Ears Just Right
Like many boys his age, eight-year-old Joshua Josiah Jordan looked forward to the first day of school. And, like many boys his age, Joshua Josiah Jordan – upon graduating second grade – enjoyed his summer vacation of swimming, fishing, picnicking and various sports played in the open spaces of town parks. And, during this summer vacation, Joshua Josiah Jordan – like many boys his age – had a very great growth spurt.
Unlike most boys his age, however, Joshua Josiah Jordan grew quite unnaturally – and mostly – in his ears. His ears were, to be plain, the largest ears anyone had ever seen. And though Joshua Josiah Jordan’s feet and hands had grown, and though he grew taller, his ears gained the most weight of all.
“My goodness!” said his mother.
“My word!” said Grandma Jordan.
“Great Scott!” exclaimed Uncle Billy.
With such outbursts from his own family, Joshua Josiah Jordan could not hope for less from his school chums.
“Just look at those listeners!” said Bobby Blue.
“Get a load of his lobes!” exclaimed Bobby White.
“My, my,” whispered Etta Lou – who was never one to be rude – and turned to Rhonda Ray saying “His ears are quite nearly as big as the two chocolate chip cookies mother put in my lunch pack today.”
“Two cookies?” said Rhonda Ray, and by the look in her eyes, it was clear that she would secure one of those cookies well before recess.
Joshua Josiah Jordan tried to ignore the kids as best he could. But, when his best friend Willy turned on him, his spirits were dashed.
“Grandmother,” said Willy, taking hold of Joshua’s left ear, “what big ears you have!”
If that was not bad enough, Willy’s sister Wilma finished the joke, adding, “The better to hear you with!”
It was quite a scene. Joshua Josiah Jordan nearly let fall a bucketful of tears. For the rest of the morning, the children at school called him “Big Ears,” and, for the rest of the morning, Joshua Josiah Jordan felt ashamed and all alone.
Perhaps that is why that young fellow decided to take the long way home, past Dewey Randolph’s half burnt barn, and down the creek that flowed alongside it and into the Raisin River. There was a large oak tree beside the creek that Joshua Josiah Jordan liked to climb sometimes, but that day he was not in a climbing mood, so he just rested on a large boulder about a stone’s throw from the tree.
Joshua sat and thought about his first day at school, and he thought that he never wanted to go back again. He sat and sat and sat, and he thought and thought and thought.
He thought about wearing his football helmet at school. He thought about putting on a long-haired wig to cover his ears. He thought about running away, too. He thought so long and sat so still that soon the sun slouched low in the sky and some of the smaller creatures did not even see him. Several squirrels ran around and a couple of frogs jumped in and out of the water. Soon a turtle crept near him, and Joshua bent over to pick it up.
“Hello there, little fellow,” he said, peeking under the shell where the turtle’s head had disappeared.
“Please, please put me down,” said a low, but rather frightened, voice.
When Joshua Josiah Jordan heard these words, he nearly dropped the poor creature. “I’m sorry little turtle,” he said. “I don’t mean to frighten you, but…did you say something?”
Joshua put his finger close to the opening where the turtle retracted into its shell.
“Ooh! Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me,” repeated the turtle in a very frightened voice. “Please put me down.”
With these words, Joshua Josiah Jordan knew something was quite wrong with his ears. He put the turtle down and it scurried away as fast as it’s short legs could carry it.
Joshua sat back down on the rock and thought about what had just happened. He would have sat longer, but the sun by then had nearly disappeared from the sky, so he ran as fast as he could, back home, to his mother, who scolded him and made him eat cold pork chops and green beans as punishment for being so late.
Joshua Josiah Jordan woke up early the next morning, got himself quickly dress, gulped down a glass of orange juice, and almost made it to the door before his mother reminded him to pack a lunch. He did this, and raced right out into the warm later summer morning all the way to Randolph’s creek, and one again sat on the large rock beside it.
He knew if he sat long enough and still enough the animals would forget he was there and come out of their hiding places.
Finally, Joshua heard several frogs discussing their morning breakfast (flies and mosquitoes) before taking turns jumping off the edge of a log and into the water. He listened as a chipmunk sang a silly song about acorns and pesky squirrels. He listened to the birds, too, and overheard an argument between two snakes. All of these Joshua heard with his very own ears, and when he realized he had been sitting some time, he walked quickly to school.
Joshua Josiah Jordan was very late.
“Joshua Josiah Jordan! What do you mean coming into school this late?” bellowed Mrs. Peppercorn.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I was just listening to the animals on Randolph’s Creek and forgot the time. I won’t do it again,” answered Joshua.
“Make sure you don’t,” said Mrs. Peppercorn. “I wonder what your mother would say if I were to tell her you had been dawdling before school?”
“I promise I won’t do it again,” Joshua repeated.
“See to it,” his teacher said, and resumed her lesson.
Joshua went on with his school work until recess. He couldn’t wait to tell Willy all about the frogs and turtle.
“You did not hear animals talking!” Willy yelled.
Joshua opened his eyes wide in surprise, suddenly remembering how Willy had made fun of his ears. Joshua was very sorry he opened his mouth at all, especially when several of the other children crowded around them.
“I did, too,” Joshua insisted quietly, for he was always an honest boy and could not stand to be called a liar. “The one frog said he had three whole mosquitoes this morning, he woke up so hungry, and then the other frog said even though he could have had four mosquitoes, his stomach just wasn’t up to it and he had only half a dead fly instead.”
On hearing these things, the other children broke into such a fit of laughter and teasing that Joshua Josiah Jordan became angry. Then Mrs. Peppercorn approached, to learn what all the fuss was about.
“Joshua Josiah Jordan said he talked to frogs,” said Bobby Blue.
“I did not say that!” Joshua said, and he could feel his face getting warm, and he clenched his fists.
“Joshua,” inquired his teacher, “what is going on here?”
Joshua was embarrassed, but he was angry, too. He wanted to cry, but he wanted to yell, too. His face turned red. He opened his mouth to answer and his words burst out like a waterfall.
“I was just telling Willy that I was down at Randolph’s Creek this morning,” explained Joshua, “and two frogs were telling each other what they had for breakfast. I was talking to Willy, but then Bobby White came up and said “you’re lying” and then all the kids started yelling.”
Mrs. Peppercorn interrupted him.
“Joshua Josiah Jordan,” she said. “First you walk into class half an hour late, and now you’re telling tall tales. I will not have this behavior from you any more, young man. You march into that classroom and you write, “I will not tell tall tales” one hundred times. And let this be the last time I hear about talking animals.”
Mrs. Peppercorn shooed Joshua away and broke up the band of children, many of whom returned to their hopscotch or soccer or London Bridge game before the bell rang and ended their recess.
The afternoon session went slowly, as Joshua continued writing his punishment. It was a difficult task because some of the children were whispering “liar” to him and some of them were throwing little paper wads at him, and nearly all were snickering.
Joshua was relieved when the school bell rang again and it was time to go home. He put his 100-sentence paper on Mrs. Peppercorn’s desk and tried to leave, but she had a few more words for him, and they were not words that an eight-year-old boy likes to hear.
Even worse, when he went outside several of the children were waiting to tease him. After a few minutes, Joshua had had enough. He knew he would have to do something to stop the teasing or it would go on for the whole year.
“I did too hear the animals,” he said, “and I’ll provide it to you.” Joshua started to walk homeward.
Nearly the entire class followed Joshua. They walked down the hill and around the bend in the road until they reached Randolph's Creek. Joshua sat down on his rock and ordered the other children to keep still and not talk.
They sat around him on the ground quietly as they could, but sitting still is very hard when you are not alone. It took several minutes for all the boys and girls to find a comfortable place to sit without squishing each other. Some of them were snickering, others were trying not to sit on someone’s dress or put an elbow into someone’s else’s side. It was very difficult.
Just when it started to get quiet, someone would say “What are we waiting for?” or “So what now?” or, “Aw, he’s just making things up.”
They sat a long time and many of the children grew drowsy and it got very quiet indeed. Rhonda Ray was just about to closer her eyes when, at last, two frogs passed just to the left of them.
“Let’s go for a swim” said one.
“Nah, I’m hungry. Let’s eat,” said the other.
“I have an idea. Let’s go over to that log and I’ll jump in and swim while you catch mosquitoes,” the first one said.
The second frog agreed and Joshua Josiah Jordan heard the whole conversation. He repeated it – very softly – to his classmates, and they watched to see what the frogs would do, which was exactly what Joshua Josiah said they would.
Some of the children believed him right then, but other ones said, “That was an easy one. Everyone knows that frogs swim and eat mosquitoes.”
So they waited for more proof. It came in the form of two squirrels.
“Say, let’s play tag,” said the first, and ran after the other, tagging him and nearly pushing him to the ground.
“No fair,” answered the second squirrel. “You didn’t count to three.”
Joshua told his classmates once more what the animals were saying. No one could deny the squirrels were playing tag.
Some of the boys still did not believe him, but when Joshua told them that the squirrels were done and that they were planning to pick acorns in his favorite climbing oak tree, and the squirrels did, there was no question that Joshua Josiah Jordan indeed could hear animals speak.
From that day on, no one made fun of Joshua Josiah Jordan, and no one ever called him a liar. And, from that day on, Joshua Josiah Jordan passed his mornings and afternoons listening to the animals.
And, when he grew older, he married little Etta Lou and bought old Dewey Randolph’s farm, and they had children’s whose ears were just the right size.