To brighten up the frigid temperatures, Miss Newmark, the young, unmarried teacher of the sole grade two class on Memorial Drive, approached the front of the classroom where her students were quietly reading independently. During days when it was too cold to go outside for recess, the students would stay put inside. They could choose any book from the school’s library and they were to pass the time indoors by reading. Miss Newmark knew this was not a favorite of the students but the young teacher did not have all the resources available to otherwise corral a bunch of rowdy students who would rather be building snowmen and snow forts than warm inside with a borrowed book. The temperatures had plummeted before December had even hit, and now, merely days before Christmas vacation, the freezing weather threatened to bring frostbite and hypothermia, when all the kids wanted were new toys and clothes from Santa.
Miss Newmark surveyed the classroom. The students were all well-behaved but they looked insufferably bored reading their books. She clapped twice to get their attention.
“Grade twos, I have an announcement. Tomorrow will be too cold to go out for recess again but I have a special surprise for you.” The class looked up, curiosity written all over their faces.
“Tomorrow, we will hold a show-and-tell!”
“What’s that?” asked Noah.
Noah was the kid who constantly asked questions, never completely understood the assignments, and had trouble socially with his fellow students. They thought he was weird, bizarre, and that there was something almost otherworldly about him, as if he had simply come to visit Earth on vacation from his home planet in some weird and bizarre galaxy.
“Show-and-tell is when you bring in an object from home and then tell the class about it. You could talk about where you got it or what you like about it,” answered Miss Newmark.
She noticed that Noah looked confused but she was all too used to that. She didn’t bother to explain further. She knew that each student understood properly what show-and-tell was all about and she braced herself for the oddity that Noah was going to come up with.
“Put your books down,” said Miss Newmark, “and we will get on to the rest of the afternoon.” Simple addition was on the agenda. If the kids were well-behaved, she promised them a game of Heads Up Seven Up to wind down the school day.
The following day, a morning filled with spelling tests and handwriting practice gave way to after-lunch recess. Not only was it deathly cold, but the snow fell down in wet, heavy clumps that made it even hard to see and walk outside. Today, especially, would have to be an indoor recess day.
Miss Newmark approached the front of the classroom again. This time, she was not hesitant and she smiled warmly at her students who reciprocated with their own smiles as they kept their show-and-tell items quietly in their hands or lap or under their desk.
“We will go by alphabetical order,” Miss Newmark asserted.
A young girl, Allison, looked excited and fidgeted with her item.
“By last name,” Miss Newmark asserted again.
Allison looked less excited.
She looked over the list. Keaton Brown, Phoebe Capulet, Colette Cullen, Noah Deck, and so on and so forth. After the first four students had their turn, she would survey her list again. The first four, however, she could remember without needing to check the list.
Keaton went up. He beamed proudly and uncovered the surprise item he was so delicately holding. “This is a seashell,” he boasted, “my dad told me that it once had a crab in it. I found it off the coastline of Vancouver Island.”
Next up was Phoebe. “This is a feather from my grandma’s parrot. He is a sun conure who is very loud and bites a lot. I’m kind of scared of him but grandma always tries to tell me that he’s nice but he never is. This feather is from his tail which is why it’s so long.”
Miss Newmark could feel herself already starting to get bored.
Next, Colette took the floor. “My family ordered Chinese food for dinner for my birthday two weeks ago and it came with fortune cookies. This is the fortune that I got in my cookie.” She held it up and showed it to the class.
“It’s too small,” said Miss Newmark, “you’re going to have to read it out loud.”
“Oh, okay!” Colette obliged happily. She squinted slightly as she went to read it.
“In an unexpected place, you will find an unexpected thing. Trust your gut to know whether this thing will hinder you or help you. Stay vigilant.”
Miss Newmark, taken aback by the sudden omen muttered by her seven-year-old student, praised Colette for her reading abilities, trying to conceal the fact that she was a little creeped out.
Colette sat down. Next was Noah. This ought to be good, thought Miss Newmark.
Noah took his place at the front of the classroom. “Behold!” he shouted as he reached deep into a pocket of his cargo pants.
Out from his pocket, Noah pulled a finger.
“I compared it to my own fingers and discerned that it is most definitely a pointer finger.” He used it to point at the students, who gasped in shock.
“Let me see that, please,” Miss Newmark said, walking over to Noah with her hand open.
Noah placed the finger in the center of her palm. She examined it, felt suddenly faint, and had to sit down. It was, most definitely, a pointer finger. It was not plastic or rubber, it was not from a joke or magic shop, it was not a paper mache craft project, it was, most definitely, a severed human finger, pulled off cleanly right at the knuckle. Noah reached for it and Miss Newmark, speechless, gave it back.
“I found it,” said Noah.
“Where?” asked Miss Newmark.
“Just around,” Noah shrugged.
“It’s not a real finger, is it?” asked a shy student at the back of the class.
“No, it’s made of rubber,” Miss Newmark assured.
“No, it’s a real finger!” Noah declared. Miss Newmark knew that he was right.
Miss Newmark froze in place.
“I’ve been using it as a bookmark for when we have indoor reading time at recess.”
How had she not noticed?
“And what book have you been reading?” asked Miss Newmark.
“It’s one I brought from home,” said Noah.
“Which is?” asked Miss Newmark.
“I think my turn is over,” said Noah. He walked back to his desk and sat down, shoving the finger back into the pocket he retrieved it from.
Suddenly, Colette raised her hand. “Miss Newmark! Miss Newmark!” she called.
“My fortune says something different on the back that I never noticed!”
“What does it say?”
“All it says is, ‘Can you keep a secret?’”
Miss Newmark sat down at her own desk. She clasped her hands together and sat silently in contemplative thought for a moment.
“I have a new idea,” she said. “How about we go outside for recess?”
The class cheered. They dressed themselves in heavy coats and snow pants. They slipped mittens on their hands and toques on their heads and raced out of the door. Once the class was empty except for her, Miss Newmark examined Noah’s desk. She looked on it and under it. Underneath, there was an untitled book. She opened it and hesitantly looked through the pages. Written at the top of each page on the left was Noah’s name, sometimes scribbly and sometimes in perfect handwriting. There were no other words. Not even any pictures.
Noah appeared in the doorway. “What are you doing?” he asked.
Miss Newmark, startled, dropped the book and gasped in surprise.
Noah entered the classroom. He approached her slowly.
“What are you?” Miss Newmark asked him as if he was entirely inhuman.
He stuck his hand out and offered a truce with his teacher. She took his hand in hers, completely surrendering.
In his hand, she could feel the severed finger, and when she tried to let go, Noah hung on for just a little too long.
Gillian Corsiatto hails from Alberta, Canada, right between two major cities: Calgary and Edmonton. She has been a lifelong writer, and her first book Duck Light was published in 2021. Since then, she has been motivated to keep at her writing and further it into an established career, even branching out into writing for the theatre. Currently, a sequel to Duck Light is underway, but she still pumps out scripts and short stories whenever an idea creeps into her mind. You can find her mostly at her writing desk, probably with a cat in her lap, and maybe even spinning a fidget spinner. She thinks those are still cool.