The Peacock

Miss Marlene MacGlúinebeag was seated at her desk at noontime in Silver Thimble School for Home Economics in Pells, South Shitesdale preparing to eat the second half of her homemade pasta primavera when she noticed a colorful figure resolving in her periphery. Curious and alone in her classroom, the pale woman, raisin-like and aged, rotated her flossy head rightward to look out the window, where she saw:

A peacock!

What a surprise! She blinked at least five times in rapid succession, too stunned to register the uncomfortable abrasive weight of her mascara-laden lashes on the superior fringes of her cheeks. But before our woman could adjust her contact lenses (a delicate process, involving her right pinky-finger, the only appropriate tool for the job as Marlene was hopelessly and exclusively right-handed and equipped with the standard four-fingers-and-thumb on her right hand, each of which were varied in size, their set of surface areas predictably finding a minimum value in the pinky), she was interrupted:

“Miss MacGlúinebeag?”

The voice came from a young man from her third period class, Geometry, it was. He was a young man, tan skin, dark hair, a bit shifty if anyone asked Marlene in confidence. He was too tall to be trusted and seemed incapable of knitting an even pair of socks for her Textiles and Clothing course.

“Miss MacGlúinebeag?”

Oh! What was his name?

“Yes? What is it, young man?” Marlene leveled her gaze with the boy. He was a bit blurry indeed, one half of his face clear and articulable, the other half a murky swatch of colors. She condemned her lenses and blinked at least five times in rapid succession, finding the real quandary to be that her eyes were as dry as outer space itself. A breeze came through the window, cool and casual, and boosted a balloon of odors from her pasta to her nostrils. Suddenly, Marlene remembered the peacock.

“Well, I…” the boy began. His speech, in reality quite probably a perfectly coherent string of words and phrases, to Marlene was denatured into a fluctuating garbling, along with his face, which soon began to closely resemble a pregnant, shivering raincloud. Marlene was fighting an involuntary and spasmodic urge to turn her head to right. This peculiar battle caused her to, from an outside observer’s point of view (say, the chattering student before her), appear insane, or, at the very least, in need of an MRI, or perhaps a nice bath.

The boy frowned. There appeared to be something deeply wrong with his teacher, or, at the very least, more than slightly concerning. He glanced at her pasta primavera: was it rapid-onset food poisoning? Perhaps she was choking. Was he prepared to do the Hemingway? The Hummer? The Heimlich whatsit? He ought to reach out to her:

“Miss MacGlúinebeag? Miss MacGlúinebeag, is everything alright?”

“Is everything alright?” Marlene echoed. A patch of sweat, like a shoal in receding tide, emerged on her brow. A pain in her neck rang out like a bell as she tried not to look out the window to her right. If she looked then he would look and make a big fuss. She couldn’t have everyone crowding around taking pictures. Wouldn’t he just go away!

The fingers on her right hand twitched involuntarily and struck the white plastic fork that had been perched artfully between the rim of her tupperware and the table. It toppled and caused a scratchy din. The boy frowned.

“Miss MacGlúinebeag? Miss MacGlúinebeag, is everything alright?”

Marlene lifted her lips into what felt like a smile of geriatrical glassiness. She blinked twice and only managed to dislodge her left contact lens such that it descended from her eye and landed with a small clamor on the table below. Naturally, she closed the lid of her (now defunct) left eye and once again leveled her gaze with the student before her, who had miraculously resolved into a coherent and digestible visual form. She expertly read the wrinkled concern on the boy’s face and set about to immediately dispel any bothersome worries he might attempt to express.

“Oh yes, everything is just fine, thank-you. You see, I’ve been having some trouble with my contact lenses, but luckily, I have a spare set right here in my desk.” Marlene gestured to her desk and hoped the student would not observe that the desk did not in fact have any drawer or equivalent receptacle in which a spare set of contact lenses might be stored.

“Miss MacGlúinebeag, I don’t mean to be rude, but it seems like your desk does not have any drawer or equivalent receptacle in which you might hope to store a spare set of contact lenses.”

Marlene reeled back in shock. To an outside observer (say, the stunned student before her), our woman seemed to jerk minutely backwards in her chair, a motion that could be reasonably explained away as a uniquely hefty exhalation, or some such insignificant bodily event. It was the peculiar action of her eyelids that disturbed the student before her: in her reeling, Marlene attempted to disengage eye contact with the young man (a labor which had thus far been solely carried out by her right eye, the left being defunct without its lense) and in so doing became irrationally confused; for, as you know, our dear Marlene had had her left lid closed (covering her defunct eye), and now was lowering her right lid (so as to disengage eye contact); the descension of her right lid produced an uncomfortable muscular tension in her (closed) left lid, and so just as her right lid fully eclipsed her line of sight, her left lid popped open, resulting in an exact mirror of her previous eyelid configuration!

Upon witnessing this, the student before Miss Marlene released a yelp, which he tactfully disguised as a small and polite cough.

“Oh! Excuse me, I must be catching an infection of the upper throat. Miss MacGlúinebeag, I don’t mean to be impolite, but you seem rather unwell. Shall I call Nurse Nelly?”

Nurse Nelly! This was getting out of hand!

“No! That will not be necessary, thank-you!” Marlene replied calmly, her voice bearing an unfortunate sonic resemblance to a caterwaul. She placed both hands gracefully on the table for emphasis, her right hand missing the mark and landing in her pasta primavera. Marlene looked down at her hand with a look of dismay and exhaled, and then inhaled approximately three seconds later, as that is the proper procedure for quotidian breathing. In so doing, a parade of odors jogged through her nostrils, and she was struck again: the peacock!

“Would you like me to find you a napkin, Miss MacGlúinebeag?” The student offered, looking grimly at her right hand, which was coated in a mélange of olive oil, rotini, and snap peas.

“No, thank-you, I have a spare set of at least three napkins right here in my desk.” Marlene neatly patted the table with her left hand (her right hand, of course, being mired in pasta primavera) (One must note, with an affect of warmth and pity, that our woman had cleanly forgotten that the young man before her was wise to the fact that her desk was in fact a simple table, without drawers or any equivalent receptacles in which napkins or contact lenses might be stored.)

The student gave her a look.

“I’ll go get you a napkin, shall I?” The boy promptly turned and left the classroom, presumably in search of napkins.

Marlene exhaled, and then inhaled approximately three seconds later, as is expected of a living person. In so doing, a mob of odors assaulted her olfactory organ: the peacock!

Alone as she was, Marlene sat paralyzed for at least four seconds in her seat. Approximately twenty-five minutes had passed since she had last seen the peacock. Slowly, our woman rotated her flossy head rightward to look out the window, whence a delicate wind was flowing. Naturally, Marlene found it at the very least difficult to see what lay beyond the window, as her left eye (defunct) and her right eye (rapidly drying in the path of the delicate wind flowing from the window) were both open. She promptly shut her left eye, and blinked her right eye at least three times so as to sufficiently moisturize it. With a grand throat-clearing and shoulder-rolling, Marlene, oiled hand and all, rose from her seat and strode, phlegmatic and outwardly undisturbed, to the window, where she saw:

Pipes! And a small chimney!

Indeed, our woman observed a bundle of green and blue pipes, freshly painted and gleaming, splayed in the immediate foreground of a singular, thin, royal blue chimney stack! Upward and downward, leftward and rightward; nowhere to be found was a peacock, simply the aforementioned arrangement of rooftop hardware (which, to an outside observer with an artistic eye, from a certain angle looked remarkably like a full-grown male peacock).

“Miss MacGlúinebeag?” Our boy had silently returned, only to see his teacher positioned at the window, both hands placed gently on the sill. She turned.

“Do you have a napkin?” she asked.