Prompt: Something to do with the shadows
We had a Swiss au pair when I was about eight. Her name was Ursula and she was training to be a teacher at the same time, so we used to walk to school together. I was used to cycling, and I was used to going by myself, but I liked Ursula so I didn’t resent the blow to my independence the way I might have done.
It was two miles to school.
One day, she used the walk to teach me my 4-times table. I had a block about it, for some reason. I could do my 3-times tables, and my 5-times table, and my 9-times table, but my brain seemed to judder on anything multiplied by four. We tried ‘double it and then double it again’ but it took too long. So then we beat it into submission via repetition. Four times three. Four times eight. Four times seven. Twelve times four. Over and over again, for two miles.
I can still multiply by four at the click of a finger.
One crisp February morning, it began to snow.
Ursula, being Swiss, was not impressed. She didn’t mind the snow, but she was baffled by the announcements of school closures on the radio and the people who refused to go to work because they didn’t want to drive in the millimetre of white dust. We walked to school as usual and she pointed at the snow falling around us. They must have been tiny, but in my memory they are round, fluffy balls, like cotton wool.
“You know, every snowflake is unique.”
“I know,” I said. I was too busy pretending to be a dragon to pay much attention. “They look different under a microscope.”