Thursday, April 8, 2010

Exceptional - Part 3

This is part 3 of our continuing story. Please read the posts from the previous two Thursdays if you haven't already. Enjoy.

James sat on the edge of his bed with his eyes on the floor and let his father talk. They’d had talks like this before and James always seemed to look down at the grey carpet of his room. Usually it was because he was ashamed of something he’d done. This time was different. This time, he didn’t feel he had done anything wrong, yet he knew he must let his father talk.

“Forgetting a few assignments is one thing,” he said as he paced in front of James, “but every single one of your teachers has sent a note home and they’re all the same. James knows the material. He scores well on tests but is not completing his homework assignments. You have a D in Algebra!”

His father stared daggers into him. James looked up for just a second as he felt them. He knew his father was half expecting a response, but James had heard enough lectures to know by this point that you don’t speak unless asked a question.

“It’s like you’ve consciously decided not to do your homework.”

What James’ father didn’t know is that was exactly what James had decided to do. His classes seemed to become more boring each day. James had actually read ahead in all of his textbooks. Some time ago he had read beyond the material that was to be covered by the end of the year. He passed every test with flying colors and knew the material before the teacher presented it. Homework was a waste of his time.

Instead, he had spent every spare moment honing his new found physical skills. Over the past few weeks he had been lifting weights, doing push ups and running for miles at a time on the way home from school instead of taking the bus. James was fascinated at what good shape he was in and felt a drive to push himself further physically every day.

At night, James dreamt of fighting older kids at school who had once bullied him and others like him. In these dreams, he would beat them up easily and then always do something at the end to humiliate them. In one dream, he made a particular bully stuff his own underwear in his mouth. In another, he forced a boy who had once stolen James’ bike to lick the bottom of his shoe.

James noticed his father staring at him again and thought, Still no question, dad. You’re getting nothing until you ask.

“Is that what you’ve decided to do,” his father asked as if he’d read his mind, “skip all your homework?”

“Of course not,” James said quietly. Just because his father finally asked didn’t mean James was required to provide an honest answer.

“Then tell me, why aren’t you doing your homework?”

James sighed in order to buy time for an answer. Half truths come out more naturally than flat-out lies, he decided.

“I’m bored,” he said. “I know all the stuff the teacher’s saying, dad. I almost feel like I could teach the class. When I get home, I guess I just forget about the work because I don’t really feel like I have to practice to get it.”

His father produced the crumpled up teachers’ notes from his back pocket and skimmed through them. “They all say you’re getting the material,” he said, eyes on the notes, “but you still have to do the homework just like everybody else. You’re no better than they are.”

“Yeah I am,” James said suddenly. He realized immediately that he had just broken his cardinal rule about speaking up in these situations. It was too late now, he had to explain. “I am better, dad. I’m smarter than all the other kids. I’m way ahead. I ace practically every test. And didn’t you say there was nothing wrong with being better at things?”

James’ second rule was not to get into an argument over things. No matter how little sense what his father or mother said made, never throw their own words back in their face. Just accept it and move on because you can’t win an argument with a parent. It was a good way to get grounded. Now he’d broken this rule as well.

His father opened his mouth and took a deep, angry breath. He stood up straight, puffed out his chest and seemed to tense every muscle in his body. He looked like a dragon about to incinerate James by summoning flames from deep down inside his belly. He looked extremely intimidating and suddenly, James felt afraid. But, just as quickly as he reared up, his father closed his mouth and blew the breath loudly out of his nose, seeming to shrink as he did so.

“I did say that,” James’ father said. His voice was far quieter than James thought possible from someone who had just looked so very large. “But this is not what I meant. I don’t want you to restrict your natural talents just to fit in. That doesn’t mean you have a different set of rules. Don’t be cocky.”

His father turned suddenly and stormed out of James’ room, slamming the door behind him.

“You are not to come out of there until you’re getting ready for school in the morning,” his father shouted. James heard him easily through the walls.

Soon, James heard the door to their attached garage open and slam shut. Then he heard a great deal of loud banging. He was sure his dad had thrown something. He couldn’t remember ever seeing him so angry.

James sat for a while on his bed, thinking of how little his father understood about him. He made himself promises about how he would treat his own son someday, knowing even as he made these promises that every other teenage boy before him had probably done the same, only to break the same promise. James thought he would be different. He had a confidence about him lately that told him he could do better. He felt like he could do everything better, in fact, not just certain things as his dad had told him. If only he could make people listen.

Like he’d become accustomed to doing, James took out his frustration with physical activity. After several hours’ worth of pushups and sit-ups on the floor of his bedroom, James found it was eleven o’clock. He sat motionless for a moment and listened carefully. He heard nothing. James peeked carefully out of his bedroom door then ventured sheepishly to the garage. He turned on the light and was relieved to find nobody there.

After closing the door silently behind him, he wandered about for a minute. James wanted to see what it was his father had thrown. He inspected various items for damage. Everything seemed in perfect order, just as it had been before.

Eventually, as he was about to return to the solitude of his room, James noticed a large dent in the hood of his father’s car. As he touched the dent with his hand, James imagined his father bringing his fist down in anger on the hood. James could even make out the point where the knuckles met the back of his hand.

For a moment, James was impressed. Then he shook his head. Even if it was a lame car, putting a dent in it seemed silly to James. On top of that, he was disappointed in a way he couldn’t explain. He thought his father would have done something more destructive. James recalled how large his father had seemed before storming out and was looking to find something mangled or smashed beyond recognition. He sort of wanted to find his mountain bike torn into pieces or a bowling ball sized hole in the overhead door. Instead, there was just a dent in a dinky Honda. James recalled he’d made a dent of similar size with his own head in his locker.

James shut off the light and left the garage. He never discovered the steel garbage bin, crushed flat like an aluminum soda can, hidden beneath his father’s Civic.

To Be Continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment