Sorboni Banerjee


Tommy Baxter


Theresa Edo


Erin Jang


Michelle Kearns


Madelyn Rosenberg Lazorchak


Jay Rubin


Sarah Williams

Introductory Essay


By Theresa Edo

The room could not have been very large and the smell of peanut butter sandwiches always lingered in the air, but I loved it. Every morning I learned and played in this room that contained books, toys, blocks, brightly colored pictures of numbers and letters, and one large, round orange tin filled with pencils of all shapes, sizes and conditions.

It was my kindergarten classroom, and when I entered it, my back tingled with exciting possibility. But in that garden of learning grew a bad weed. It was there that I first contemplated anger. Anger aimed at one little girl whose name I cannot even remember now.

My kindergarten archrival had shiny, bouncy black hair and crystal blue eyes. She could have passed for Brook Shields’ little sister. I was sure that her jumpers were purchased at a department store, and not at Caldor’s discount store as mine had been.

This child laughed loud, played fast, and was most likely on her way to a long career as a game show hostess. Little Miss Shields never missed an opportunity to push ahead of me in the recess line, to make fun of my missing front tooth, or to grab one of the toys I was obviously just about to pick up.

She was the girl who got to be a ballerina on “what do you want to be when you grow up?” day, and I fumed over the mental image of her in a pink fluffy tutu.
She never missed an opportunity to tease me, probably because I was shy and quiet, and worse, the other kids enjoyed her mean-spirited humor. I lived every day of kindergarten with a slow, simmering hatred of this girl.

But one day fate provided the opportunity to tip the scales of justice properly back to some level of equality. It was the day our teacher, Mrs. Corbitt, asked me to pass out pencils for the day’s lesson. When she handed me the pencil tin, my plan of revenge was born.

Slowly, carefully, I doled out the pencils of all varieties to my little classmates so that they could begin tracing the alphabet onto yellow lined paper.

As I approached my own table, I felt the raw power surge through my fingers. At my own chair I deposited the best, brightest shiniest pencil in the bunch. It was a writing instrument that even today makes me weepy thinking about its perfect-ness.

The pencil was the thick kind that gives a girl of five a sense of importance when she gripped its fat cylinder. It had a big untouched eraser and was sharpened to a flawless point. A point that would lead me to expertly formed letters.

It was not only majestic, but it sparkled. The exterior paint was a deep pink with shiny flecks of glitter, the type of color that might be found lining a booth at a tacky diner. It was the color of a young girl’s world – of ballerina tutus and Barbie dolls.

Then, revenge. At the last table I deftly dropped a two-inch long, skinny, chewed, un-sharpened green pencil on my nemesis’ desk. It had been lying on the bottom of the tin and some bits of crayon shavings were stuck to it. It was clearly a pencil for a boy, the type of boy who picked his nose and had no appreciation for a fine tool of penmanship.

Shields glared back at me and her mouth hung open, but I was already on my way back to Mrs. Corbitt. I had no doubts that my pencil drops were justified. After all, I held the pencil tin and was smart enough to think of the trick. I had to hold back a few giggles.

When I returned the now almost empty pencil canister to Mrs. Corbitt she smiled and thanked me for my help. I felt a small pang of guilt for altering of natural pencil destiny, but I felt that if Mrs. Corbitt knew my plot she would congratulate me for being wise enough to punish the other little girl’s wrong doing.

My giddy anticipation at returning to my own beautiful writing instrument deflated immediately when I got back to my table.

Little Miss Shields had switched them. Now I had the nose-picker pencil.
On my chair lay the dreaded green monstrosity. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping it would be gone, closed my eyes so hard I saw flashes of yellow. When I opened them the chewed bit of wood was still there. How could I have been so stupid as to let my sparkling gem out of my own hand for even a second?

I wanted to scream, but now the classroom was quiet as everyone focused on work. I said nothing. I wanted to kick the other kids at my table for being silent witnesses. But I knew they would just kick me back.

I wanted to shed tears over the injury I had suffered. But I knew that would mean instant branding with the nickname, “Baby.” I meekly explained my situation to Mrs. Corbitt, but instead of punishing Shields as I had hoped, she told me that I got what I deserved and I should go back to do my work with the tiny green pencil.

I can still remember the smell of peanut butter sandwiches, the smell of that kindergarten classroom, but today it turns my stomach.