The Dawn Seekers
"I'm afraid I did not hear what a rodent is," he said, his eyes down, his voice soft. He glanced up at his impatient teacher.
Jeroboam was pulling tufts of fur above his ears, groaning and making the fur stand on end. He looked funny, but Quentin was afraid to laugh. "If you want to know," the teacher said, anger sparking from his eyes, "you have to listen! I've already told you that!"
"I'm sorry," Quentin said, feeling crushed. He could not seem to do anything right, and he was trying so hard. Maybe he should just go home and be Lord of the Manor again. That might be more fun.
He turned and started to hop sadly away.
"Where do you think you are going?" Jeroboam bellowed at him.
"Home?" Quentin said in a questioning voice. He was sure that was the wrong answer, too. "I don't think I like school."
"You don't go home from school! Not until the bell rings. Now sit down and listen!"
Quentin obeyed, but he felt miserable. He was beginning to want a snack. His stomach was empty, and his feet itched to hop. But he tried to listen.
"Once again, if you please," said Jeroboam in an imperious tone. "A rodent is a small mammal with gnawing teeth. You and I are in the rodent family. There are many rodents in the world. Are you listening?"
"Yes," Quentin said unhappily. Mammal. Gnawing teeth. He would try to remember those things.
Jeroboam was now hopping up and down excitedly as he spoke in a flood of words. "There are more than 6,400 kinds of rodents. Our total number is greater, perhaps, than that of all other mammals put together."
The teacher's voice went on, becoming more and more agitated. "Many people hate us, but we do a lot of good. We work hard. We make the earth a more habitable place (And habitable means you can live on it.) Did you know that we rodents often clear forests of dead trees and plants, making room for more to grow? Our burrowing and digging help to make fertile soil out of wastelands. And rodents called beavers help save water supplies. We do a lot of good for mankinds!"
Jeroboam's nose was twitching and his eyes flashing. He was leaping up and down in a frenzy.
Quentin's feet were aching to hop, too. He kept trying to hold them still and also to listen. "What are mankinds?" he asked.