Moby Dick Prequel, Take One

Ahab, why don’t you answer the seventh question on the sheet?”

“Mum?”

“You have the sheet in front of you, Ahab.  All of the students got one.”

“Yes, mum.”

“The seventh question.  Read it aloud please.”

He picked up the sheet, pressed his feet together below the desk and cleared his throat.

“What is the purpose of white blood cells within the human body?”

They were waiting.  He looked out the window.  It was a hard, cold winter’s day.  Wind blew snow into drifts.

“Snow is white,” he said.

“Ahab,” insisted his teacher.  “Let’s focus on today’s lesson.  Did you do your assigned reading last night?”

“No’m, I,” he started.  “My father’s ship did not come in last night.  He was going to tell me about what he found in the sea.”

“Ahab, I’m sorry, but—”

“Clouds are white,” he said, still looking out.  The sea, normally visible from their small schoolhouse near the coast, today was not. He continued, “Clouds are supposed to be white.”

“Ahab, do you know the answer?”

“Most blood cells are red, mum.”

“Yes. That’s right. But that’s not what the question asks. What about the white blood cells?”

“White blood cells are helpful to the human body,” he said. “They are the body’s defense against sickness.”

“Ahab, yes, that’s correct. Thank you,” the teacher said, with some relief.

He had known the answer all along. He remained upright in his chair, looking out the window, into the whitewashed landscape, trying to find any speck of blue that might come seeping through…

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