Tapering off

A life with words

The child is sitting up in bed, propped against pillows. She is six years old. Her homebound teacher, Mrs. Williams, is due any minute. She is fond of Mrs. Williams—a white-haired lady with a pleasant quavery voice.

What will Mrs. Williams bring with her today? Last time she brought a magazine and that tan, pasteboard-covered notebook. Together they had looked through the magazine—a magazine such as her mother had, with pictures of green cans of cleanser and a woman in a starched, white-capered hat. Pictures of two women hanging out wash on two lines. One of them is smiling, the other is frowning. It seems that the frowning woman’s wash is not as sparkling white as her neighbor’s and she is upset about it.


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