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I was running late for the school bus. I could hear it from a distance through the open window of our house, lumbering along the country road. From downstairs I heard my father hollering, “You’re gonna miss that bus, young man!”

Running down the stairs to the kitchen, I grabbed my lunch, complete with my mom’s brownie. As I exited the door of our house, all I saw was a glimpse of yellow as my bus blew by. My father huffed as he exited the door and headed to his truck.

As I walked back inside the house, I saw a familiar car pull into our driveway, and from the driver side door emerged my grandmother. No sooner did I set my backpack down than I heard my grandmother speak from the threshold. “My goodness, your father was in quite a tirade this morning.” My mother turned and quickly responded, “Michael missed the bus this morning, and Henry was not happy about it.” My mother then gathered her keys and purse from the dining room table. 

“Well, I would be happy to take Michael to school, Annie,” my grandmother said with a smile. My mother nodded and soon my grandmother packed my sister and me into her car and headed off to school.

While we drove, she asked about my teacher. I told her about how kind she was and how she had a way about her that seemed to make learning fun. My grandmother listened intently and then a brief silence ensued as we passed an old red schoolhouse.  “You know, I knew of a teacher that graced the tiny schoolhouse of Donbridge,” my grandmother said as she looked in the rearview window. 

The town of Donbridge had celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and through the streets, streamers, ribbons, and flowers adorned the lampposts. Nearly twenty families now lived in Donbridge and the need for a schoolhouse was becoming more of a necessity. So construction began on the new school, which took several weeks. Townsfolk helped in their spare time to make the building become a part of the town. By early spring, the white schoolhouse was finished awaiting its educator.

In an effort to find a teacher, an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper, The Sonnet. For weeks, no one responded, and the beautiful school house stayed vacant. Then, in the first week of September, a strange occurrence took place: the bell of the schoolhouse rang for the entire valley to hear. The townsfolk came to the streets thinking someone had rung the Sentry Bell at the center of town which was only used in case of emergencies. But soon, people realized the sound was different because the sweet, crisp sound was that of the school bell. A mystery surrounded the sound. No one knew of anyone inside the school who would have purpose to ring the bell.

Soon every child, for whatever reason, decided to head to the school and parents watched in awe as the children seemed drawn to the sound of the bell. Some parents followed their children and when they arrived at the schoolhouse, the door swung open and inside was a neatly dressed woman wearing a sharp, red cap.

Mr. Taylor, who accompanied his son Timothy to the school that morning, was suspicious. “Good Morning Ma’am.  I was not aware a teacher was found for the school,” he said.

The woman rose from her chair and appeared to float as she made her way to the front door to greet Mr. Taylor. “Dear sir, do not worry. I was sent for by means of this article,” the woman said as she handed the advertisement to Mr. Taylor. “You were looking for a teacher, were you not?” the woman inquired with a soft smile.

“I am Mrs. Carter. How do you do, sir?” she said, offering her hand to Mr. Taylor. Feeling a bit confused, he shook her hand out of politeness and then stepped back only to notice that he was the only parent standing there. Feeling awkward, he bid Mrs. Carter good day and left for his farm.

For weeks, Mrs. Carter taught the children mathematics, grammar, science, and history all while requiring that thirty minutes a day be scheduled for outdoor play. Children loved her charismatic ways, but for all of her kindness no one ever really knew where she came from. Each evening, she climbed into her carriage, bid the children farewell, and smacked the reigns of her horse only to disappear into the distance.

Months passed and when spring arrived the following year, a strange thing happened.  Children across Donbridge awaited the sound of the school bell, but no bell rang.  Intrigued, several parents went to the schoolhouse with their children and when they arrived, they found that the school and Mrs. Carter had vanished.

Shock befell the town as search parties scoured the lands looking for the building and the teacher. But nothing was ever found. Summer came and went and when the first week of September followed again, the town heard a strange sound: the ringing of the school bell.

The entire town of Donbridge came out to see if the building and teacher were in their place and to their surprise, there stood the schoolhouse beside the church. The building was now painted barn red. A man stood in front of the door holding a letter, which he handed to Mr. Taylor.

Dear Students,

This man who stands before you will be your teacher.  He is worthy of Donbridge and I know he will be a fine educator for all of you for years to come. On a final note, I hope you enjoy the painted schoolhouse. Red is my favorite color.

Mrs. C

As my grandmother finished her story, we pulled into the school parking lot. A horse and buggy was parked along the sidewalk. I looked upon it with curiosity and then waved to my grandmother and entered the school.  When I arrived at my classroom, a woman with a sharp red hat glided toward me. “Young man, I am Mrs. Carter. I will be your substitute teacher for today.” I had all I could do to shake her hand without backing out of the room.

Lunchbox Brownies

1 c. butter                                             

2 c. sugar                                               

2 c. flour                                                                          

1 t. vanilla                                            

5 oz. baking squares   

1 c. chocolate chips

5 eggs

¼ tsp. sea salt

1 c. chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a double boiler, melt baking squares along with butter.  Remove from heat. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs and vanilla. Fold in sifted flour. Add melted butter and chocolate. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts if desired. Separate the batter into two 9 x 13 baking pans which you have lightly greased and lightly floured. Place brownies in preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure the batter is cooked through. If not, a few more minutes may be necessary.  Be careful not to overbake. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar if desired. Makes 30 brownies

Rd Vincent is the author of the Donbridge series which can be found at www.donbridgeseries.com

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