The Bard Club
A message came with the tide in a Coke bottle dislodged from the Mesozoic Cliffs of Calvert, Maryland. The object floated on the Chesapeake Bay and drifted into the Patuxent River to wash up on the shore of a small fishing village in Solomons Island, Maryland. Two days later a student from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory found the bottle and delivered the mysterious note to the adjutant general at the Patuxent River Naval Base across the river. It was August 7, 1952 when news of the find appeared in the Baltimore Sunday Sun.
MYSTERY BOTTLE WITH MESSAGE DISCOVERED IN SOLOMOMS ISLAND, MARYLAND
The message read:
“All’s well that ends well.
Signed: The Bard Club, Solomons Island, MD. USA
Date - 9 May, 1946.”
Speculation was rampant. Calvert Cliffs and Solomons Island, Maryland became epicenters of suspicion. The military smelled espionage. Archeological and historic interests flooded conjecture. Solomons Island was thrown back to the year 1944, to a time that the people of the town referred to as “the craziest of times.” It was the time of WWII. It was a time they said that if history had a color, and seasons had a taste, Solomons Island would have been red, white and blue with a Shakespearian twist. The bottle and the message were a reflection of its time. That was the year that Mrs. Bessie McMath had imposed martial law with the words, “It is I.”
It was 12 September, 1945, the first day of the school year at Solomons Island. A one-room schoolhouse at Tillman’s Point warmed to the morning sun as ten young curious eyes stared at a chalkboard that bore a simple phrase.
“SHAKESPEARE WAS A COUNTRY BOY.”
A little lady stood before the students. She wore a long black dress fringed with white lace and tied back with a large white bow. Her gray hair was neatly tucked back in a bun. She carried a pleasant smile and she held a long flat ruler. The moment was laden with change. There was electricity in the air.
“Good morning children! My name is Mrs. McMath.” Her voice was friendly but firm. “It is I,” she said.
Bessie McMath studied the class and read their thoughts.
“So!” filled the room. “What’s Shakespeare?”
“Goof ball teacher,” thought Fasso Dimberwit.
Attitudes were fresh and challenging and infused Bessie McMath with attentive flair on that day.
“Growing up is as easy as looking out of the window,” she said to the class. “But here...” She raised her ruler above the class.“ ... here is where you are!” She went to each child and gently touched them on their heads. “Here is where you are --- in your head!”
She pointed the ruler towards the window. “Not out there. Here!” Her staff inferred a blessing.
She looked around the room to observe her challenge, and once satisfied walked to the blackboard and wrote a big letter: I
“I is a capital letter,” she said. “I is the most important letter in the English dictionary. It is you. It is me --- it is we.”
She extended her arms out over the class. “We are the universe!”
Top Topper and Marylou Farkwar gulped. Fasso Dimberwit grimaced and gripped his seat. William Bodecker and Ebb Kellum attentively watched a monarch butterfly float in and out of the starboard window. Poetic grammar and colloquial English ascended on them in a word. “Uck!”
“It is I? Is the lady daft?” The town’s response was emphatic. “She’s a affectation. The sun’s got to ‘er.”
But in time her words would become badges of pedigree in the broadest sense. “It is I” became the rudder of Mrs. Bessie McMath’s class. “To be or not to be” became their sail.
(The Bard Club evokes time and place and examines moral conduct. Comedy and tragedy are woven into the everyday struggle to exist in peace and love, and in the understanding of nature and human character.)