After five years, The Haegarty Academy of Gifted Students was teeming with talented (though sometimes eccentric) young people, as well as vigorous study sessions.
Numbers and mathematical formulas flew in the air like blue birds, and excerpts from Shakespearian literature could wrap themselves around you 'till you couldn't breathe. Perhaps this had something to do with the school's exponentially zealous attitude towards academic excellence.
Or maybe it was simply that HAGS (quite an offensive abbreviation, if I do say so myself) was like a fun house. Once you walked through the fancy, intricate copper gates, you wouldn’t see anything as it was before.
When I first came to the Academy as a teacher in 1931, my life was changed forever. Not a single day went by when I wasn’t intrigued or exhilarated by the quirks of this quaint school, or flabbergasted by the uncanny abilities of my students. Nevertheless, my initial shock came when my dear friend William Haegarty gave me a tour of the campus.
“I’m eager to see the amazing school you told me so much about,” I said as the sprawling red brick and marble building came into view. Our country’s flag billowed proudly on the copper flagpole.
William chuckled lightheartedly. “Well, Alma, I must warn you, there are a handful of students which are known to get into mischief. But no worries—the rules are quickly enforced.”
I didn’t know what to say to this. We strode down the long hallway, my shoes clicking on the marble floor. At the end of the hall, I spotted a little girl sticking her head out of a doorway. Inside the classroom, she whispered something to the other students, followed by a chorus of giggles. Had the students been informed of my visit?
William turned to me and said, “Oh, that’s Molly. Quite a boisterous, inquisitive child. If you think she’s a handful, just wait until you meet her other half.”
“Excuse me, sir? Her other half?” I asked, perplexed. It hadn’t taken me long to perceive the oddness of this institution.
I followed William Haegarty towards the classroom at the end of the hall. “They’ll be delighted to meet you,” he told me.
Just then, two identical girls in braids came skipping out of the room. They curtsied and chirped, “How do you do?”
I stared at them for a moment, and jumped back in surprise. I realized that these girls were conjoined at the waist! I quickly felt ashamed of my rudeness, but all I could do was stare at the students (or student) before me.
They had a total of four arms and two legs, and they wore a strange red plaid jumper. “Molly, Polly, this is the lady who will be your new teacher. Her name is Miss Alma Duitt.”
“Hullo there,” I said nervously. “Um…How old are you girls?”
“Exactly nine years, 87 days, and 22 hours,” they responded simultaneously.
“Very well, then. Do you know your times tables?” I inquired.
Molly and Polly giggled at this. “This is The Haegarty Academy of Gifted Students. And I dare say that we are very gifted. We can do trigonometry and algebra in our sleep,” one of them replied.
I nodded, quite captivated by these two strange children.
“They’ve been in freak shows all across Europe. Finally, their mother decided that the girls ought to get an education,” William explained.
“Well, it was nice meeting you. Bye!” Molly and Polly chirped. With an air of mischief, they murmured, “Or, should we say, ‘Hi.’”
I furrowed my brow, puzzled by their words. As they walked back into the classroom, I suddenly lifted off the ground and into the air. “What is happening to me?!” I shrieked, as my body involuntarily spun around in circles. I floated higher and higher, like a helium balloon. Suddenly, I hit my head on the ceiling. “Ouch!”
William called the girls back into the hall reproachfully, but there was a flicker of amusement in his eyes. “Molly, Polly, this is no way to treat your new teacher. You’re perplexing Miss Duitt out of her wits! Bring her back down from there at once!” he ordered.
“Alright,” they crooned sadly. “We only wanted to show her our special talent.”
I slowly drifted back down to the floor, and I landed on my feet.
“Well, don’t overwhelm Miss Duitt on the first day. Now, return to class, young ladies!” William commanded.
“We’re sorry,” Molly and Polly cooed, staring at me with two sets of sky blue eyes.
“Well, that sure was a doozy, wasn’t it?” I declared wryly.
“I deem that you’ll find your job to be quite interesting,” William told me.
Strange as they were, it was hard not to fancy these students. I taught them everything I knew, from singing to ballroom dancing. In turn, they taught me more than I could ever imagine, including how to milk a cow.
As you walked up the long, winding path leading to the main entrance, you could hear the lilting sound of the wind chimes which hung from the Basket Trees. If you looked out to the pastures, your eyes would make out several pink-red and purple figures grazing in the fields. Every now and then, there would be a low “moo”, as well as the sound of milk squirting out of utters. You see, these weren’t ordinary cows. They lived on the school campus, and they provided fresh milk to the students each day. It came in two flavours: strawberry and grape. However, we did not sell our milk to supermarkets—it was only available at The Haegarty Academy of Gifted Students. I guarantee that you could walk around the world twice and never find another school which manufactured flavoured milk.
Clover and Grass Flower were the two most docile cows I had ever met. They never kicked the bucket, and they let the boisterous schoolchildren ride them and pet them. They didn’t even panic when Molly and Polly lifted them off the ground.
I started out as a 4th grade teacher at HAGS. A few of the children possessed a multitude of gifts, such as clairvoyance, invisibility, and super speed. Though I taught an extremely gifted class, many of the students were stubborn and hot-headed at times. Still, I encouraged the children to always persevere and reach for the stars. My class motto soon became, “If you can dream it, you can Duitt!”
Molly and Polly were at the top of the class. Though they had two separate brains, these two supernatural Siamese twins shared the same passion and enthusiasm towards learning. At the end of the year, they presented me with a pair of angel wings. “You’ve gone above and beyond in educating our young minds,” they told me. My heart was warmed by this, and I wore the angel wings every day.
In 1935, I became the new headmistress after William Haegarty was strangled by a math problem that couldn’t be solved. He entrusted me with the duty of overseeing The Haegarty Academy of Gifted Students, and his job was certainly no walk in the park. But despite the struggles and stresses of my profession, I have no regrets about coming to HAGS. Well, maybe one—I should’ve taped my feet to the floor.