"A Scandinavian club?"
Ms. Stoneman, the multi-cultural coordinator at Robert Frost High School, frowned and looked appraisingly across her desk at Walter Lim.
"But you're not Scandinavian," she said.
"Oh no, Ms. Stoneman," he said, leaning against her desk. "I'm Chinese. Or, I guess I was six months ago. I'm an American now. But I was born Chinese, if that's what you mean. Do I gotta be Scandinavian?"
"Well... uh, no... But why do you want to start a Scandinavian club? Why not a Chinese club?"
"Excuse me," he said, slipping into a subservient attitude that barely skirted the edge of mockery. "I did not know. Is there probrem with Scandinavia?"
"Well, no, but it is European."
"Yes! That's right!" said Wally, his face lighting up to show that he and Ms. Stoneman were now communicating clearly.
"But..." Ms. Stoneman was becoming flustered, "why not a Chinese club?"
"We already have a Chinese club, but no Scandinavian club."
Ms. Stoneman sighed. She knew almost nothing about Scandinavia and had never met a Scandinavian, at least not one from Scandinavia, but she knew Scandinavia was in Europe, and she found that vaguely distasteful.
"Well, yes. I suppose you can start a Scandinavian club. I can't think of any reason why not," she said, though in the back of her mind she wished she could.
"Hey, thanks Ms. Stoneman!" Wally said, taking the forms.
"So, uh.. what does a Scandinavian club do?"
"Oh, same sort of stuff a Chinese club does, I guess. Eat Scandinavian food, learn a few Scandinavian words, wear Scandinavian flags on our clothes. Stuff like that I guess."
"What kind of food do the Scandinavians eat?"
"No idea," said Wally, turning on his heel. "Thanks again!" he said, walking out the door.
Ms. Stoneman sighed, and thought that a Scandinavian club headed by a Chinese kid would make an curious addition to Multicultural Day.
Wally turned in the paperwork the next day and Ms. Stoneman approved it. The club election procedures were standard. There was nothing wrong with the activities. No hate speech. No religious emphasis. Nobody excluded. It was just what Walter had said. But still, something troubled Ms. Stoneman. She couldn't quite put her finger on it... but her workload was heavy and she was soon distracted.
That day after school the Scandinavian Club met for the first time. It wasn't really the first time, since all six of the members - none of them Scandinavians - had hung out together since the start of school. There were Tom and Robert and Larry and Sarah and Gabe and Wally, whom they unanimously elected president since it was his idea. Though it was not the first time they had met, it was the first time they had officially met as The Robert Frost High School Scandinavian Club.
And they met every afternoon that week, since Multicultural Day was coming up and they needed to be ready.
On the morning of Multicultural Day, Wally and Tom, Robert, Larry, Sarah and Gabe walked together through the front door of Robert Frost High School wearing white t-shirts with a large blue cross from their necks to their waists.
"Hey, you guys," a girl called out, "You can't wear a cross in school. You're gonna get in trouble!"
But Tom and Robert and Larry and Sarah and Gabe and Wally did not seem to be bothered. They each went to their own class.
"You can't wear a cross in school!" said Mrs. Tonkatsu.
"You can't wear a cross in school!" said Mr. Tikka.
"You can't wear a cross in school!" said Ms. Lamb.
"You can't wear a cross in school!" said Mr. Hagis.
"You can't wear a cross in school!" said Ms. Brie.
"You can't wear a cross in school!" said the substitute teacher in Mrs. Limberger's class.
"But it's Multicultural Day," said six voices in six classrooms.
"What does that have to do with it?" asked Mrs. Tonkatsu and Mr. Tikka and Ms. Lamb and Mr. Hagis and Ms. Brie and the substitute teacher in Mrs. Limberger's class.
"This is the Finnish flag," said the six students in six giggling classes.
Mrs. Tonkatsu and Mr. Tikka and Ms. Lamb and Mr. Hagis and Ms. Brie and the substitute teacher in Mrs. Limberger's class each paused for a moment. They weren't sure what to do but it looked like a serious offense. So they sent Tom and Robert and Larry and Sarah and Gabe and Wally to the principal's office.
"You guys!" said the smiling principal, who liked to think that he was everybody's pal, "You can't wear those in school."
"But," said Wally, all innocence, "our club charter, which says we will wear Scandinavian flags on our clothes, was approved by Ms. Stoneman."
"Well, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to take them off."
"But why, Mr. Andrews?" said Wally.
"Because it is promoting Christianity."
"It's promoting Finland, sir. Why should Finland be excluded from Multicultural Day?"
Mr. Andrews stared at the six for a moment. And then for another moment. And another.
"You know," he said, finally, "You're not fooling anybody. They've got to come off."
The six stared at Mr. Andrews for a moment, and then for another moment, and another.
Finally Wally said softly, "No Finland?"
"No," the principal said kindly. "No Finland."
"Yes sir," said the six, for they were all very polite.
"So call your parents or do whatever you have to do," the principal said, "but get out of those shirts."
"Yes sir," they said quietly.
The principal chuckled to himself after the students had left. "Not bad kids overall," he thought. "A bit misguided, but not bad."
At three o'clock Mr. Andrews stationed himself at the bus stop to wave goodbye to the students. After all, he thought, the principal should be your pal.
But suddenly the smile froze on his face.
"WALTER!" he yelled.
"Yes sir," said Walter, coming over to him.
"I thought I told you no crosses in school!"
"No sir, I believe you said no Finnish shirts. We all switched into our Danish shirts as soon as you told us, sir. Did you know Denmark is also a Scandinavian country? Isn't it interesting that they use a cross, too?"
"I am not amused! And I want you out of those shirts immediately."
"Yes sir," said Wally as the other five club members walked up. "We'll go home right away and change."
"Good bye sir." Wally waved, then the six started down the street, quietly grinning until they were out of sight, then laughing all the way home.