Many years ago, when my mother taught ninth grade English (Yeah, it was so long ago that the subject was called English instead of Language Arts), she came home with a doozy of a story.
First, you need to know that Mom was kind of a tough teacher. And when I say “kind of”, I mean “a lot.” She didn’t put up with much foolishness in the classroom, but still, she was a good and fair teacher. That year’s class had been a challenging one due to one particular student. A student whom Mom had had more than one go-round with. I mean, this kid had been sent to the principal’s office more than once.
So you can imagine my mom’s surprise when, with just a day or two left in the school year, this kid brings her a taped up, shirt-sized gift box to say thanks. Mom choked out a thanks in return and much to the student’s disappointment, said, “I’ll open this later. We have work to do.”
She had no intention of opening that gift. The minute classes ended for the day, Mom marched down to the principal’s office and explained the situation. The principal took the box from her.
“What do you think it is, Ms. Crider?”
“I shook it,” said my mom. “And whatever’s in there moves back and forth. I think it might be…well, I think it’s a snake.”
“A snake!” The principal shook the box and sure enough, something moved back and forth. “Let’s take this box outside.”
The two of them went out to the parking lot, the whole time Mom fussing about this student and how he probably wanted to get back at her. Ninth graders, after all, don’t always think things through. Even so, she didn’t want him to get in any more trouble. “Let’s just open this box and be done with it,” said Mom.
So the principal carefully peeled back the tape and coaxed the lid almost off. “Stand back,” he said. And in one fell swoop he yanked off the lid and threw the box across the parking lot so the snake could slither away.
But it was not a snake.
It was a cupcake.
And a disgusting cupcake at that, after rolling across the parking lot and into the grass.
Oh my word, I laughed so hard, my sides hurt. Mom laughed pretty hard, too. The kid did get back at her, but not in any way he could’ve imagined.
I wrote a children’s story called, “Snake in the Box!” and it was partly based on that true story. It’s a favorite of mine, and though I submitted it to several kidlit magazines, it just didn’t sell.
Until a few days ago when I heard from an editor in China who wanted the story. I’d sent it to her almost a year ago, and honestly, I’d completely forgotten about “Snake in the Box.” But now, I suppose, Chinese students will get to read it.
I’m not so sure they’ll get the humor.