Sunday, September 1, 2013

Because She Believed In Me (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Continuing my summer project (to re-publish my traditionally published articles and short stories).
This creative non-fiction short story was published in the Island Writer Magazine:  the literary journal of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in winter, 2009. Then in Kaleidoscope:  exploring the experience of disability though literature and the fine arts in winter, 2011 (re-named If Not For Her). I've also read it on local radio in 2010.

Because She Believed In Me

Here I sit in my grade two classroom, a fragile eight-year-old girl cowering in her desk, willing flesh, bone and tissue to dissolve into the steel of the seat. Please, don't call one me. Please, don't call on me. I'm shivering.
"Leanne, read the next passage," the teacher says, throwing me to the jackals.
My hands begin to shake. My forehead tightens.
"Oh, no, not her. We'll be here all day," sneers a fellow student.
I peer at the page, attempting to find sense in the swirl of words that confront me. The letters leap, spin and twist--refusing to be captured. I focus all my effort on one word, the first word. I wrestle with it, attempting to contain it.
The first letter is an "S", I tell myself. It makes the sound of a snake.
I smile contentedly. I have begun.
Next letter. I look at it.
That's a "P", I think.
I look again and in front of my eyes, the letter has undergone a magical transformation. It has become a "T".
Panic grips me.
This is taking way too long.
I feel eyes drilling holes in my flesh. A clock ticks loudly. The sweet aroma of the teacher's perfume engulfs my nostrils. Outside a bird calls. My senses are assaulted. I can't shut anything out. I can't focus.
I just want this to end. Please, please, I don't want to be here any more, I pray.
"S-sp-o-ot-t." I say feebly. Doubt in each syllable.
The class giggles. The jackals smell their prey. My face burns. My heart thunders between my ears.
"Sound it out, Leanne." Frustration, annoyance fills her voice. She is a young teacher, fresh out of university. The responsibility for the classroom weighs heavily on her shoulders.
I'm not a bad girl, I long to tell her. I want to be good. I want to do well. I want to make you happy. I'm trying. Really, honestly I am but...but...
I look down at the page. I can find no words, only tiny black marks on the white page. I find no meaning there. I am caught in a blizzard--I am blind to words.
"Stop," I blurt out, guessing.
I am cornered. The class howls with piercing celebratory laughter.
My inner voice screams. "You're dumb! You can't learn! You can't do anything! Everyone laughs at you! You are STU-PID!!
I try to ignore their laughter. I try to silence my self-debasing.
I am mustering up all my resources to continue my battle when the teacher cuts my progress short.
"Carla, please continue."
The class heaves a collective sigh of relief.
Pretty Carla sits straight and tall on her chair, her head held high. The book rests in her palms like a hymnal. She reads the words; they flow together like a song--the teacher smiles.
I am a big, awkward moose. Carla is a meadowlark. She sings sweetly and others listen. They don't laugh at her. She soars with words, I stumble and fall. She belongs. I don't. She is normal. I am a freak.
Next Monday:  the continuation of Because She Believed In Me
This Thursday:  An Introduction to Blogging
This Friday:  Please welcome Author Shane Peacock


Laurie Buchanan said...

Leanne - there are a very few good teachers, there are more adequate teachers, and there are a plethora of teachers who have no business helping to mold the shape of our future - children. Clearly, the teacher you had is one of the latter. Yet, despite everything, you landed right side up. Any chance you could find that teacher and clearly spell out E-A-T M-Y D-U-S-T!

Leanne Dyck said...

: ) Thank you so much, Laurie. I feel your support for present and past me. The teacher I write about, I believe, was ill equipped to deal with the challenge she faced: rural culture, too large class size, some uncooperative parents, personnel pressure to do well, and at least one child with special needs. I like to think that adult me would sit her down and calmly (that's my challenge) explain the gifts and challenges of dyslexia. And how best she could help me. The teacher wasn't bad--her behaviour was. :) And I once heard some wisdom I cling to: the best revenge is a successful life.
All the best