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#1 Topazia

Topazia

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Posted 12 November 2017 - 08:44 PM

Okay so I've been working on this story for a couple years. This is chapters 1 - 3. Please, feedback?? I've screened and double screened it for family-friendliness so it should be good for here (remember, most of my work deals with uncomfortable topics and sometimes bad language, part of the reason I don't post much in here anymore)

 

I picked the three kids' names on purpose. They are all Jewish names that start with Z. Zohar means brilliant one. Zavan means restless. Zillah means little shadow. The family isn't Jewish, that's just what mom and dad decided to do.

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Occupied

 

Character List

Zavan – son of distracted parents; high IQ; low motivation; few friends; socially awkward; bored; lonely

Renee – Zavan’s mother; PR rep at local law firm; loving but distant; independent; drinks at night

Corbin – Zavan’s father; overwhelmed magazine journalist; irritable but trying to be pleasant; burnt out

Zillah – Zavan’s younger sister; sweet; slightly spoiled; successful; many friends

Zohar – Zavan’s older brother; athletic; intelligent; confident; modest; friendly

 

Mrs. Ellis – Zavan’s history teacher; smug; disappointed; only engages a few students; leaving school

Mr. Hampton – Zavan’s English teacher; tries to be fair; knows Zavan is smart

Ms. Renault – Zavan’s math teacher; energetic; Zavan’s favorite teacher

Mr. Holloway – replacing Mrs. Ellis; soft-spoken; one hand is disfigured; sees Zavan’s potential

Mr. Fleming – Zavan’s guidance counselor; has given up on Zavan; doesn’t believe in change

 

Chapter One

 

Zavan – male name of Hebrew origins, meaning restless, disquiet, etc.

 

Zavan is sixteen. On the cusp of adulthood, he is alone. His world consists of distant parents, untouchable siblings, and condescending teachers. Zavan is a bright young man, aware of his intelligence and even more aware of his failures in academics. He has a handful of peers he counts as friends, all of them in other schools or opposing class schedules. Due to his lack of interest in pretty much anything, Zavan has developed a false reputation of being in classes too advanced for his level of cognition. His classmates ridicule him frequently, and teachers do nothing to stop it unless it interferes with their lessons.

 

Zavan is sixteen. He feels as though he is stuck somewhere between five years old and fifty years old. His peers know nothing of his inner passions for art and music, even though he’s never had drawing or instrument lessons outside mandatory classes in elementary school.

 

Zavan wants out.

 

Zavan McAllister
Mr. Hampton
English 3, pd. 5
September 8

 

I found the piece of homework in a trash can at Blaketon High where I worked as a janitor. I knew who Zavan was. He was the wallflower, the invisible boy. With unremarkable features and a quiet demeanor, the young man disappeared in the crowded hallways. He simply attended the school, never actually doing the work assigned. I must correct myself, as clearly he did start to, but he never turned the work in for grading. Over the years I’ve picked up most of Zavan’s story. Being an invisible custodian, I heard a lot of conversation.

 

He had a decent start in life. He and his two siblings looked just alike with brown, wavy hair and bright blue eyes. They were all very bright, outgoing children. Then the boy’s mother, Renee, was promoted to public relations for the law firm she worked for, and all of a sudden, the third grader was nearly without a mother. Her job consumed her time almost completely. Zavan’s father tried to fill in the gaps, but it was very difficult for him as an already overworked journalist for a demanding local magazine. Zavan quickly grew self-reliant, cooking his own meals and washing his own laundry. All the extra work exhausted the little boy, affecting his performance in school. Unfortunately, his teachers were either uncaring or unnoticing of his dropping grades, so he nearly stayed back a year. Zavan pulled himself together enough the last quarter to eke through to fourth grade and from then on barely passed from class to class.

 

All through middle school Zavan had a few friends to encourage him and keep him company when he came home to an empty house, but his work continued to dwindle. Oddly, his older brother and younger sister seemed unaffected by the changes in their mother’s schedules. Then again, with Zohar always at sporting events or practices and Zillah in after-school care, the middle child ended up usually alone and felt very, well, middle-childish.

 

Chapter Two

 

At the start of eleventh grade, Zavan figured it’d be like any other school year: filled with boredom, dejection, and failure. He spent every morning trudging to the bus stop, riding in the back alone in silence, and marching as fast as he could to class, which, as always, somehow ended up as far away as possible from the front of the school.

 

First period was Biology with Mr. Calder, an aging Irish immigrant with red hair so evenly grayed it looked pink. He enjoyed teaching, but was being forced to retire due to budget cuts at the end of the school year despite having tenure. Zavan thought he was a pretty good teacher but a bit old fashioned. He tried to do some of the work in Mr. Calder’s class, but it was difficult to put what was in his mind onto paper, so the boy didn’t do well.

 

Art came after Biology, taught by Mrs. Argyle. She was strict, and didn’t understand there were more art styles than the ones she preferred, so the wiry, thirty-something brunette graded more harshly than she should have. Zavan had picked the elective because he thought it might be fun, and it probably would have been, had he had a better-rounded teacher.

 

Third period was math, Zavan’s favorite class. Ms. Renault was an energetic woman in her twenties with blonde hair and a passion for teaching. She had a way of making math simpler to understand. Zavan did better in her class than he’d done in years. It was the only A he made in his first quarter and the first A since fourth grade music class. He would continue to excel for the rest of the year in her class, proving he was paying attention in school and weakening the popular rumor labeling him as mentally inferior to the rest of the class.

 

After lunch, Zavan tended to be in a pretty decent mood from replenishing his calorie count as well as enjoying math class. Attending Phys Ed with Coach Perch wasn’t bad either. The coach was also the track coach for the school, so he liked to make his students run a lot. The Indian man was in his late thirties, but looked older due to thinning hair. Zavan was quite fast, but distracted and solitary so he didn’t do well in team sports, so he tended to even out at a C throughout the year.

 

English with Mr. Hampton began an inevitable downward slope as the end of the day approached. While the middle aged black man was kind and fair to his students, he graded on a flat scale, so it was difficult for Zavan to do well in class. The boy's refusal to do homework marked his downfall as he aced test after test to no avail. Mr. Hampton saw something in Zavan and tried to pull more from the quiet young man who doodled in the back of the room.

 

Zavan's last class was History. Mrs. Ellis had discouraged him from the start, having listened to the whisperings that the boy who did nothing was simply unable to keep up, but not slow enough to be put into remedial classes. When the woman told the class she'd be leaving, the young man assumed she'd be replaced with yet another apathetic teacher who would ignore him and let him fail. Mr. Holloway got his attention, though. The student couldn't decide if it was the deformed hand or just something about the man that drew him in and made him want to listen.

 

Chapter Three

 

The bus ride home seemed a relief to a tired and bored Zavan. The other kids ignored him for the most part, having learned long ago they couldn't incite a reaction from him. He stared out the window, watching clouds and making shapes in his head. Once at his stop, the boy stepped off the bus and sat down to wait twenty minutes for his sister in middle school.

 

"You know, Zav," she called to him as she approached, "You don't have to wait for me everyday. I know the way home by now." Zillah wore a pink shirt with cats on it over a pair of tight, dark blue jeans with rhinestone paisleys up the legs. Her light blue windbreaker matched her twinkling eyes.

 

"Mom would kill both of us if I didn't, Zilly," Zavan replied flatly. "Sandwiches or hot food for dinner tonight?" They turned the corner onto their street as Zillah thought for a moment.

 

"What do we have? Mom's payday is tomorrow, so we're like, short on everything right?" Zavan cringed inwardly at her abuse of like, but said nothing.

 

"We have spaghetti fixings and some stir fry mix left. I could make something with that. I'll need to make a shopping list for Dad before he gets home tonight so he'll know what we're out of. You need anything girly, or are you good?" Zillah groaned, mortified at her big brother's question. "Oh, get over it, Zillah, you know damn well Mom's too busy to make sure, and you also know I don't like to have to ask." It was a rare outburst from Zavan, usually so monotonous his sister mimicked him until he smiled to make her stop. The girl sighed.

 

"I'm fine," she answered. "Sorry. You could sneak an extra bag of gummies onto the list, though, to make up for it." Zillah's teasing tone told Zavan she had recovered from her adolescent behavior and was back to normal. He couldn't help but smile a little at her sweet tooth.

 

"You and those gummies..." he retorted. “You're gonna rot your teeth right out of your skull if you're not careful, Zilly. How much homework do you have?" The duo walked up the driveway and into their house, enjoying the sudden coolness of the air conditioner.

 

"Forty problems in math," Zillah answered, digging out her agenda from a stuffed backpack, "two pages in language arts, and some worksheet in science. Oh, and for history, we're supposed to write half a page about World War I and how it started. You?" Zavan shrugged, not bothering to look.

 

"Thirty math problems, three page essay for English in MLA format, and draw some sets of gene probability squares for science." He dropped his bag from his shoulder and walked to the kitchen to figure out dinner.

 

"Are you going to do any of it?" Zillah asked sarcastically.

 

"Math," Zavan called back. "Maybe I'll do science too, since it's just regurgitation and not thinking." He pulled out a large pot and began filling it with water. "Let me know if you need math help. You know that's all I'll be good at helping you figure out." The girl pulled a box of pasta and a large can of sauce from the cupboard and carried it to her brother.

 

"Remind me again why you don't do your homework even though you know all this stuff?" Zillah's question brought a sigh from her brother.

 

"What's it matter?" Zavan asked. "I'm not getting a job doing what I want, and I'm not getting any kind of scholarship like you and Zohar, so college is out." He measured out helpings of pasta and put them in a large bowl to wait as the water came to a boil. "You, however, need to do your homework if you want to get anywhere in life. This family only has room for one deadbeat and I already called it. Get, and don't come back to the kitchen unless you need help." Zillah left for her bedroom after retrieving her backpack and agenda.

 

Zavan went through the cupboards and noted all the groceries they needed on a checklist. He checked the fridge and made sure to put milk down twice so his father, Corbin, wouldn't forget like last time. Writing in gummies for Zillah, the boy tacked the list to the calendar directly over his father's schedule so it couldn't be missed. He prepared a glass of milk and brought it to Zillah's room along with a small plate of sandwich cookies.

 

"Thanks," Zillah beamed, and he snatched one from the plate and popped it into his mouth. "Hey," she protested comically.

 

"Tax cookie," he managed, muffled. "You're welcome, kiddo." Zavan returned to the kitchen, grabbing his bag from the other room, and opened up his math homework. The numbers, which previously spun before his eyes, fell into place. He breezed through the work, checking his math every few problems, and placed the finished page in his notebook. Turning to biology, the boy read the instructions to make sure it really was just filling in answers before doing the assignment.

 

Feeling particularly productive, he put the pasta into the now boiling water and covered it before looking at the English assignment on the off chance he'd be able to express himself. Define the grievances of the civil rights movements. Zavan groaned and returned the paper to his folder, a little disappointed that he wouldn't be able to do it. He decided to try to talk to Mr. Hampton to see if he could do the work orally. The boy knew the answers, but felt overwhelmed when told to put them on paper. He could cite websites and newspaper clippings from memory, so an oral exemption would be ideal, he mused.

 

As Zavan put his books and folders back into his bag, the front door opened. His father called out to alert the children to his presence. Zillah bounded out to give the man a quick hug before returning to her homework.

 

"Hello, Zillah," he greeted weakly, stumbling back at her embrace. "Zavan, has Zohar called? He was supposed to be here for dinner. What is for dinner, anyway?" The middle child checked the phone for messages or missed calls; there were none.

 

"There aren't any calls. Maybe he's just late. Stir-fry shoelaces tonight, Dad," he answered as the older, dark-haired man trudged through on his way to the living room. "We're really short on food. You'll need to go shopping tomorrow. Or give me money and I'll do it, and Zilly can walk herself the three blocks home. Your choice." The teenager grabbed the bag of vegetables from the freezer and dumped them into the pot with the spaghetti. His father kicked his shoes off and put his bag down by the couch before collapsing into the cushions.

 

"I'll ask your mom if she wants her walking alone," he called. "I'm not going to have time to shop until late tomorrow night, with work the way it is. Is this you not wanting to walk her home, or her not wanting a babysitter anymore, or is it you really wanting to help?" Zavan shook his head and walked over to his father after returning the sauce to the cabinet, since he wasn't going to use it.

 

"I don't mind walking Zillah," he explained calmly. "She mentioned today she feels old enough and mature enough to walk three blocks from the bus stop, but she knows you guys prefer I keep her company. I do want to help. It isn't like I'm swamped with homework, so I have time to buy food. Mom is busy even when she isn't working, and I know you're overworked. It's up to you guys. Just know I'm available if you need me." He strolled back into the kitchen to tend the spaghetti.

 

"I'm here," came a voice from the front door. It was Zohar. "Phone died, so I couldn't call you, sorry, Dad!" The tall, athletic college student bounded into the kitchen. "Hey, Zav, what's cookin'?" He slapped Zavan's shoulder amicably before heading to Zillah's room to greet her.

 

"Hey, Zo. Stir-fry shoela… And he's gone." Zavan muttered to himself. His mind wandered as he stirred the pot full of food. The boy grabbed some plates from the cupboard and made sure the food was ready before dishing out portions of the colorful concoction. "Dinner, guys! Dad, when's Mom supposed to be home?" He called out as he set the plates on the dining room table.

 

"She should be home in a few minutes," the head of the house answered as he took his seat at the end of the table. "Thank you for making dinner, Zav. It looks good." Zavan smiled a little at the praise. His brother and sister sat at their places, eyeing the food hungrily.

 

"Zavan, this looks delicious!" Zillah gushed, rubbing her hands together and tucking her napkin into her lap.

 

"Agreed, bro, looks great," Zohar confirmed with a nod. Zavan sat at his seat quietly, still mulling over his new teacher.

 

The family ate, his father asking about school and friends, his siblings doing most of the talking. The solitary teenager was content to listen to them go on about their lives.

 

"Zavan, I hear you got a new teacher this week," Corbin's voice broke through the shroud Zavan had thrown over himself. "What's he like?" The student finished chewing, picking his words.

 

"He's interesting," he started. "He's soft-spoken, but everyone pays attention, even though he's really new. He seems to be more interested in the students than Mrs. Ellis was." He took another bite.

 

"I heard he's got a gimpy hand," Zohar jumped in. "Like it's all stunted and missing a finger." He contorted his hand and reached creepily toward Zillah, who immediately protested.

 

"Zohar, cut it out," their father groaned. "So what if he's got a unique physical feature? If he can teach, nobody cares." Zohar shrugged.

 

"It's true, it is a bit disconcerting at first," Zavan admitted," and hard not to stare sometimes, but once he's been there a while, I think you're right Dad, it'll be a normalcy." He remembered a science teacher from middle school who had a similarly distracting hand. “Zillah, does Mrs. Kefauver still teach at your school? She had three fingers missing, but nobody seemed to mind. Anyway, I’m tentatively hopeful about Mr. Holloway.” Corbin nodded in acknowledgement as he chewed.

 

“Does that mean you’ll do his assignments?” Zohar asked, recalling his brother’s work ethic. Zavan just shrugged, electing to let his actions speak when he decided.

 

Dinner ended without incident, and Zavan took the dishes to the kitchen. As he washed, his father came in and picked up the faded yellow dish towel on the counter to help.

 

“You left some for Mom, I hope?” Zavan just nodded. “Zav, you know we appreciate you helping and cooking and everything, but your mom and I are worried. We know we haven’t really been supporting you much over the last several years—“

 

“Eight.”

 

“Eight years,” the man continued, mildly irritated, “But we haven’t been blind. You’re coasting. You’ve been coasting. And I think we’ve taken unfair advantage of your independence. You deserve better than the childhood you’ve been dealt, and for that I’m sorry. From now on I want you to have more fun, go hang out with your friends. You don’t need to cook and clean and be a maid. Zillah can do dishes and Zohar can vacuum and I can certainly cook for the family. I—“

 

“Stop, Dad,” Zavan interrupted again, holding a wet hand up. “First of all, I don’t have any friends. Everyone at school thinks I’m either weird or retarded. They don’t really pick on me as much anymore but only because I don’t react so it’s no fun anymore. Second, I don’t care about helping around the house. Someone has to do it and with your schedules and Zohar always at practice and Zillah until recently being a little young to start cooking, it just fell to me. I don’t resent it. It kinda sucks not having you around…at all…but without you guys working so much we wouldn’t have this house in this neighborhood with enough food except when you forget to shop.

 

“Maybe if we’d had this conversation a few years ago,” he went on, “it might mean something, but I’m about to graduate high school, provided I can manage to excel these last two years and get my GPA to passing. The whole ‘stop working so hard and go play’ window has closed. Right now I’m more in the ‘life is gonna suck without a miracle job falling into my lap right out of high school’ window. Got any advice for that?” The rare display caught Corbin by surprise.

 

“Deserved or not, that was a bit rude, but moving on,” he stated gently, recognizing the need for a real answer rather than a lecture, “what do you want to do? If money didn’t matter and grades didn’t matter and you could jump in right away making however much money you wanted, what is your dream?” The older man put his plate down and turned toward his son. Zavan sighed and put the bowl down, drying his hands with the damp towel.

 

“I have no idea. Maybe music or art or something. I have all the time I want to think about things and daydream since school hasn’t really clicked with me, but I still have no goals or dreams. Nothing draws me in, nothing fascinates me. A better observation would be everything fascinates me, but nothing outshines anything else. That’s what it means to have a goal, right? To want something more than other possibilities? I don’t want to do anything in particular. I just want to be left alone in my books and doodles and thoughts until I find something new and worth the effort.” He looked down, feeling chastised. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I wasn’t trying to be rude. Okay, I was, but I was trying not to be noticed in it. But I could have said it differently.” Corbin listened carefully and waited to speak.

 

“You know you’ve said more to me tonight than in a year?” He pointed out. “You’re not in trouble for snapping. If anything, I’m relieved you have the spirit to do so. Since you don’t know what you want out of life, I want you to try everything you can get your hands on. You say everything fascinates you. So dive in. Don’t waste your energy staying here all the time. Go learn who you are. Will you promise me you’ll do that?” The man begged his son. The boy turned back to the dishes, a thoughtful look on his face.

 

“Don’t you need my help, though?” Zavan asked softly. “You and Mom are so busy, the house would fall apart in a week. Short of getting a maid, which we don’t need and can’t really afford, nobody else is going to keep up here.” Corbin sighed and turned his son’s face toward him.

 

“We can afford one if we need to,” he insisted, “but I’ve already told you we can pick up some slack. Stop being an adult, Zav. That’s my job, and right now, your job is to explore. Do you need me to kick you out of the kitchen

to get my point across?” A half smile crossed his face.

 

“Alright, Dad,” Zavan conceded. “I’ll try to pick out my favorites. When is Mom supposed to be home?” A long pause broke the conversational flow as a defeated look crossed his father’s visage.

 

“She’s working late again. I don’t know if you’ll be awake when she gets home,” Corbin added. The observant sixteen-year-old picked up on dishonesty.

 

“You’re not telling me something,” he stated bluntly. The man stood up and patted him on the shoulder reassuringly.

 

“It’s not something you need to know, kiddo,” Corbin informed him. “Don’t worry about it. Worry instead about your English homework. Feel free to ask your old man for help. Remember, I kind of write for a living.” With that, he strolled into the den and picked up his laptop to start writing.

 

Zavan finished the dishes deep in thought. He was grateful for the reprieve from housework, but wasn’t sure how to “explore” as his father had put it. His mind was also ablaze with possible scenarios to make the man give an incomplete answer about his mother, Renee. He wondered whether asking the busy journalist for writing tips would be worth it, since the last time he’d asked, he’d gotten a gruff “ask your mother” from the man. That was a few years before, though, he reasoned. Maybe he’d help now.

 

After the dishes were cleaned and put away, the boy retired to his room, bringing his backpack with him to see about his English homework again. He glowered at the paper as he sat at his desk. Zavan knew the answers. He knew the majority of the complaints revolved around inequality and terrible living conditions and segregation laws. Thinking about the idea of segregation, the boy balked at the concept of such ridiculous laws so recently in his history. Then again, he argued, he knew of at least one racist teacher in his school. The old lady hid it fairly well, but Zavan could tell from the way she stumbled over ethnic names with a small amount of disdain, the way she stood up straight to loom over black kids when she spoke to them. She never outright insulted them but definitely graded more severely and called on them for difficult questions in class to showcase any weakness in their education.

 

Zavan recognized his wandering mind and put the homework away. A knock at the door startled him.

 

“Oh, sorry, Zav,” Renee said sheepishly, walking into his room. “I just wanted to say hi before you were asleep. Are you doing homework?” Her son smiled.

 

“Hi, Mom,” Zavan greeted. “I’m trying.” His mother’s long, blonde hair brushed his shoulder while she glanced over his planner.

 

“Well, I hope you’re able to. Ask us for help if you need it.” Renee kissed his forehead and left.

 

Zavan looked around his room, looking for something to play with. His aimless gaze fell on an old puzzle cube. He picked it up. Pacing around the somewhat messy room, the boy continued his pursuit of stimulation as he habitually twisted the cube, tossing it on his unmade bed when he’d solved it for the umpteenth time. An old art magazine caught his eye and he began flipping through it. The old bed creaked loudly as he leaped onto it, landing on a section of damaged springs. An undefined agitation began rippling through him, forcing him to put the magazine back on his nightstand, along with the puzzle cube.

 

He sat back down at his desk and pulled a piece of paper out, wanting to get the itchy energy out of his system. A pencil rested on his fingers as he tried to write out what he was thinking. Eventually, Zavan’s hand started moving at a steady pace as he babbled on about energy, then homework, then the conversation he had with his father, then every situation he could come up with that would have the man so perturbed. After a while, he put the pencil down, rubbing his sore wrist, and looked at the paper.

 

Zavan knew his handwriting was atrocious. It was part of the reason he refused to do much in school. He stared at his rambling prose and felt a little insecure about his desire to do well in class. After years of doing next to nothing, his penmanship wasn’t much better than a third grader’s. He wanted to make a decent impression on his new teacher, but how were his familiar teachers supposed to pick out anything from such chicken scratch, let alone a stranger to it? With a frustrated sigh, the boy placed the page in his desk drawer with two years’ worth of old attempted homework.



#2 Topazia

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 01:51 AM

I know it's a lot to read. But I'm so proud of it because it actually feels like decent writing and not like a 14yo wrote it!

#3 Horatio

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 10:32 PM

I know it's a lot to read. But I'm so proud of it because it actually feels like decent writing and not like a 14yo wrote it!

 

 

 

This is a very interesting story.  Your writing sure has improved.  Of course, you cut off the story to keep me hanging.  GRRRRRRR!  

 

I am going to re-read it again and will think of any constructive comments that I may have.



#4 Topazia

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 10:16 PM

Thanks! Oh please do. I'll put more up in a little while. I also have another story I could put up as am example of my recent writing style but I'm not sure its appropriate. Although, it is far better than some things you approved years ago.

#5 Topazia

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 10:21 PM

I'll post some of the other one under patchwork or zombiecat so you can decide if it's okay.



#6 Topazia

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 10:26 PM

here's the next two chapters of Occupied. Six is really long so I'll post the next two next.

---

 

Chapter Four

 

Friday. After a day of vaguely interesting classes, Zavan felt somewhat bored as he walked into History class. He trudged across the room to his desk and collapsed into it, dropping his bag to the floor carelessly. His neck was a bit sore as he rubbed it to relieve tension. Then he noticed Mrs. Ellis’s handwriting gone from the whiteboard, replaced with a single line of information: Why do we need history? Who are you? The teenager perked up a little, intrigued. As the room filled with students he tried to work out what his teacher was asking.

 

“Good afternoon, class,” Mr. Holloway greeted gently after the bell finished sounding. “Now that we’ve finished Mrs. Ellis’s pre-planned assignments, it’s time for me to start teaching you what history is. Who can tell me why we have history books, information on the past?” A moment passed in silence before a girl in the second row raised her hand. “Miss Rachelle?” The man prompted.

 

“So we know what happened?” She answered with a confused tone.

 

“Yes,” Mr. Holloway agreed with a nod. “But why? Why must we know what happened before we were born, or outside of our own experience?” He let her think a moment.

 

“So we can be right if someone asks?” The guess brought a slight smile to Zavan’s stoic face.

 

“Well, that’s one reason,” Mr. Holloway chuckled. “That’s not really important, though. I mean, it is if you want to graduate, but after school, history is still important, and not for the test grades. Let me ask you another question. Who are you?” His question stirred something within Zavan.

 

“I’m Rachelle Marquis.” She said dully.

 

“Alright, Rachelle Marquis,” Mr. Holloway continued. “How do you know you’re Rachelle Marquis, and not… Maxine Brown?” He gestured to her neighbor.

 

“Because my parents didn’t name me that,” She replied.

 

“Because your parents didn’t name you that,” He echoed. “You’ve been called Rachelle, not Maxine, your whole life, so of course you identify as Rachelle. You have an established past of being called Rachelle. Very good. Other than simply being known by your name and nothing else, I want to know who you are. Where have you been, what have you done, I want a bigger picture of you. Right now, all I see is a high school girl with a confused look on her face. How would I find that out? You can tell me all you want, but if I want to understand you on an unbiased but deeper level, how would I do that?” She shrugged, so he looked around the room expectantly.

 

“You’d look her up to see what she’s associated with,” an unfamiliar voice called from the back of the room. Everyone turned to see Zavan playing with his sunglasses.

 

“That’s right,” Mr. Holloway responded. “You’d look her up in history. In doing so, you’d find she’s a remarkable singer, friendly to new faces at school, and a steady B student. Right there I can gather what I need to determine that Rachelle is talented and bright, and generous with those attributes, sharing with others. Would you say that’s an appropriate conclusion, Miss Rachelle?” He turned to the now blushing girl, who nodded silently.

 

“What does that have to do with history?” A boy in the middle asked.

 

“What we consider as ancient history was once a current happening in someone’s life that they felt necessary to record so someone might one day know about it that wouldn’t otherwise,” Mr. Holloway explained. “How do we know the Civil War happened? People wrote about it, drew pictures of it. We have a record of it happening. If that record disappears, it still happened, but future generations can’t know about it and learn from the past so that maybe someday it doesn’t happen again. That’s an important part of our history as American citizens.” His answer fell on jaded ears. The students had heard it before.

 

“We’re a bit smarter now, and we know black people are the same as white people. That won’t happen again,” the boy said with a condescending look on his face.

 

“Actually the Civil War in the 1860s wasn’t about human equality. It was about whether slavery fell under property laws or human rights laws. The South felt they needed slavery to continue amassing great wealth from cotton, and the North felt slavery should end, because other ways of making money were available that didn’t strip people of basic dignity.” A girl in the back corner pushed glasses up her nose as she finished.

 

“That’s an interesting way to look at that, Claire,” Mr. Holloway agreed. “We’re getting off the subject. Your assignment for the weekend is this.” He turned to the whiteboard and wrote as he spoke. “I want a story. One memory you think is important as defining who you are. If you finish in class today, turn it in, but you do have all weekend. I want details. Where, when, how old were you? What bits did you notice, even if they didn’t affect the outcome of the moment? You don’t need to tell me why it’s important to you. You can, if you want, but I just want your history. Something you want people in the future to know about. One small paragraph won’t cut it. The best history lessons are rich in colorful, minute detail. I want at least one page, single-spaced, of individual history. You have the rest of class to work on it. Begin.” The man sat down at his desk and began reading a huge, dusty book with an ornate binding.

 

Zavan’s heart dropped. His first assignment, and it had to be a whole page of handwriting? He wanted to like this teacher, to do well and pass the class with at least a B, but a huge penmanship challenge right off the bat was unreasonable in his mind. He glared down at his bag and yanked out a piece of paper to attempt the work. The boy thought about what he wanted the older man to read. The only thing he could remember was a visit to his grandparents when he was four. It didn’t really define him as a person, but Zavan decided if it was all he could think of, it would have to do.

 

Suddenly he had an idea. He was a much better artist than author. Maybe he’d get an okay grade if he drew enough detail into a comic-style story. The boy grabbed a few more sheets of paper and started doodling. He tried to make it realistic, remembering what he’d seen of anatomy in Mr. Calder’s class. Zavan remembered the bookcases being very tall at his grandparents’ house, and his thin grandmother wore a pretty white dress that accentuated her wavy, shoulder-length white hair. He remembered his pudgy grandfather’s old sweater vest, an odd argyle pattern on it in green and brown. The more he drew, the more he remembered and tried to fit it all in. The rusty, squeaky swing set in the backyard as little Zavan was pushed into the sky, the warm blueberry pie that smelled like heaven but tasted a little bitter, and the decorative plates adorning every wall in the house brought back a sense of wonder and curiosity Zavan hadn’t felt in years.

 

Three pages later, he drew himself passed out in his car seat on the way home with his grandparents waving in the rear window. Three pictures of calendars, followed by two graves under a tree with flowers by the stones came after that. He flipped over the piece of paper and scrawled as neatly as possible, “I do not write.”

 

Zavan organized his pages neatly, tapping them on the desk to straighten them, and walked up to the big desk and set it down. He returned to his seat, noticing a few stares from the students. He’d never turned in a paper before, and certainly never before anybody else. The boy sat back down and started playing with his sunglasses again, waiting for the bell.

 

Mr. Holloway looked over his big book to see the “problem child” set something on his desk and walk away without looking at him. He immediately put down his book and looked over the paper. It was beautiful. There were no words anywhere, but the pictures were small enough and detailed enough he got a clear sense of what was going on. A little boy, meeting his grandparents. Shy at first, but treats and smiles quickly won. Drawn from a child’s view, the stretched perspective was endearing. The man could almost smell the blueberries and hear the aging creak of a swing in need of oil. He smiled at the exhaustion on the sleeping face at the end, and frowned at the sight of the two graves just three months after the story. Then he read the ragged writing on the back.

 

The teacher set the paper down and went back to his book, mostly using it as something to hold while he thought about what he’d just witnessed. This boy was trouble, the last teacher had told him. His school counselor had agreed, insisting he’d never get anything out of the quiet young man. But, instead of an immediate refusal to do work, he’d gotten an attempt to complete the assignment without humiliation. Mr. Holloway could tell the boy was left handed, and probably dyslexic, the way the letters were shaped. He smiled and realized he’d never said the assignment had to be written, only more than a page long and highly detailed. What a clever boy, he thought. I must speak with him today.

 

Once the bell rang, he said goodbye to everyone and waved at Zavan to get his attention. He curled his index finger, beckoning the boy, who instantly became wary as he approached. Once the room was clear, Mr. Holloway invited the boy to sit and walked around the desk to sit in a student desk next to him.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

Crap, Zavan thought desperately. He’s going to yell at me or flunk me or laugh at me or something. I knew it was a bad idea to turn in a stupid doodle.

 

“You’re not in trouble…” Mr. Holloway paused. “How do you say your name, Mr. McAllister? Mrs. Ellis and Mr. Fleming pronounced it differently.”

 

“It’s ZAH-van,” Zavan replied.

 

“It’s an interesting name. Have you looked it up?” The teacher asked curiously. Zavan nodded.

 

“It’s Hebrew. Zavan was one of Ezer’s sons in the Bible. It means restless.” He shrugged, still cautious of the man before him acting like his equal.

 

“Alright, Zavan,” the adult nodded, sitting up. “I wanted to talk to you about your work.”

 

“If it’s not acceptable, I’ll just take the F,” the boy blurted. “Not like I haven’t done that before.” Mr. Holloway just shook his head.

 

“It’s fine, actually,” he insisted. “I never said it had to be written, just a page or longer. You gave me three pages bursting with detail, and you were the only one done by the end of class. I can’t accept this kind of creative thinking all the time, but unless I outright say it must be written, or it’s really obvious it has to be, I’ll accept this from you. That being said,” he squirmed again. “These chairs really suck, don’t they?” He chuckled. “I wanted to thank you for turning this in.” Mr. Holloway indicated the paper.

 

“Why?” Zavan asked. “That’s an expectation of a student,” he added.

 

“Because I know you don’t,” the teacher told him. “I have to be honest, I was warned about you by name, mangled as it was. I was worried you’d shut me out too. I know this year you’ve been doing better than previous years in some of your classes, and frankly I wanted to be one of them. Why don’t you do your work?” The question hung in the cool, silent air.

 

“Part boredom, I guess,” Zavan shrugged.

 

“And the other part?”

 

“Words get stuck at my elbows.” The odd answer gave Mr. Holloway pause.

 

“They what?” He asked, looking for clarity.

 

“It’s hard to put thoughts onto paper,” Zavan elaborated. “It’s like they get caught somewhere between my head and my fingers. What I do eke out isn’t exactly pretty.” He looked down, a bit ashamed of his childish style.

 

“You’re doing quite well in math this year. That requires a lot of writing. What’s the difference?” Mr. Holloway inquired.

 

“Math is all numbers,” Zavan told him, “and numbers don’t change. Even letters are numbers in math, so it’s always the same combinations there. It’s not complicated. I know how to spell. I know how to write. I just can’t compose, I guess, is the right word. I’ll copy down information and spit it back out all day long, but ask for an original thought, and it slams shut.” He stopped talking. Mr. Holloway thought for a few seconds.

 

“That’s a good reason,” he assured the boy. “Then let’s try to work on that. I’m not going to force you to write every single assignment. But I would like you to try before you turn in an illustration. Real life doesn’t require nearly as much writing as school, but it does still come into play, and at the very least, you need to be able to communicate. So even if you don’t think it’s very good, I want proof that you tried. You can do that on the back of the page, or at the top, or at the end after you’ve finished, if you’d like, since then you’ll have already gotten the idea out and maybe it’ll be easier to put it in words. Does that sound doable?” Mr. Holloway watched Zavan think for a moment.

 

“Yeah, I guess,” the boy answered. “I better get to the bus before it leaves. See you Monday, Mr. Holloway.” He stood, prompting his teacher to stand as well, and left with a small smile on his face. He felt hopeful that his new teacher was really different than the rest. The young man hopped on the bus just before the driver closed the doors to leave.

 

“Little late there, buddy,” the driver greeted kindly. “Get lost?” Zavan just shrugged and walked silently to his spot in the back.



#7 Topazia

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 10:07 PM

I'll add more of this tomorrow.



#8 Horatio

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 09:19 AM

That would be fantastic.  I like this one as well as Jack.



#9 Topazia

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 04:08 PM

Chapter Six

 

Zavan stood at the corner waiting for Zillah, having never gotten an answer from his parents on the matter the previous night. As her bus arrived he stretched his arms and adjusted his bag. Zillah bounded off the bus, waving to her friends. She fell into step beside her brother as he started walking.

 

“What are you so happy about, Zav?” She asked suddenly. The boy looked down at her.

 

“What do you mean?” He asked.

 

“You’re walking faster and you’re bouncy,” she pointed out. He noticed he did have a bit of a spring in his step after the conversation at school.

 

“I just had a pretty good day is all. I might be able to do History homework this year,” Zavan added. “Mr. Holloway gave me permission to use alternative methods to communicate my thoughts.” Zillah looked at him funny.

 

“Like what?” She asked in confusion.

 

“Well, he let me draw today instead of write,” he explained. “I can’t do it all the time, but he said he’d take it over just giving me an F as long as I at least show an effort to write on the same page.” A soft smile broke his usually stoic shell.

 

“Oh, that’s cool,” Zillah piped up. “Maybe you’ll graduate after all if you can get away with that. I know you want to pass.” They walked up the driveway, noting the odd presence of their mother’s car. “What’s she doing home during the day?” The girl asked.

 

They entered the building and looked around for the woman. Zavan found a note and some money on the fridge.

 

Zavan,
Here’s a hundred bucks. Go get food. Keys are by the phone.
Mom

 

“Hey Zillah, Mom’s not here,” he called out, putting the money in his wallet. Zillah walked into the kitchen. “I’m going shopping. You coming or staying?” A grin broke out on the girl’s face.

 

“I wanna go!” She exclaimed, bouncing a little. “I can check off the list.” Zavan chuckled a little.

 

“Then c’mon, kiddo,” he beckoned, grabbing the keys. “Good thing I got my license over the summer. Grab the list.” Zillah did as she was told, and they left for the store.

While they were there, Zavan spotted Mr. Holloway in the frozen aisle. He smiled to himself, reminded of the man’s unexpected offer. Zillah saw the look and called him on it.

 

“What’s so happy?” The girl asked.

 

“That’s Mr. Holloway over there,” her brother replied, gesturing toward the man. “What’s next on the list?” Zillah looked at the list before answering.

 

“You put milk twice,” she commented, “but after that it’s egg noodles.” Zavan nodded and they moved toward the pasta aisle. “Which brand are we getting? That one is $1.58 and that one is $1.38.” The teenager thought about it.

 

“We’ve got about seventy bucks worth of stuff so far,” he mused, “and we’re only about sixty percent of the way through the list. There’s still meat to be crossed off, plus your gummies. Get the cheap one; noodles are noodles when I cook them.” Zillah grabbed the bag and dropped it in the cart.

 

“You’re really good at math,” she observed. “Should we go to the meat now to make sure we get enough of it? I don’t really need my gummies.” Zavan laughed and ruffled her hair.

 

“Tell you what, Zilly,” he chuckled, “if we don’t have enough, I’ll buy them myself.” She just smiled a little and poked his side as they walked toward the meat wall.

 

“You’re awesome,” Zillah divulged.

 

“Nah,” Zavan shrugged. “I’m okay. What meats are we getting?” His little sister checked the list.

 

“Cow, pig, and barn bird,” she read. “I take it back, you’re really weird.” Her bubbling laughter at his sarcastic list rang throughout the store.

 

“Why thank you,” Zavan shot back playfully, “I try.” A rare cheeky grin lit up his face. After they were done shopping, they got in line right behind Mr. Holloway.

 

“Oh, hello, Zavan,” the teacher greeted pleasantly.

 

“Hi, Mr. Holloway,” Zavan returned. Zillah stood a little behind him, looking a bit nervous. “Why are you hiding, twerp?” He teased gently. She smiled sheepishly and waved.

 

“It’s alright,” Mr. Holloway shrugged. “I’m a stranger, that reaction isn’t bad. You’re shopping with your family?” The man put his hand in his pocket to ease the girl’s nerves.

 

“Nope, just me and my sister today,” Zavan answered. “Mom and Dad are working until late, so they had me do it.” Mr. Holloway looked at him curiously.

 

“Do you always shop?” He asked.

 

“Nah,” the boy responded easily, “just today. I volunteered. Besides, Zillah here needs her gummies, right, kiddo?” Zillah beamed, having recovered from her initial shyness.

 

“Oh, yes, we wouldn’t want to deprive her of those,” Mr. Holloway chuckled as the cashier finished checking his things. “It’s been pleasant, Zavan. I’ll see you in school. Yes dear? Sorry about that.” He turned to the cashier with a smile and paid.

 

“He’s nice,” Zillah remarked as they emptied their cart.

 

“Yeah,” Zavan agreed. “Why’d you hide behind me? You’re never shy,” he added.

 

“I didn’t want to see his hand,” she answered with red cheeks. “It made me uncomfortable.” The boy nodded in understanding.

 

“Okay,” he told her. “Imagine how he feels, with everyone trying to avoid looking at it or being weird around him.” She looked down guiltily. “It’s not your fault you’re uncomfortable. It’s just inexperience. If you knew someone with a physical difference or disability, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal for you. Just remember that people are more than just their differences. Make eye contact, just like you would with anybody else.” The cashier smiled at hearing his advice.

 

“You’ve got a good head on you,” she remarked. “It’s $102.48, sir.” Zavan smiled a little and handed her the money, pulling three dollars from his own money.

 

“Told you I’d buy your gummies, Zilly,” he said. He took the change and receipt from the cashier and tossed the candy in Zillah’s direction. She caught it deftly.

 

After dinner that night, Zavan heard his parents talking in the living room. He snuck out to listen.

 

“Renee, what about the kids?” He heard his father ask. “They wouldn’t understand. Never mind what I think; they are our children, and we have to take care of them together.” Zavan sat, suddenly not wanting to hear the conversation. A glass clinked as his mother put down her drink.

 

“They are certainly old enough to understand it has nothing to do with them.” She sighed. “Corbin, I love you. I love our children. But with work the way it is, and our schedules always so full… We haven’t even…” She got quieter. “We haven’t even touched each other in a year, honey.” Zavan winced at the implied visual.

 

“Then let’s,” Corbin protested. “Renee, work is secondary. Family comes first. Ask your boss for a better schedule. Ask for a raise to counter it. We’re not struggling at all. We would be fine if one or both of us cut back from work a little and focused on the kids. Do you realize Zav has taken on all the responsibilities at home? All of them! He cooks, he cleans, he does laundry. It’s no wonder the boy has all but dropped out of school! He must be exhausted, and then to expect homework out of him? We don’t do anything here except work and sleep.” The man sighed.

 

“Corbin…” Renee’s voice was soft.

 

“It isn’t fair what we’ve done to him,” Corbin insisted. “If he fails to graduate, it’s our fault. Don’t give me that look, Renee. You work eighteen hours a day and sleep the other six. I work twelve hours a day and come home completely drained because my bosses demand so much. I have the energy to eat dinner and collapse in front of the TV for an hour before I’m done. I have no idea how the other two managed to pull themselves through school with such success, but I don’t blame him for one minute for his utter lack of effort over the last eight years.” He paused.

 

“Corbin, stop,” Renee pleaded. “I’ve thought of that. I don’t know how to cut back from work, okay? I’m in charge of so much. They need me.”

 

“We need you,” Corbin interrupted. “I would live in a flea-infested motel room with just the clothes on our backs if it meant we’d have more time with our kids. They’re growing without us, Renee. They’re all going to be gone within ten years, and we’ll have completely missed them.”

 

“But this offer would mean so much money,” she sighed. Zavan blinked. It wasn’t divorce they were discussing. “It’d only be for a year or two…” His mom was being offered a raise, but she’d have to leave? For two years? That’s the rest of my childhood, he thought.

 

“So Zavan would exit high school without you,” Corbin said. “Zillah would enter high school and probably puberty without you. I don’t want to be the only one she can turn to for that! How mortifying for her! Zohar would be fine, since he’s in college and barely lives here anyway. Turn it down, Renee. We don’t need the money. We don’t need what we have now. I’ll buy a used car so we can drop that payment. I’m a freelancer. I can write from home for part of my shift if need be. But you need to cut something out too. They need a mother.” Zavan took the opportunity to get a glass of water.

 

“What are you talking about?” He asked as he walked by.

 

“I have a job offer that I don’t know if I should take,” Renee answered. Zavan went in and sat down.

 

“What is it?” He asked.

 

“It’s a two-year stint with our bigger branch in Texas. It’s something like twenty percent more than what I make now, plus an up-front bonus of ten grand. But I’d have to relocate for the duration.” He sipped, listening.

 

“Is the money that important?” Zavan asked.

 

“Well, your father was just saying we’re not hurting, but that bonus would buy braces for Zilly and you a car,” Renee told him.

 

“I don’t need a car, I take the bus so I can walk her home,” Zavan answered. “Her teeth aren’t that crooked, and our insurance pays for most of it anyway. Next reason?” She arched an eyebrow at his response.

 

“You needed a car today,” she told him. “You don’t want the freedom to go out with a girl or your friends sometime?” Zavan shook his head.

 

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” he responded. “I don’t have friends. I don’t want you to leave.” Renee listened to what he was saying carefully.

 

“Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll tell them no tomorrow.” Zavan smiled and stood.

 

“It’d be nice if we could see you more,” he mentioned as he retreated to his bedroom. “Goodnight, Mom and Dad.” He heard his mother pick her drink back up as they responded in kind.



#10 Horatio

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 09:59 PM

Topazia, this is really, really good.  Would you please continue?  You always leave me hanging.



#11 Topazia

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 11:12 PM

Of course I will. I only have one more chapter; I haven't been able to think of what comes next so when I've posted the rest I'd love any suggestions.

#12 Topazia

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 08:53 PM

Chapter Seven

 

After an uneventful weekend, Zavan walked into Mr. Calder’s classroom and took his usual spot in the back. He pulled out his textbook and opened it to the pages on the board. Today’s lesson was about zygotes. The boy shook his head, knowing the giggles that would come from the class as they perused the illustrated reproductive organs on the page.

 

“Good morning, Mr. McAllister,” Mr. Calder piped up in his usual brogue. “Perusin’ today’s lessons, are we?” A warm smile graced the elderly man’s face.

 

“Yes, sir,” Zavan replied. “Trying to get a grasp on it before the giggling hordes show up.” His comment brought a hearty laugh from his teacher.

 

“True, true,” the man answered, “this time of year always seems to bring out the most ribald of student comedians. You’ll let me know if you’ve questions, won’t you?” Zavan nodded and went back to his studying. True to form, the class was disruptive and coarse, but Mr. Calder took it in stride and did his best to keep control of the discourse. After class, the man called Zavan aside.

 

“Yes, Mr. Calder?” The boy acknowledged, wondering if these after-class conversations were becoming a trend.

 

“I won’t keep you too long, I just have a question for you,” his teacher assured him. “Why do you pick and choose your work in this class? It’s clear you know the material through what I do get and from your tests, but why so little?” Zavan shrugged.

 

“I don’t write,” he answered.

 

“Why not? You’re clearly able to,” Mr. Calder added.

 

“My thoughts don’t fit on paper,” Zavan elaborated, shrugging a little. “I can write answers and facts, but thoughts most easily escape verbally.” His teacher nodded.

 

“I’ll see what I can do to accommodate that,” he said. “I want you to do as well in my class as I keep hearing Ms. Renault say you’re doing in hers. If you want to graduate, you’ll need to. Go on, then, I don’t want to make you late.” Zavan bade him farewell and briskly strode to art class.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Argyle,” he greeted as he wandered past her desk.

 

“Good morning, Zavan,” she responded stiffly. Her barely pleasant salutation set the tone for the class, bringing a sigh from Zavan. He listened to her teachings for the day and started to doodle on his paper, trying to recreate the Mona Lisa print hanging on the wall next to him for the duration of class. When the bell rang, he bolted out the door before she could call him back.

 

“Hey, ‘tard! Watch where you’re going!” Zavan turned to the burly boy he had brushed up against. Another sigh escaped his lips as he saw who it was: Brian Frederick. The varsity quarterback towered over the quiet teen and snarled, a snaggletooth peeking out between his lips.

 

“Sorry,” Zavan muttered and turned to leave. A sausage-fingered hand landed heavily on his shoulder and whipped him back around.

 

“Don’t walk away from me, chicken!” Those that could hear the conversation let out a collective “ooh” as Zavan just blinked.

 

“Then how am I supposed to not bump into you?” He asked politely. His question was answered with a hard shove into the wall, spilling several pencils from his backpack. The boy immediately dropped to pick them up as Brian’s meaty fist pounded into the locker where his face had just been. Once he had them all in his hand, the boy darted through a gap in the crowd to escape.

 

“Keep running, coward!” Brian bellowed after him, but Zavan just resumed his trek to math class, ignoring the name-calling bully. He ducked into the classroom looking a little harried.

 

“Rough morning, dear?” Ms. Renault’s pleasant voice brought a smile to his face.

 

“Just ran into Brian. Literally,” the boy smiled. His teacher nodded and clucked a little. “What’s today’s assignment?” He asked, sitting in the second row.

 

“We’re starting matrices this week. I think you’ll enjoy those, Zav,” the young woman told him. Zavan opened his book to the chapter and started reading. “You know I wonder sometimes if I have taught you anything at all,” she teased, bringing a genuine smile from Zavan.

 

“You taught me the right way to write numbers,” he teased back, referring to her habit of making the bottom part of her writing thicker than the top. Ms. Renault paused, head cocked.

 

“Do you have trouble writing numbers?” She asked. Zavan nodded. “What about letters, those too?” Another nod followed after a moment’s thought. “Zavan, I’m dyslexic. I write like that because it tells my brain which way letters go more easily than normal writing.” More students came in, so they stopped talking. Class went quickly, and when it was over Zavan stopped to talk to her on his way out.

 

“I thought people with dyslexia couldn’t read,” he said. “I’ve been an avid reader for years, it’s just hard to write.” Ms. Renault smiled.

 

“Dyslexia is just one of a number of learning disabilities that can make it difficult to read, write, or process written information,” she explained. “Dyslexia affects the mind’s ability to process written information and can subsequently impact writing ability. Dysgraphia can hinder writing function in a number of ways. Dyscalculia interferes with math comprehension, and dyspraxia is a motor disorder that doesn’t always present itself as a writing problem, but can affect penmanship.” The kind teacher paused to let the boy respond to the information.

 

“I didn’t know all that,” Zavan admitted. “I’ve only ever heard of dyslexia. How does dysgraphia affect writing?” Ms. Renault thought for a moment.

 

“It affects the orthographic coding process,” she answered. “That is the ability to conjure letters in the mind before putting them onto paper. It’s especially difficult to write new or unfamiliar words. There are a few different types of dysgraphia. You should do some research and see what you find. You can draw, though, and dysgraphia affects that. Do you hold your pencil the same way when drawing and writing?” A moment passed as Zavan thought about it.

 

“No,” he replied, and showed her. “This is how I write,” he said, holding a pencil tightly with the length of his thumbnail touching the wood under his fist. “But I draw like this,” he added, changing his grip to something gentler with his thumb on the side of the pencil where most people put it.

 

“Does it hurt to write? Like actual physical pain, not cramping?” Ms. Renault asked. Zavan nodded. “Talk to your parents about it. In the meantime, though, do me a favor and try to write while holding the pencil like you’re drawing. Can you do that?” The boy nodded again.

 

“I can try,” he agreed. “Oh! I gotta go!” He exclaimed, glancing at the clock. “Bye, Ms. Renault!” She called in farewell as he ran out, hoping to beat the crowds at the cafeteria.

 

It was very busy, but most of the other students had already gotten their meals by the time Zavan made it to the line. As he moved forward, he thought about what Ms. Renault had said. He knew that having a learning disability didn’t make someone stupid; a lot of comedians and well-known people had it. And his teacher was really smart, and she had one. It just meant retaining and reproducing information was more difficult, not impossible. But the boy also knew he went to a school full of judgmental, hormone-flooded jerks that would love more reasons to hate him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to put yet another label on himself, especially one that sounded like it agreed with his supposed lack of intelligence.

 

He put his numbers in on the computer to pay for his lunch and meandered through the lunch room to a far corner, separated from his peers so he could think and not listen to the conversations. Chairs are overrated, he thought as he plopped down on the ground and took the wrapper from his plastic fork. The meal tasted alright, but was barely nutritious enough to qualify as “food”. Zavan continued to let his mind wander after he finished eating, making his way to the conveyor belt that took trays to be washed. There was still a few minutes before the bell rang, so he stepped outside to the courtyard to enjoy some fresh air. He noticed a girl he didn’t recognize staring at him and waved. She smiled and approached.

 

“I like your hair,” she commented in a thick Cajun accent. “I’m Sarah.” She offered a hand and he took it.

 

“Zavan,” he responded. “You’re new, Sarah.” The girl nodded, laughing.

 

“How could you tell?” She joked, brown eyes flashing mischievously. “Was it the accent?”

 

“No,” Zavan said. “Though it was a clue. If you weren’t new, you’d have never come talk to me,” he shrugged, staring off. She cocked her head.

 

“Why? You seem normal enough to me,” she added.

 

“I am quite normal,” Zavan admitted, “but kids who grew up around me think I’m ‘special.’”

 

“You don’t sound like it,” Sarah commented. “So since I’m new and you’re alone, want to be friends?” It was Zavan’s turn to #### his head.

 

“Really?” He turned his head to make sure there wasn’t anyone behind him. “You want to be friends with me?” He wasn’t sure what to make of the tanned, slightly overweight girl before him.

 

“Well sure,” Sarah laughed, her light brown hair falling into her face as she tilted forward. “Why not?” Zavan took a moment to recover.

 

“As a social pariah, I’m not used to people coming up and asking to be friends,” he answered. “But yeah, sure.” Sarah grinned.

 

“If it makes you feel better, I wasn’t exactly prom queen material back home,” she teased. “So we can be social pariahs together, right?” He had to smile at her playfulness.

 

“Sounds like a bad hipster band,” he quipped. “Social Pariahs Together. Probably too heavy on trumpets and awkward synths.” Sarah picked up on the joke.

 

“Yes,” she agreed, “with song titles like Sharin’ No. 1 and The Jetsons Are Dead.” They laughed at their fictitious band and found an empty bench.

 

“So you came from Louisiana,” Zavan prompted. “What’s it like there?” His new friend smiled nostalgically as she thought about it.

 

“Warm and dangerous,” she answered. “I lived on a houseboat by a swamp. It was small, and we were poor, but I’d be lyin’ if I said I hated it. It was me and my folks, and our three dogs. Billy, Scraps, and Hitler,” she laughed. “Hitler was a pit. We named him that ‘cause he was white with a black spot on his nose, but he was the biggest baby you’d ever meet. Scraps was the top dog, always pickin’ fights with the bears and gators. He was half wolf, half lab. Billy is my boy. He’s a pit too, only all brown. He’s the sweetest dog in the world, and he keeps me safe, even if it’s from a wad of dryer lint.” Zavan picked up on her tense change.

 

“Was, is? What happened to them?” He asked.

 

“Scraps lost a fight with a gator and got ate,” she sighed, “And Hitler was my old man’s dog. They kept the houseboat when Mama and Pa got a divorce. But now Mama and I are here with Billy. I think he misses the woods, but he’s got a big enough yard here and we’re close to a dog park, so he’ll be okay after a while.” Sarah turned to Zavan.

“What about you? What’s your life like?” He shrugged.

 

“I’m the middle child of two busy parents with no friends and bad grades,” he answered simply. “Okay, one friend,” he added when he saw a sarcastic pout on her face. “What, did you want more?” The girl nodded. “Alright. I’ve lived here all my life, in the same room in the same house. I had a cat for seven years, but he got hit by a car last April. Anything else?” Zavan smiled a little, enjoying the unexpected conversation.

 

“What do you do?” Sarah asked. Zavan looked at her, confused. “If you have no friends, what do you do for fun?” The boy nodded in understanding.

 

“I read, draw, or listen,” he explained. “I like puzzles, both cardboard and three-dimensional. Other than that, I just daydream, really. You?” Zavan squirmed a little.

 

“I run a lot,” Sarah replied. “It clears my head. Anythin’ active and solitary is fun. Climbin’ trees, explorin’, hikin’… I used to go huntin’ with Pa, but there’s not a lot of places for that around here. I also like video games, though. I’m pretty good at first-person shooters.” The bell rang, bringing a sigh from the girl.

 

“What class do you have next?” Zavan asked.

 

“Math,” Sarah answered. “Then I’ve got Ecology and then History. You?”

 

“P. E.,” Zavan said, “English, and History. Who’s your teacher for History?” The girl pulled out her schedule to look.

 

“It says Ellis, but that’s not his name,” she said with a contemplative look.

 

“You’ve got Mr. Holloway too?” Zavan clarified, feeling a little excited.

 

“Yeah, that’s it,” Sarah exclaimed in recognition. “Friday was my first day here,” she related. “It seemed like he wanted to get our attention with the lesson. Did you finish your paper? I did this mornin’ on the bus. I couldn’t decide what to write.” The girl shrugged.

 

“I turned it in during class,” Zavan told her. She turned.

 

“I didn’t recognize you. What did you write? I saw you turn in a whole stack of papers,” she added.

 

“I related the time I met my grandparents,” he replied.

 

“It must have been some experience to fill three pages,” Sarah opined. “You must write really fast.” A moment passed while Zavan decided whether to tell her he drew it.

 

“I don’t,” he said, deciding not to lie. “I don’t write often, and when I do it’s slow-going and basically unreadable. I drew it. If I could write, it would have only been about a page long.” Silence hung in the air.

 

“He lets you draw your work?” Sarah asked.

 

“No,” Zavan explained. “That was his first assignment. I used the technicality that he didn’t use the word written when he communicated his expectations to us to my advantage. Luckily he was in a mood to accept it.” He shrugged a little.

 

“That’s pretty ballsy,” Sarah commented. She sounded impressed.

 

“It’s desperate measures,” Zavan countered. “Right now I’m sitting on about a 1.2 GPA,” he revealed. “I need to be perfect for these last two years if I intend to pull it up to 2.0 by the end of senior year. I’m not starting off very well, except in math. I figured if Mr. Holloway would take what I gave him, it’d be better than a zero, and if he didn’t, I wasn’t any worse off.” They reached the point where they needed to split to get to class.

 

“I’ll see you in History, Zavan,” Sarah told him, smiling. Zavan responded in kind and made his way to the locker room. The boy quickly changed and walked to his spot on the gym bleachers.

 

Chapter Eight

 

“Good afternoon, class,” Coach Perch greeted when everyone was assembled. “Last week we completed the basketball requirements and we aren’t due to start track and field until Thursday, so the next few days will be running laps. Twenty minutes outside then back in for unstructured free exercise. Get those legs moving!” Zavan smiled and filed out with the rest of the class. He enjoyed running days more than anything else in gym class. He could zone out and just think instead of trying to deal with classmates.

 

[That's it. I have nothing left. Ideas?]



#13 Horatio

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 10:41 PM

Terrific, I am excited.  I will be reading these first thing tomorrow morning.  Right now my eyes are too tired to even read my name.



#14 Horatio

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:39 PM

OUTSTANDING!!!!!!  This is getting better and better!!!  Dug deep inside and find something to write... please!!!!






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