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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stranger in the Mind Excerpt 3

Chapter 1

It was an ordinary day in a reasonably ordinary classroom in a somewhat ordinary schoolhouse in a somewhat peculiar little horseshoe shaped town in the state of Idaho where a little boy sat in his tiny chair at his tiny table and scribbled big letters with the number two pencil in his tiny hands.

“Taylor what is that you are writing?” the boy's teacher asked, “You are supposed to be practicing your letter As.”

Taylor looked up at his teacher with an odd sort of perplexed look. Mrs. Tracey had most certainly told the class that they were supposed to practice writing the character that made the 'a' sound and the character he was writing most certainly made the 'a' sound more efficiently than that strange tent-shaped letter Mrs. Tracey expected him to write. The letter A with all of its ambiguity was quite perplexing to Taylor. Why would someone use such an inefficient means of writing. After all the letter A made so many different sounds and there was never any clear distinction of when it made which sound. It was a lot of guesswork and pointless memorization.

Taylor simply pointed to the character he had written over and over again and said, “Aaaaa!” pronouncing the sound as loudly and clearly as possible. At this point Mrs. Tracey's frustration with Taylor's 'uniqueness' got the better of her. She took the pencil out of his left hand and forced it into his right as she tightly guided the pencil in Taylor's hand to scribe out a large capital letter A. “Like this,” she said firmly glaring at the boy for just a moment before leaving him to respond to the raised hand of another student.

After what seemed hours of writing, reading, and coloring the recess bell finally rang. All the boys and girls rushed out of the classroom as fast as their little feet could carry them—all that is except for Taylor. Taylor got up slowly quietly walked over to the coat rack and gently pulled the sky blue cardigan his mother had knitted him off of the hanger and put it on.

Taylor walked slowly kicking rocks across the asphalt while the other children were busy running, laughing, and playing hopscotch and foursquare.

“Are you a boy or a girl?” One of the Jackson twins sneered as he stopped abruptly and prodded Taylor's shoes with one of his burgundy cowboy boots. The Jackson twins looked identical in every aspect except one. While they both wore the same polished cowboy boots, the same skin tight Wranglers, the same ugly over-sized belt belt buckles, and the same ugly bolo ties, one of them wore a white shirt with red and black pin stripes and the other wore a white shirt with blue and black pin stripes. This didn't help Taylor tell them apart any better—telling them apart was difficult, not because of how similarly they looked but because they both had the same personality—they were both identically jerks in every possible way.

This question always bothered Taylor, but this time it bothered him more than usual because this time it was stated as an insult. Taylor's upper lip curled back over his teeth as he quietly snarled out the mumbled words, “I'm a boy.” Taylor quietly walked away trying to ignore the Jackson twin's heckling laughter behind him.

It seems when people weren't busy wondering if Taylor was a boy or a girl they were busy pointing out his feminine qualities. People often told Taylor he had “girl hands” and that his voice sounded “like a girl” or that he had “girl eyelashes.” It didn't help when old ladies would bend over and pinch his cheeks and say in their loud jolly voices “You have such beautiful long eyelashes! I wish I had eyelashes as long and beautiful as yours!” Taylor wished they had eyelashes like his too, then maybe they would leave him alone and his cheeks wouldn't hurt so much.

Taylor was a beautiful boy and he knew it. He looked just like his mother, and he wouldn't have minded except for the fact that it made him an object of scorn and ridicule. The way his mother dressed him didn't help either. She often dressed him in bright colors, with short 80’s style shorts and knit cardigans. Taylor used to like the cardigans his mother made him with their ornate beauty. However, as the world unleashed it's ugly prejudices on the tiny child his blue cardigan had now become another reason for people to laugh at him. The ornate knit-work ran down either side of a row of shiny buttons like two braided pig tails running down a school girl's back. He only wore it today because he was cold. He always felt cold... and alone.

Recess ended and Taylor returned to his class long before the other children arrived. He sat down at his brown laminate table grabbed an eraser and began working at removing the pencil artwork his neighbor had left behind on his desk.

Before Taylor knew it the other students had returned and class resumed as Mrs. Tracey brought out her giant abacus with its one hundred multicolored wooden beads. It was counting time. Taylor shuddered in anticipation of the inevitable embarrassment that was coming. He could only hope that this time his teacher would overlook him, but after only four students successfully counted to one hundred and received their bright shining pin with the words “I can count to 100!” written on it the teacher turned to Taylor.

“Taylor, can you please come up to the front of the class and count to one hundred?” Asked the teacher in her most polite voice.

Taylor quietly stood up and approached the front of the class shaking with fear of what was to come. Fear of what happened every time he counted. Taylor very quietly mumbled the words as he slid the yellow, orange, blue, green and red beads across the abacus. He hated the blue and green beads the most and his hand quivered as he slid them.

“We can't hear you Taylor. Can you please count a little louder for us?” Mrs. Tracey abruptly requested as she slid all five beads back into their starting place. “Now start over please.”

Taylor took a deep breath and said in his loudest quiet voice, “One, choo, free, fo', five....” Taylor paused as he waited for the laughter and giggles from the children nearest the front to calm down. Then he continued nervously, “six, seven, eight, nine... ten.” He stopped abruptly and turned to Mrs. Tracey with pleading eyes as if he were asking her with his sad face, “can I please stop now,” but she only glared back at him with a determination that he must go on. He continued, “eleven, twelve.... seventeen.”

“It looks like someone needs some more practice. I bet you'll do better next time Taylor. Go ahead and take a seat,” Mrs. Tracey muttered out that overused line with little enthusiasm or hope left in her voice.

Taylor returned to his seat looking at his feet the entire way. He knew how to count to one hundred without making any mistakes. He did it every single day, but he couldn't do it in front of the class because if he did they would laugh every time he mispronounced the numbers three, four and sometimes two.

Time passed and the time for the walkers to walk home approached. Taylor wasn't a walker—he had to get the bus. He lived in town not far from the school, but his mother insisted he needed to get the bus because of “all the weirdos running about stealing children.”

Taylor waited hopelessly at his table while most of the bus kids waited by the door for the time the bus would arrive. Taylor was busy sketching a picture of a dinosaur when Brooke and his gang gathered around him. Brooke enjoyed picking on Taylor, maybe because he was self-conscious about the fact that the only other children that had the name of Brooke in the school were girls and Taylor was a name that went both ways as well—making him an easy target in some sadistic attempt to avenge his boyhood.

“Hey Morgan!” Brooke called out Taylor's last name in a mocking tone. “Can we hear you count to five?” He said trying to hold back a laugh.

Taylor was fed up with this nearly everyday occurrence and he had pretty much given up on resisting. By now it was easier to just take the ridicule and move on with life. At least less talking was involved that way. “One, two, free, fo' five.” Taylor spoke in a dim monotone voice. Brooke and his cronies broke out in laughter as usual. Making fun of Taylor seemed to be his favorite past time no matter how repetitious it became.

Finally it was time. Taylor grabbed his backpack and walked out to the bus.

“Smile Morgan!” Taylor looked up to see Jen's beaming smile. Every particle of her face looked happy—it always did.

“I will.... When I find something to smile about.” Taylor mumbled hopelessly. Jen's smile turned to a discouraged frown and she walked off not knowing quite what to say.

The hour long bus ride was always painful for him, and he spent most of his time looking out the window at the passing fields imagining that he was flying over them. His house was the last stop for the bus as it returned back to town after venturing in a nonsensical quest to drop off all the kids that lived miles away from civilization first.

Taylor stepped out of the bus and walked the short walk to his house. The sky was a bright blue color that day and sunny. Taylor wished he could be as happy as the sky.

After Taylor entered the door of his house and lumbered over to the couch next to the window and plopped himself down knees first, pulled back the curtains and looked out the window waiting for his mother to come home.

His mother usually came home soon after the train passed by each day. Taylor loved watching the train from out of the window. He often imagined that he could see a man in the caboose at the end of the train waving to him and he would wave back. It seemed so real that he wasn't sure if he were imagining it or if it were really happening.

An hour past and so did the train, but no car showed up in the driveway, just older children playing games that were entirely unfamiliar to Taylor in the streets. He eventually gave up and moped off to his room. He looked into the long, skinny, hand print covered mirror hanging on the wall and these were his thoughts:

I look stupid in these clothes.

I can't talk right.

I can't look right.

I can't write right.

I can't think right.

I can't be right.

I have no friends.

I'm not happy.

I hate being me.

Taylor pushed his little hand through one of the openings between two of the buttons of his azure sweater, and wrapped his fingers around the inside edge. His other hand followed doing the same to the opposite side. Several of the bright brass buttons popped off as he tore it open and flung it under his bed never to be worn again. He fell onto his bed in a heap and cried until he fell asleep.
Taylor dreamed nearly every time he fell asleep. This time was no exception. The problem is he didn't always remember his dreams very well once he woke up. He would always remember having them, but upon awaking he often could only remember an obscured thought, a smell or a blurred image. This time was one of those times he awoke with nothing left of his dream but a faint and familiar melody being sung in the most beautiful voice he could imagine.


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