Lincoln’s Legacy 1 Mondays
Every Monday, Mr. Caruthers came to class late.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, he’d be waiting in the classroom before the bell rang. But never on Monday. There was something strange about Mondays.
And today was Monday.
When I entered the classroom, Maxine Wilson was already sitting at her table.
“Hey, Abigail,” she greeted me. I always liked Maxine. We’d known each other since kindergarten.
“Are you ready?” I asked her.
“I’m always ready on Mondays.” Maxine had a stopwatch.
The school bell was the signal.
Maxine pressed the little black button on her watch. “Go!” she shouted, and we all rushed to our seats.
Everyone sat silently, staring at the classroom door. No one dared look away. Not even for a second.
Maxine kept track of the time. “Four minutes, forty-nine seconds,” she announced.
The whole class always chanted the last ten seconds out loud together: “Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.” The door swung open.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Mr. Caruthers apologized as he entered the classroom. We waited patiently while Mr. Caruthers straightened his crumpled suit jacket. Retied his bow tie. Combed his hair. And finally, pushed up his glasses.
Every Monday, Mr. Caruthers was late. Every Monday, he was wrinkled and messy. But it didn’t matter to us, the third-grade kids in classroom 305. Monday was our favorite day of the week. And Mr. Caruthers was our favorite teacher.
“Abigail,” Jacob whispered, leaning over to me. “What do you think his question will be today?”
I shrugged and said softly, “I have no idea.”
Jacob turned to ask his brother Zack the same thing. Jacob and Zack were twins. They lived next door to me. And they were my table partners. Zack said he didn’t know either. A new kid named Roberto Rodriguez also sat at our table. But he didn’t talk much, so Jacob didn’t bother to ask him.
Mr. C finished straightening his clothes and leaned back on the edge of his desk. He was too cool to sit in a chair like other teachers.
“What if,” he began, and then paused. I sat up a little straighter. Every Monday, Mr. Caruthers asked us a new “what if” question. So far, my favorite questions were “What if Thomas Edison had quit and never invented the lightbulb?” and “What if Clara Barton had quit and never started the American Red Cross?”
I loved thinking up answers to Mr. C’s questions. And I couldn’t wait for this one.
Mr. C leaned back farther on his desk and finished his question. “What if Abraham Lincoln quit and never issued the Emancipation Proclamation?”
My hand shot up in the air. I didn’t even wait for him to call on me. “What’s the Emancipation Proclamation?” I blurted out. “Why’s it so important?”
“Be patient, Abigail,” Mr. Caruthers said slowly. “All your questions will be answered in good time.”
“But—,” I began. Mr. Caruthers looked at me over the top of his glasses. I put my hand down. It’s really hard to wait when you are as curious as I am.
“Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States,” Mr. Caruthers began. He told us that Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809. He was a lawyer. His wife’s name was Mary Todd. And in 1860 he was elected president.
I really wanted to raise my hand again. He hadn’t gotten to the Emancipation Proclamation part of the story yet. Struggling to keep quiet, I tucked my fingers under my legs and sat on them.
Mr. C continued telling Abraham Lincoln’s story. “When Abraham Lincoln became president, there were only thirty-four states, not fifty like we have today. There were twenty-three states in the North, and eleven states in the South.”