this is a chapter from my short story, special, that i wrote back in high school. i’m taking a break from regular blog posts so i can focus on expanding it into a novel for nanowrimo. enjoy!
I walk hesitantly into the room, looking around. A short, black-haired lady is sitting next to a boy of about fourteen at a table in the middle of the room, their backs to me. She’s talking to him, motioning to something in front of them. I clear my throat and she turns around.
“Oh!” she exclaims. “You must be Trey.” She speaks with a dragging southern accent, and it takes me a second to answer.
“Yeah.” I’m standing awkwardly in the doorway, trying to choose whether or not to feign interest. I decide it’s too much work.
The lady doesn’t seem phased. “Well, come on in. I’m Emma Brown.” She holds out her hand and I shake it, but don’t say anything. After a few seconds she nods and continues on. “This boy here,” she says, walking back to the table and laying her hands on the boy’s shoulders, “is Sam Phillips. We call him Sammy.”
Sammy doesn’t turn around. His head is down on the desk and I’m still behind him, so for all I know he’s asleep. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was; I’m sure Mrs. Brown would put me to sleep, too.
The teacher taps Sammy on the shoulder. “Sammy, we have a new helper. Would you like to meet him?”
Sammy sits up slowly and turns his head so that I can see one of his eyes. Mrs. Brown motions for me to circle around in front of him. I do, and get my first look at Sam Phillips.
He looks completely normal. I mean, I wasn’t expecting Frankenstein’s monster, but… I don’t know. Maybe something that I would be easily able to recognize as a sign of mental retardation. It catches me off guard, to be completely honest.
“Say name, and then your name,” Mrs. Brown says.
Okaaay… “Name Trey,” I say, looking at Sammy.
His eyes lock with mine. “Name Trey.” His gaze drops, then meets mine again, as if he’s feeling the same apprehension I am. “Hi, Trey?” He says this like a question.
“Hi, Sammy.” I look at Mrs. Brown. What now? I mouth to her.
She smiles as if amused, which sort of annoys me, and walks over to a cabinet, selecting a box and bringing it to the table. She sets it down, and I see that it’s a Toy Story puzzle, the iconic picture of Buzz Lightyear and Woody flying out into the free air depicted on the front. Sammy claps his hands twice and takes the top of the box off, digging into the pieces with a zeal that almost makes me smile. Almost.
“He loves puzzles,” Mrs. Brown says. “He’s pretty good with them, too. He’ll finish that one before the period ends.” She motions me to follow her over to her own desk, situated in the corner of the room.
She shuffles a few papers around, finds the one she’s looking for, and makes a notation on it. Then she looks up at me. “I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Mr. Tesh told me you would be helping Sammy and me out for the rest of the semester. From what I understand, you’re quite the handful.” Coming from one of my peers, I would’ve been honored with such an assessment, but from Mrs. Brown… I grit my teeth and drop my gaze. She continues. “Now, I trust Richard, he’s a good principal, but if I get the sense that you are not good with Sammy, then you’re out.” Her southern accent has acquired a hard edge. “Do I make myself clear?”
I nod. “Yes, Mrs. Brown.”
She rolls her eyes. “Please, it’s Ms. Emma. That’s what Sammy calls me.” There’s a pause. “Now, you’ll want to know a few things. First, Sammy’ll warm up to you, but before he does, he’ll be distant, withdrawn. It’s just how he is. He’ll definitely like you, though, cause you’re a boy. We don’t get any boys working with Sammy too often.”
I glance over at Sammy, who is intently connecting the puzzle’s pieces. The outer edge is already completed.
“We follow a loose schedule. In the morning, when you’re here, we’ll do a few worksheets, a daily job, and a walk. You’ll notice the room is divided into two colors. The Green Room—” she points to the side of the room Sammy is in “—is for relaxin’, and the Blue Room, where we are, is for workin’. Got it?” I nod again. “Good. Today you’ll just observe.”
And that’s exactly what I do. In fact, it’s exactly what I do for the entire first week, following the two around. I watch as Ms. Emma and Sammy do worksheets, deliver mail to teachers, make smiley-face magnets for Sammy to bring home, and go on walks. Lots and lots of walks.
Slowly, I get used to it. It’s not as big of a pain as I thought it would be, not having a study hall. I just have to focus my time better at home. I get to know Sammy a bit. For instance, he has two favorite things in this world: Peter Pan and Nascar. When he gets excited, he’ll laugh and bring his hands up to his eyes, shaking them. He zips through the worksheets we put in front of him, and no matter how many times he completes that Toy Story puzzle, he always attacks it a few days later as if he’s never seen it before.
Sometimes he just stares at me. When I meet his gaze, he’ll look away, only to look back a few seconds later. “Trey? Trey, ‘n’ Sammy?” he says. All the time.
Yeah, I’m getting used to it.