“Bonnie Bee, Bonnie Bee, When will your wedding be? If it be tomorrow day, Take your wings and fly away.”
Miss Winnie smiled weakly and closed the worn library book, placing it quietly in the grass of the Piney Fork Elementary School yard, where she had taken the girl pupils of her second grade class, while the boy pupils played power dodge ball in the nearby parking lot. Spring jackets and lunch boxes were strewn about. It was a lovely Friday afternoon in May.
“Now,” she continued, squinting in the bright spring air, “Let’s talk about this poem. What do you think it means? Who is Bonnie Bee?”
From the small group, a hand shot in the air. “Yes, Zelda,” Miss Winnie sighed. Zelda Riggolio was Miss Winnie’s brightest and most imaginative student, always ready with what she thought was the best answer.
“If Bonnie Bee is anything like Bonnie the soap lady down at the Laundromat, she’s been married lotsa times.” Zelda offered. “Mrs. Whoop says that Bonnie the soap lady’s been to city hall more times than the mayor!” Mrs. Whoop lived next door to the Riggolio family, along with her meek, retired husband, Wilfred, and their bespeckled duck, Rhonda.
“Well, If Mrs. Whoop was here, Zelda, along with her duck, we would listen to what-“ Miss Winnie glanced at her silent wristwatch and reminded herself to have it repaired.
Zelda interrupted, jumping up, her curly red hair glowing in the sun. “If Mrs. Whoop was here, she’d say that Bonnie the soap lady is a few dimes short of a full load, not gone though the rinse cycle, been on the clothesline too-“
Miss Winnie rapped her hand on the grass. “Mrs. Whoop is NOT here, young lady, and will never be. And until she does show up, we will concentrate on Bonnie Bee!” She looked sternly at the rest of the now frightened girls, and smiled as sweetly as possible, given her hangover. “Now, what does everyone else think of Bonnie Bee?”
A meek voice rose from small gathering the terrified girls. “If zee bee is doing zee getting married, zee bee will be getting lots of zee wedding presents.” It was Miss Winnie’s newest student, Linka, an exchange student from Bulgaria, although there was no record of any student from Piney Fork being exchanged in her place. Linka appeared at the school one morning last fall, metal lynch pail in one hand and a worn dictionary in the other.
She quietly stood, pushing her bright kerchief beck to her forehead. “In zee Bulgaria, we give to zee bride, zee special gift.” The shade from a newly planted elm tree danced across the little girl’s faces, as the boys could be heard playing power dodge ball not far away.
“Ooof!” one boy cried. “Gotcha!” another boy called.
Zelda, still standing, coughed loudly, rudely interrupting her classmate. “Don’t tell me, Dinka. Whatta you do, give her a basket of beets? A bag of corn on the cobs? Take her down to the stream and throw fish at her? Mrs. Whoop says-”
“Zelda Riggolio!” Miss Winnie shook her tobacco stained finger, hard enough to cause a won pack of Pall Malls to fall from the cuff of her worn brown sweater to the grass. “Students of Room two at the Piney Fork Elementary School do not interrupt one another, when they are speaking!” She took a deep breath. “NO more about Mrs. Whoop! If I wanted to hear that old woman’s opinion, I would go over to her house, march up her front steps and ring her doorbell!”
Zelda tried to interject, but was again cut off by Miss Winnie. “Now, we will all listen to what Linka has to say about weddings in Bulgaria.” Her voice rose to a loud squeal. “Is that clear?” Zelda quietly sat down, as nearby; the boy pupils abruptly stopped playing power dodge ball, and listened intently.
“Well, in zee Bulgaria,” Linka quietly continued. “Zee people collect zee coins in zee big jar and-“
Miss Winnie nodded and clicked her tongue. ‘You see children; in Bulgaria they give coins to the bride. Bonnie Bee would get a big jar of coins.”
Linka shook her head. “No, we take zee coins-“
Miss Winnie stood and motioned for her girls to do the same. “Let’s pick up our things and go in girls, and open our math books.” The girls groaned in unison, scrambling for their coats and lunch boxes.
Linka raised her tiny voice. “Zee bride does not get zee coins-“
Miss Winnie brushed off her skirt and headed towards the schools heavy wooden doors, calling to the boys in the parking lot. “Come along boys, time to open our math books!” The boys groaned in unison and collected their jackets and lunch bags. The girls followed obediently behind Miss Winnie, leaving Linka alone in the yard.
“Stop!” Linka called out at the top of her lungs. “We will not open zee books of zee math until Linka finishes telling you!”
Miss Winnie stopped in her tracks, and quietly turned towards Linka. “All right,” she muttered through her stained teeth. “Finish telling us…and then you and I can pay a little visit to Mrs. Gunning in the…principals office!” The rest of the class gasped in horror.
Zelda ran up to Miss Winnie and fell to her knees. “No, Miss Winnie.” She sobbed. ”Take me, not poor Dinka! She’ll never survive!” Miss Winnie was used to Zelda’s melodramatic outbursts, ignored and stepped over her, closer to Linka.
“Now what were you saying, Linka?”
Linka took a deep breath and spoke as bravely as possible. “We take zee jar of coins and buy for zee bride…zee gift certificate from zee Sears of Bulgaria catalog!” At that moment the bell rang, marking the end of another week of school. The class squealed and screamed, heading in all directions toward their own homes. In the parking lot, Mrs. Gunning quietly started her car, and was quickly out of sight.
Zelda lifted her red hair from the grass and looked up at Miss Winnie. “I thought you got that watch of yours fixed.” Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Mrs. Whoop, rolling a shopping cart, headed towards the school, with Rhonda quacking happily behind. She stood and picked up her windbreaker. “Mrs. Whoop’s come to get me and Dinka, cause my ma’s at the Laundromat and Dinka's pa is at work.”
Mrs. Whoop waved towards the schoolyard and bellowed. ‘Come along girls, we have to make a little stop at the laundromat. I have a gift for Bonnie, the soap lady. She’s getting married again...tomorrow!” Linka and Zelda ran to her, leaving Miss Winnie alone in the yard. “Hello, Winnie, I’ve got to deliver this Sears Roebuck gift certificate to Bonnie before she calls off the wedding!” She waved an envelope in the air. “The neighbors all pitched in! Have a pleasant weekend!” In a moment, they were off, Zelda and Linka quacking happily behind Rhonda.
“Maybe Mrs. Gunning still has that flask in her bottom desk drawer.” Miss Winnie thought and headed up the concrete steps. “If only I was Bonnie Bee, I’d fly out of here so fast…” And the heavy wood door slammed behind her.