When I was in the third grade, I was obsessed with a book about a little boy that was able to see the shadows of all of the people that had ever been in a garden. He could see them because he splashed water from a special fountain in his eyes.
My teacher had the book on her shelf, and I would check it out from her over and over again. Toward the end of the year, the teachers decided to have a contest for the students, then a drawing, and get rid some of their classroom inventory at the same time. One of the prizes was the book that I loved so much!
I won one of the competitions, it was probably for spelling, and got my name put in a hat. And then I sat, the excitement and fear growing the longer it took for my name to be drawn. I kept my eye on the book the whole time.
Half way through, the teachers decided to consolidate items that were still there, and they put the book, my longed-for prize, on the other end of the room. For most kids, that wouldn't have been a problem, but for me, it was devastating. I'm painfully shy. As I've gotten older, I've learned how to deal with it better, but back then, being the center of attention was the most frightening thing imaginable. Hell, who am I fooling? It's still the most frightening thing imaginable. When we'd play BINGO for rainy day recess, even when I got BINGO first, I wouldn't yell it. I would rather stay silent and stay out of the focus of all of those eyes. Then, finally, my name was drawn from the hat. I could still get my book! But it was on the other side of the room. I couldn't get beyond the feeling of dread. I stood up, and as my eyes clouded with tears, I took the prize closest to me and sat back down.
As the years went by, occasionally I'd be reminded of that book. The title slipped away, but the feeling of missing it remained. After the title left me, the story began to evaporate as well, but still, I retained that sense of loss, that regret over a missed opportunity. It was all because of my terror of being the center of attention. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was reading an article about children's fantasy books and was reminded of that long-desired book. I Googled the only things I could remember, "fountain" and "statue" and "shadow," and there, not many lines down, was "The Shades" by Betty Brock. That was it! Used copies were on sale at Amazon! At long last, thanks to the internet, I was able to attain my book. I finally won the prize.
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