The teacher’s glossy white-tipped fingernail pointed toward yet another coldly coded phrase, jumping with fake syllables. Her voice, the voice of plastic adults, ready to crack with a false assumption. She smiled prettily, and talked the way adults thought kids wanted to hear. She called kindly on Julia, the girl with the button nose and sparkly pink shoes.
“Yes, Julia, very good sweetheart. Jeffrey what about the next one?”
His hands sat on his lap with a paperclip in them, twisting it along with his small stomach. A couple of his nails bled from recess after a play-battle in the sand turned sour. Blood burned in his face now though, as his face contorted with the expression that suggested there was a weakness in the grade’s tormentor.
The letters on the board switched and jumbled into the burning question of his intelligence. Was he as good as the other children?
He glanced pleadingly up at the teacher whose mouth stretched fakely. A lapse of silence, and then a mumble.
A snicker sounded from behind him. His fuse, lit short from the day, fizzled crisply toward his heart and with a pop he got up from his seat and flung for the door. Madly his heart beat with each step away from the swimming sea of words in the classroom, but they stayed in his head, taunting him with unpronounced dread.
The words chased him away, but they met again later, for the teacher to drill them into his heart. He thump-thumped with each syllable, breathed in each word, until the sparks flew in his mind and the daily fight drove his temperature higher and higher towards violent endings.
And finally steam poured out with the changing of the tide, water pouring in.
“Jeffrey, think of it as a song.”
Singing through the words, sparkling instead with meaning and not mystery. They jumped to the beat of his heart now, at intervals of patience gained. He smiled with each wordy accomplishment, at each piece of knowledge that he drew forth. The sparks became sparser as he finally grew into his temperament.