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Young Writers Project: Kindergarten Reading

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Kindergarten Reading
By Matthew Blow
Grade Eleven, Mount Mansfield Union High

The last time I took my ability to speak for granted I was reading a book to kindergartners.
Two of them.
Both boys, both with with blond hair.
One seemed to be perpetually angry at the world.
He didn't talk much.
He probably spent the entire time I was reading plotting to take over the world.

The other kid was different.
He talked often.
But there was something wrong.
Something in his voice sounded broken.
Like a record with scratches all over.
He had a hard time paying attention to the book.
He would show me things he found on the ground.
Like a lint
or a golden sparkle,
or a piece of the rug that came loose.

I'd be lying if I said I was a good reader that day.
I deserved the A I got that day less than any A I've ever earned.
Sure, I spoke fine, and in public, too.
That's what you do in Public Speaking class.
But what I didn't do was adapt.
I would stop and listen.
But what do you tell a kid when he picks up a piece of a rug and hands it to you?
"Thank you"?
"What's this?"
"Sit down, shut up and listen"?

And what was I supposed to tell him when he asked me,
straining to get words out
(another issue with his speech, he took forever to piece words together)
"Why do you talk normal?"
Apparently it doesn't take a high school AP class to realize that the world isn't fair.
And the kid pointed it out like a gun directed right at me.
Why did I talk normal?
But it wasn't me it was aiming for, it was the world.
Because the world had made him different.
And he sees it.
He sees it, but there's nothing he can to about it.
So he points it at me like I can find the answer.
Like I, some stuck up high school know it all can explain to him
why it is that he doesn't get to speak well,
but I do.
I get to speak with a fluid voice,
and here he is, asking why.
I used to hate my voice.
I stop.
At that moment, I'm just happy I have one.

He's still waiting for an answer.
I tell him that someday he will be able to speak normal.
That if he just gives it enough time,
he won't have any problem speaking at all.
He doesn't ask again.
But he stares at me.
He and I both know I'm lying.
But he lowers the question, unload the bullets,
because he realizes that I don't have the answers.
I may be huge compared to him.
I may know more far more than he does.
I may have been alive for three times as long as he have.
But I have no better answer than he does.

I spend the entire drive home thinking about this kid.
How is it fair for life to start him off without the preparedness to learn to speak?
Why does it have to be him?
I wonder how he will grow up.
He will probably get made fun of.
He will probably never be able to get rid of his likely vocal disability.
He will hate himself.
He will hate the world.
And he will hate me for telling him that everything would work out.
I hope he does.
If it makes him feel any better,
let him hate me all he wants.
But it won't.

I wish that this was a game of poker.
And I could just deal him another hand.
But life does not work like a poker game.
I hope he finds it in his heart to forgive them.
All the kids who will torment him,
all those who have ever doubted him,
or the teachers if they ever say he won't amount to much.

Kid, I want to watch as you prove me and the rest of the world wrong.
Show us how to make your pair of twos a royal flush.
And kid, if you don't, realize that this was never your fault.
This difference, it's not about you,
it's about the people who think it's about you.
The people who may make you go through Hell because you are different.

Kid, I hope you become a speech teacher when you grow older.
I hope you become a public speaker.
I hope you become the President!
I hope you prove anyone who ever doubted you wrong!
And I hope, more than anything, that you can find a way to be happy.

The world dealt you a terrible hand.
But play it anyway.
The deck is stacked,
but play anyway.
The cards are rigged.
Change them.

Kid, if you're looking for an answer to your question
I still don't have it for you.
But I'll go searching.
And I will find it for you one day.
When I hear your story in headlines, the little boy who could
when I see you on stage,
when I see how you change the world for the better.
Or maybe I'll see you break.
Maybe you'll crumble.
But I think there's more to you than that.

I took a souvenir from you that day.
Your gun is with me now.
bullets loaded, pointed at an empty piece of paper on my desk.
Maybe, one day, it'll have something on it.
 

Learn more about the Young Writers Project's newest anthology of work by young Vermont writers.

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