The Drowning Gull 1 - Page 67

eyeglasses, clunky shoes and dark suits like my dad’s except with a skirt instead of pants. If I see her coming on the way to school, I cross the street.

I wish I could go back to second grade. After lunch, sometimes I sneak back to Mrs. Boggs’ classroom. I know I’m not supposed to because it makes Miss Blackheart furious; her face gets dark red, and it scares me.

Other times, I go home in the middle of the day. I make the long walk on busy city streets all by myself without my big sister. It’s weird being the only kid out there; at stoplights I wait until the grown-ups cross before I go. When I get home, Mom is surprised to see me, but she understands.

I’m doing fine in reading, spelling and all the other stuff. I used to be good at arithmetic, but not anymore. Miss Blackheart won't help me. My mom called her, but she still wouldn’t help, so I keep getting zeroes on arithmetic tests. I guess I’m not good at numbers.

At night, I have nightmares. A lot of nights I sleep in my parents’ bed, but sometimes they shout, "No! Go back to bed.” I don’t know why it’s okay on some nights but on other nights their door is locked, they get mad, and no matter how loud I cry they make me go back to my bed. On those nights my sister wakes up and she gets mad, too. My mom took me to a special doctor who helps kids who have bad dreams. He asked me if I have a window in my room, and I said yes. He said when the dreams wake me up I should go to the window to watch the wild geese fly. All I see from my window is the building across the alley. We didn’t return.

Finally my dad took time off from the office so he and mom could go to see the principal. They asked her to find out what I’d missed in arithmetic so they could help me catch up. She wouldn’t make my teacher tell them at first, but my dad kept at it until she did. I’d missed something called borrowing that you use when there’s a minus sign, so I couldn’t get any of the answers right. Mom and Dad showed me how to do it, so I get no more zeroes in arithmetic. But I still hate arithmetic and I still hate Miss Blackheart (I made up that name; I remember all of my elementary school teachers’ names except hers).

That was my last year in Chicago’s public schools. During the following year, we moved to our own house in the suburbs. Our house wasn’t even finished but we moved in anyway because school had started. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Dumar, loved kids – you could tell. She was all bubbly and sweet, with pretty yellow hair and blue eyes. She taught us how to play chess.

I liked going to school, but I never liked arithmetic again.

Looking back, I know my third grade teacher used me to show that skipping grades doesn’t work. She singled me out to make her case. Me-- an earnest, trusting 8 year old. How could a third grade teacher be so cruel? It was child abuse. Long after it ended, as with all forms of abuse, the after-shocks rippled through my life.

Issue #1