Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stranger Danger

This is an excerpt for a larger story that I'm writing. This weekend, I'm going to a good friend's Halloween party and everyone has to contribute a scary story to read aloud. This is a short-ish part of what I am writing. I'm hoping to finish it up today.

He was quiet at the table, we all were, the three of us chewing our cereal. Only the dog noisily snorted his approval of breakfast. As my son fished the final Cheerios out of the milk, I grabbed my keys and his book bag. Our daily routine.

“Alright pal – time for learning.” I used my post-caffeinated singsong voice. He stared at his cereal bowl.

“I don’t want to go,” he said as if to the milk.

“It’s Thursday, little man. Only two more days and then we can party on the weekend. We’ll do forts on Saturday. Promise.”

“I hate it there, Dad. They hate me.”

“Who hates you?”

“Everyone. They pick on me.”

“They don’t pick on you.” My wife shot me one of her looks. This was a lie. His kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Keely, had already phoned us on several occasions, because he couldn’t play at recess without being ridiculed. I know how hard it is to fit in, but I figured he had to learn to fit in. We all do.

“They call me Scotty Potty.” I bit the inside of my cheek -- it was so minor, so nothing, but that must be horrifying to a five year old kid. My five year old kid.

“Don’t let it eat at you, Scott. Ignore them or go play with someone else.” I walked towards him – put my hand on his shoulder. At that moment, he transformed into a whirring vehicle of rage. He screamed, kicked, windmilled his arms.

“I donwana donwana donwana donwana--” He screamed those words over and over, a stream of syllables. I had never seen him like this, not in five years of baths, bed times, and vaccination shots. This was more. He was a stranger to me then, someone else’s child full of rage.

We did what we could. I grabbed him by the pants, she hoisted him beneath the armpits, until little by little his voice grew hoarse from screaming and we somehow managed to squeeze him into the car. He finally stopped.

The entire drive to school, he never looked up.

When we arrived, I pulled Mrs. Keely aside. Told her about the tantrum, the nickname, the favorite stuffed animal face down in the snow. She smiled one of her wan, kindergarten teacher smiles.

“Paul, it’s natural for a boy of his – sensitivities – to dislike school. To fear the large groups of kids. I’ll keep an eye of him today, I’ll call you if anything happens.”

I left the classroom, the peeling posters on the wall, the cliques of kids already forming around the plastic house play sets and coloring books. I waved to Scott from the window; his face was still flushed and red. A group of boys sat in a circle around him, surrounding him. He did nothing and I left for home.


Jo said...

My eldest is a sensitive soul who still finds school drop-off difficult, so I related to this. This is very true to life and well put.

gautami tripathy said...

As a teacher, I relate to this..

Holly said...

You're off to a very good start here. I liked it a lot and it is crazy that at just 5 years old kids are already forming cliques. Funny...we're told that it will end sometime and that people will grow up, but they never do. We never do. I like this a lot, post the rest of it when it's finished, k?

Becca said...

This hurts to read, because my own son went through this experience. And yes, the rage did overtake him occasionally and a strange child would appear.

Well written story - I hope it eventually has a happy ending.

paris parfait said...

Oh this hurts to read - so sad for the child who doesn't fit in. Children can be so cruel. Hope he finds his niche where he can thrive and blossom. Well done, you!

...deb said...

(So I'm not a parent.) As a reader, I am pissed at the dad. And mom. The scene at the end is so sinister ("peeling posters" is what got me.) Why would they leave their kid in that nasty place with kids who are mean (they have already circled and dad leaves). Quite suspenseful and intriguing. I am anxious (this you want!) to see where it goes next.

tumblewords said...

I feel so sorry for the little kid - guess we've all be in places like that but surely not for an extended period of time. Good writing - natural tension and emotion.

Redness said...

Ohhh poor boy, such a strong message in your writing - hope it's not true, well done, Thank YOU!

Robin said...

Please please please write a happy ending.

My own son is in first-grade this year, and is being called names and teased by some of the 4th graders (Dora in this case, which is as upsetting to him as Scotty Potty is to your fictional boy). It breaks my heart, and angers me tremendously, to see him scared of these boys. Unlike the parent in the story we are fighting back with the full power of our parenting arsenal - I've already talked with the boy's mother who gave her son a what-for that kept him quiet for the rest of the day yesterday (we'll see what happens today), with the teacher, who also did, and will go to the principal if there is no improvement by the end of the week. I will NOT let my child come to see school as a place of fear and powerlessness.

Jessica said...

Thank you all for you kind words about the story. I'm glad to see that there are many people identifying with this story -- I think that grade school, especially when you don't fit in, is one of the most terrifying places you can go. Especially for 13 long years.

Now, I hate to ruin it for everybody, this is a scary/haunted story contest...so there is not a happy ending to this. (Scotty remains unharmed, though.) I'll post the rest of the story (this is the middle) on Sunday, after the party.