KNOB NOSTER, Mo. The school year in this small town has barely started but already second-grade teacher Emily Nostrand has her hands full with a conflict that threatens to spiral out of control. “It’s tragic when hostilities distract from the educational process,” she says as a cloud of concern passes over her face, like a late-summer storm scudding over a cornfield at harvest time. “Also purple prose like you used is just going to fly over the heads of the kids and your readers, so tone it down and use simple words.”
You’re kidding, right?
The source of the conflict is an arm’s race of sorts that was triggered the first day of school when Sara Cambry walked into class not with the box of twelve crayons that had been listed on the sheet of recommended supplies circulated to parents at an orientation session, but with a twenty-four pack that upped the ante and touched off an orgy of arts and craft recriminations.
Sara’s personalized 24-pack
Feeling hurt and inadequate, Timmy Gomes ran home to his mother Suzette who chose to retaliate for the sneak attack with a 48-crayon box which included such exotic hues as thistle, magenta and periwinkle. “My motives were pure,” Ms. Gomes says. “The Chinese are eating our lunch because we don’t invest in education,” she adds, but her son corrects her. “Mark Bovard eats my lunch because he’s bigger than me,” he says.
Do you really need salmon AND melon?
Non-aligned parents created a mutual defense group comparable to NATO and SEATO, which is known by the acronym PEATO, for “Parents Education Alliance Treaty Organization.” Bulk buying power enabled the group’s children to achieve détente with their enemies based on the capacity to inflict “mutual assured destruction” through a jointly-held 96-crayon box.
Until today, when Sara Cambry retaliated with a 120-piece box, a “bunker-buster” designed to wipe out fellow students’ most extensive coloring projects. “There are only so many little girls going to get into Wellesley,” says her mother Tori, referring to the elite women’s school in Boston whose graduates include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Dr. Miranda Bailey, a fictional character on the television series Grey’s Anatomy.
“We have chestnut and fuzzy-wuzzy brown–so watch out.”
Local residents are unperturbed by the crayon arms race that has broken out as they have been living under the threat of nuclear annihilation since the 1960s when intercontinental ballistic missiles were first installed in underground silos from here to Sedalia, Missouri, nineteen miles away. “I’m confident the American way of life will prevail against the threat of a resurgent Russian military and irrational Islamofascists,” says 8th grade civics teacher Floyd Reavis. “Those people haven’t advanced beyond burnt sienna.”