grandmother's porch, or picked out a solitary tune upon the black piano in the bay windows. You never saw him with any other child.

That first morning, Miss Ann Taylor entered through the side door of the schoolroom and all of the children sat still in their seat as they saw her write her name on the board in a nice round lettering.

«My name is Ann Taylor.» She said, quietly. «And I'm your new teacher.»

The room seemed suddenly flooded with illumination, as if the roof had moved back; and the trees were full of singing birds. Bob Spaulding sat with a spitball he had just made, hidden in his hand. After a half hour of listening to Miss Taylor, he quietly let the spitball drop to the floor.

That day, after class, he brought in a bucket of water and a rag and began to wash the board.

«What's this?» She turned to him from her desk, where she had been correcting spelling papers.

«The boards are kind of dirty.» Said Bob, at work.

«Yes. I know. Are you sure you want to clean them?»

«I suppose I should have asked permission.» He said, halting uneasily.

«I think we can pretend you did.» She replied, smiling, and at this smile he finished the boards in an amazing burst of speed and pounded the erasers so furiously that the air was full of snow, it seemed, outside the open window.

«Let's see.» Said Miss Taylor. «You are Bob Spaulding, aren't you?»

«Yes, I'm.»

«Well, thank you, Bob.»

«Could I do them every day?» He asked.

«Don't you think you should let the other try?»

«I'd like to do them.» He said. «Every day.»

«We'll try it for a while and see.» She said.

He lingered.

«I think you'd better run home.» She said, finally.

«Good night.» He walked slowly and was gone.

The next morning he happened by the place where she took board and room just as she was coming out to walk to school.

«Well, here I am.» He said.

«And do you know.» She said. «I'm not surprised.»

They walked together.

«May I carry your books?» He asked.

«Why, thank you, Bob.»

«It's nothing.» He said, taking them.

They walked for a few minutes and he did no say a word. She glanced over and slightly down at him and saw how at ease he was and how happy he seemed, and she decided to let him break the silence, but he never did. When they reached the edge of the school ground he gave the books back to her. «I guess I better leave you here.» He said. «The other kids wouldn't understand.»

«I'm not sure I do, either, Bob.» Said Miss Taylor.

«Why we're friends.» Said Bob earnestly and with a great natural honesty.

«Bob — ?» She started to say.

«I'll be in class.» He said.

And he was in class, and he was there after school every night for the next two weeks, never saying a word, quietly washing the boards and cleaning the eraser and rolling up the maps while she worked at her papers, and there was the clock silence of four o'clock, the silence of sun going down in the slow sky, the silence with the catlike sound of erasers patted together, and the drip of water from a moving sponge, and rustle and turn of papers and scratch of a pen, and perhaps the buzz of a fly banging with a tiny high anger the tallest clean pane windows in the room. Sometimes the silence would go on this way until almost five, when Miss Taylor would find Bob Spaulding in the last seat of the room, sitting and looking at her silently, waiting for further orders.

«Well, it's time to go home.» Miss Taylor would say, getting up.


And he would run to fetch and coat. He would also lock the school-room door for her unless the janitor was coming in later. Then they would lock out of the school and across the yard, which was empty, the janitor taking down the chain swing slowly on his stepladder, the sun behind the umbrella trees. They talked of all sorts of things.

«And what are you going to be, Bob, when you grow up?»

«A writer.» He said.

«Oh, that is a big ambition: it takes a lot of work.»

«I know, but I'm going to try.» He said. «I've read a lot.»

«Bob, haven't you anything to do after school?»

«How do you mean?»

«I mean, I hate to see you kept in so much, washing the boards.»

«I like it.» He said. «I never do what I don't like.»

«But nevertheless.»

«No, I've got to that.» He said. He thought for a while and said «Do me a favour, Miss Taylor?»

«It all depends.»

«I walk every Saturday from out around Buetrick Street along the creek to Lake Michigan. There's a lot of butterflies and crayfish and birds. Maybe you'd like to walk, too.»

«Thank you.» She said.

«Then you'll come?»

«I'm afraid not.»

«Don't you think it'd be fun?»

«Yes, I'm sure of that, but I'm going to be busy.»

He started to ask what, but stopped.

«I take along sandwiches.» He said. «Ham-and-pickle ones. And orange pop and just walk along, taking my time. I get down to the lake about non and go back and get home about three o'clock. It makes a real fine day, and I wish you come. Do you collect butterflies? I have a big collection. We could start one for you.»

«Thanks, Bob, but no, perhaps some other time.»

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