It all began that October morning as I was subbing for a teacher who was away tending to her mother. The class of nine had been extremely rowdy and did not want to sit down to do their work. One of the first grade boys, who loved to talk and be the center of attention, asked what was kept inside the closet in the back of the room. Having never looked inside the closet for myself, I had no idea what was kept in there, but it seemed a bit of a mystery because a large sign on the front of the door said nobody was allowed inside except for the principal of the school.
"I'm not sure what is inside there," I told him. Then, partially joking and partially hoping it might scare them into submission, I said, "Maybe Mr. K. keeps his mummy inside it."
This brought about a silence in the room as the children pondered the idea. I could see the wheels turning as questions began to form in their little minds. One by one they began to voice their thoughts:
"Does he come out at night when we are gone?"
"What does he look like?"
"I've seen mummies before and they are wrapped up in toilet paper!"
"Why does Mr. K. keep his Mommy in the closet?"
Over the next few weeks, I played along with the game, not thinking too much about it, using their nervousness to my advantage. I could tell they were not really that scared because they always had little smirks on their faces as they discussed the mummy. Their wild imaginations did not need much encouragement when it came to scaring each other and telling crazy tales of things they supposedly saw in the dark, scary bathroom downstairs. The kindergarteners and first graders were more than happy to do anything but the work that was assigned to them for the day.
I told Joe about the mummy and we secretly laughed and joked about how it would be funny to wrap him up in toilet paper and hide him in the closet. We thought he could knock on the door and moan a little, and then come out and reveal who he really was. Though it was hilarious to think of the reactions I would get from the children, I did not think it would be a wise idea to actually follow through. I would never hear the end of it from their parents and I was sure the office would not be pleased with my actions.
A few weeks later the weather became cold as November began, and it was time to turn on the heat. Now, the heating system in the old school building is very loud and obtrusive at times as the pipes warm up after the cold nights. It was early morning and the children began arriving at school. After putting their backpacks away and handing in their homework, I let them quietly play until all nine children had arrived. It was during this time that the pipes, which happened to be in the corner right near the closet door, started popping as the warm water flowed through. With a hiss and a pop, a loud thumping startled the children and they paused in their play. The banging became louder and stronger. I could almost feel the floor shake from the fury of it and it made the children screech and run away.
“It’s the mummy!” one boy shouted. “He’s banging on the door and wants to come out!”
They all hid in the play corner, behind a large shelf that blocked their view of the door. I had to keep from laughing. I could not believe the timing! I contemplated letting them continue thinking it was the mummy, but I felt it was time to stop the whole thing and move on in li I explained to them that everything was okay and that it was only the heating system making the noise. They acted as though they did not believe me, but I could see they did not want to give up the fun idea that an ancient Egyptian artifact was so close by! They enjoyed playing the game right along with everyone else. I called them over to the door and I opened it so we could all peek inside. It was a deep closet, deeper than I had imagined, and it was full of costumes and equipment from plays the school had put on in the past. A black top hat hung on a hook nearby and one boy said, “Look, it’s the mummy’s hat!”
Seeing a window in the wall, another little boy suggested the mummy had escaped out the window, but I assured him there was, and had never been, any mummy. It took awhile for the excitement to wear away, but, needless to say, they all began their work for the day with no more worries that anything was hiding in the closet.
I had a good laugh later that day when I related the story to Joe. We were glad we had not gone through with our original idea; the heating system had wreaked enough havoc with their minds and it was time to put the entire bit of nonsense on the shelf. In the future, if the school decides to put on a play that takes place in Egypt, I would highly recommend them not storing the props for the play in that closet until those particular children have moved on to another grade.