We had one strange kid in class in fifth grade and his name was Charles; not Charlie, or Chuck or Chad. No nickname. No intimacy.
He smelled a little funny, like he didn’t bathe very often. He didn’t really have any friends, but didn’t seem to know any better either.
He read very slowly. Although we were in fifth grade, he was on a First Grade reading level.
Mrs. Whitlock had a special place in her heart for Charles. He sat in the front row, center, so that he was directly in front of the blackboard. She gave him the simple sentences to read. She spoke slowly and kindly to him.
Every time that Charles was absent from school, she would explain to the class that Charles was “different” and that we should be nice to him and patient with him.
I don’t remember anyone going out of their way to be mean to him. We really ignored him more than anything. Mostly because he smelled bad.
I remember hearing rumors that his sister was also his mother. This confused my Fifth Grade brain. I didn’t really understand how a father could be so terrible.
Looking back now, it makes more sense. Now I understand that Charles came from a strange, abusive home, and that he most likely had a learning disability. I feel bad that I was not able to do anything to help him.
I think back on Mrs. Whitlock with great respect for how she treated Charles, and how she attempted to teach us how to treat him better. She did not learn this from a book (well maybe from the bible). She didn’t need to give him 50 aptitude tests. Just good old common sense.