Academic journal article English Journal

On Being Asked by a Student

Academic journal article English Journal

On Being Asked by a Student

Article excerpt

If he can revise his A- essay one more time,

I tell him in the second grade I did not know the s in island is silent.

I say The Green Island was the name of the book on my desk one day in the second grade.

I say green is the color that sometimes flashes around the rim of the sun just before it sets.

I tell him my teacher's name in the second grade was Mrs. Stream.

I ask him if he has read Hemingway's Islands in the Stream .

I tell him it was a very long time after the second grade when I saw that burst of green around the sun's crest, then watched it slide silently into the ocean.

I tell him silence can be a long way from golden.

I say the green-rimmed sun sank into the Caribbean, a body of water larger than I thought.

I say Mrs. Stream was so large her arms resting on her desk showed dimples where her elbows should have been, like Popeye the Sailor Man in cartoons at Saturday matinees we saw as kids, before the main feature began.

I ask him if he knows the house in Key West Hemingway lived in is kept as a museum and that a key is also a type of island.

I tell him in the second grade I did not know the s in island is silent, but now I know the word is rooted in Old English Iegland, meaning watery land, and that the silent s comes from association with Isle, but no one seems to know exactly how.

I say I have always had a fear of drowning, just like my mother.

I tell him Mrs. Stream passed out all the storybooks to see if any were missing. It must have been near the end of school.

I say in the garden at Hemingway's house in Key West, there are small headstones that mark the graves of all the cats that lived and died there. …

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