June 6, 2006
I turned down the walk towards the front door and saw a small brown package balanced precariously on the black metal mailbox. It was from my book club. As I climbed the steps I searched my mind for what had been at the top of my book picks on the club website. Was it another craft book? Perhaps it was a detective mystery? I couldn’t remember.
I pulled the carton with its red type and a pile of bills out of out of the mailbox and let myself into the building. Maybe it was non-fiction? Once in the apartment I dropped my keys in the basket and the bills on my desk and went to feed the dog, still carrying the box wondering what was inside. Was it a book I could read in an evening? It was early, only five minutes past five, so it was possible.
I flipped on the television and went back to the kitchen for some strawberries, gazing at the box. What had been on the top of the list? Was it a novel? Finally settling on the sofa, Oprah talking to some movie star I didn’t recognize, I tore open the box. The cover was bright pink. What the hell kind of book did I have on my list that would be hot pink?
“Down and Dirty” the gory red script screamed from the cover. “Down and Dirty”? What kind of book was this? I look more closely at the cover, a cartoonish drawing of a woman’s torso and thighs from the back wearing only heart covered boxer shorts. What was this?
I flipped through it from back to front. Maybe this was going to be a more interesting afternoon than I thought. Kicking off my shoes I pointed and flexed my toes and skimmed the text in the hardcover. “When she eased her grip on my hair…” Hmm… it was definitely going to be a more interesting afternoon than I thought.
June 6, 2006
The postcard arrived, Edna Manglob was in Siberia. I laughed to myself. Edna, that back stabbing, shameless gossip had been sent for a year to Siberia in a teacher’s exchange program. When I asked her to fill out the grant application I didn’t mention Siberia, I only spoke of the glory of being chosen as the international exchange teacher of the year. I spoke of the honor and the opportunity to teach others to be more like her, which was an undeniable draw to an egotist like her. I left out the snow, the Chernobyl poisoned water and the lack of anyone for miles that spoke English. I left out the lack of edible food, the lack of telephones and the fact that she would share a two room apartment with a host family of three grandparents, two parents and five children (two under the age of 20 months).
That’s what Edna gets for spreading lies about me and trying to steal my job. Her postcard said, “I didn’t realize I was going to Russia until I saw my plane ticket. Maybe you should have mentioned this? The first 16 hours on board was okay, but the last 8 hours in the rickety plane usually used for pesticide spreading was not. The host family has no shower and no bathtub. None of my clothes are warm enough. Will you send some micro-fleece? Regards, Edna.”
Sure, I’d send some micro-fleece, but it was going to be a size or two small for her, by accident of, course.
June 4, 2006
Sometimes I feel like a gerbil running round and round on his wheel. I’ve been running round and round the bureaucracies of special education for seventeen years. I picked the major because I was the only guy in all of the class. Being a special education major helped pick up hotties who weren’t entering the field too. Just talking about the cute little kids in their wheelchairs was always met by cries of how sensitive I must be. But that was two decades ago, two very long decades ago.
Two decades of dating and breaking up, marrying and divorcing, and watching dozens of students pass through the system. I became more burnt out with each passing day. It was before Timmy. I moved to Vermont after my second divorce and was assigned a room of teenagers with disabilities as diverse as my Introduction to Handicapping Conditions textbook. There was Jamal, 340 pounds and obsessed with pink dresses and there was Marissa who only spoke at home and then only in rhymes. Cheryl sat in her wheelchair and could only tell us what she wanted by blinking and Jeremy, well, Jeremy alternated between screaming curses at me and trying to sweet talk the high school girls in the cafeteria into holding his hand and touching him. Then there was Timmy always flitting around the edges of the room in his Hawaiian shirts and khakis with that goofy grin on his face.
Timmy had birth injuries but his mom always said his biggest disability was being from Alabama, always on Alabama time, moving at the pace of his birthplace’s drawl. Timmy walked so slowly he seemed like he was standing still and he talked so slowly all of the staff would look at each other and roll their eyes thinking, “Spit it out, Tim!”
Timmy showed me how to walk to the beat of my own drummer and he showed me how to set my spirit free. One day I was spinning in my wheel. My boss was asking for a report I had given her twice, Jamal had broken into the teacher's room and gobbled a dozen doughnuts before he ran out the door with Mrs. Henrick’s new pink Burberry raincoat. Cheryl had had a seizure while the nurse was out getting a coffee. I was leaving the room to see what sent Jeremy into the meltdown of the moment when I saw Timmy pick up a funnel, a bag of balloons and some glitter out of the art box.
“Don’t even think about it, Tim.” I said to him firmly over my shoulder.
When I dragged a kicking, screaming Jeremy into the room I saw Timmy. He took the blown up balloon from his lips with purple glitter sparkling on his chin, held it up and let go. The balloon careened through the air, spraying a trail of glitter behind it. Timmy started giggling uncontrollably and set off all the other kids, ending with Jeremy whom I finally released. The teaching assistants started laughing and then the nurse. Finally I gave in, I laughed harder than I had ever laughed in my life and I realized that sometimes you have to release yourself, give in and laugh.
I still have that balloon, encrusted with purple glitter, as a keepsake, in a box in my garage.