A few days later at school, I noticed that stinky Charles was not in front of me in line. He was absent from school that day. That afternoon, before the buses arrived, Mrs. Whitlock canceled our scheduled ‘boring reading book time’ to talk about Charles. “You may have noticed that Charles is not in school today. Charles is different from the rest of you. He learns more slowly. I’m sure you’ve noticed that he reads slowly and he can’t read as many words as you can. Please be nice to him. He’s very different, and it’s not his fault.”
She walked over to her desk and picked up another book. “We won’t be reading out of the textbooks today, I’m going to share a poem with you instead.”
“The wise old owl sat in the oak,
the more he heard ,the less he spoke
the less he spoke the more he heard,
why can’t we be like that wise old bird?”
She put the book on her desk. “Who can tell me what this poem means?”
“Who, who, who,” Dave mimicked. Mrs. Whitlock ran over to the right side of the chalkboard and wrote “Dave” and wrote a checkmark. We snickered.
Lance raised his hand. “It means that we learn more by listening than talking.”
“That’s right, Lance, very good. You can be line leader tomorrow.”
“Oooh Lance, way to go,” Mike said. The room broke out in giggles.
“Mike, that’s enough,” Mrs. Whitlock said. She turned around and wrote another checkmark next to Mike’s name.
Crackle. “Buses 2 and 3 are here. Please line up in the front of the building.”
An hour before supper, we were in the living room with our friends, Mark and Mike, who lived up the street. We were all watching “Dark Shadows” on TV. The beginning theme song came on.
“I wonder why there’s no words to this song, you know, like there are on “Gilligan’s Island.”
“How’s this one?” I sang in tune with the creepy music:
“Dark Shadows is the scary show, it gives you nightmares, as you well know.”
“Ooh, that’s creepy,” Margie said.
Let’s sing it all together, Mike said.
“Dark Shadows is the scary show, it gives you nightmares as you well know.”
“Yeah, that’s a good one,” Margie giggled.
Barnabas came on the screen. He looked at the camera and gave a little bit of a smile, just enough to show his vampire fangs to the audience. Then he walked into the party being held in th
“Those people don’t know Barnabas is a vampire,” Mark said. “I bet he’s going to bite one of them.”
“He has to get them alone first, so no one else finds out,” I chimed in.
Mother’s voice from the kitchen broke the spell. “Come set the table for supper, girls.”
“We have to go home soon anyway, Mark said.
“Ok, see you tomorrow.”
“What’s for supper?” I asked.
“Oh good, I like that.” I started putting out the silverware, as Margie grabbed the plates.
“When I have kids, I’m not going to make them be slaves like you do,” Margie said.
“You don’t know how good you have it,” Mother said, finally becoming angry.
I glanced at the clock and knew it would only be seconds before I heard the footsteps.
The door opened. Who would be there today?
“Well, its about time you helped your mother,” Father spouted.
“Everything’s ready,” Mother said.
We sat down to dinner. I tensed my upper body, trying hard not to spill my milk, scrape my fork against the plate or swallow too loudly. I failed when I bumped my milk glass and it spilled over, and Father punched my upper arm and called me a dipshit. The words hit my brain, ricocheted out of my brain, into my heart, and back to the nerve endings in my arm, to meet the physical sting on my skin. I’m a terrible person, and I hate him.