Problem Child

Frank struts in front of my desk, stares down at me and grabs my purple marker.  It is my favorite marker.  My eyes well up with tears, and my bottom lip quivers as I stare down at my desk and raise a shaking hand.

“Mrs. Hatchback.  Frank took my marker!”  I finally shout across the classroom after waving my arm impatiently in the air for what felt like forever.  Frank sits behind the teacher and stares me down.  He is black.  Sometimes we drive through neighborhoods and mom points out the window saying, “This is a black neighborhood.  Scary.  Roll up your window.” Frank leaves greasy marks on stuff and probably left it on my marker.  He has hid the marker inside his desk.

Mrs. Hatchback leans over my desk and impatiently asks “What’s the problem?”

“Frank took my purple marker,” I whisper, trying to avoid looking at him.  Fear of Frank runs through my body and causes my voice to shake.  She looks at me funny.

“It’s probably in that DESK!” She points to my desk with her long scratchy red fingernails.

“That desk better be cleaned, the next time I’m in that classroom,” mom threatened me as I ate my toast at breakfast this morning.  I feel anger burn through my body.  Tears threaten to run down my face as I look down at the shiny white floor.

“But my marker,” I whine.  Mrs. Hatchback knocks my desk over and sends all of my books, papers, and markers flying all over the floor. I push my chair back quickly, and just miss having the desk and everything in it fall on me.  My heart pounds against my chest as I stare at her angry face.  Across the room Frank is laughing at me.  Becca and a group of boys sit with their desks pushed together, whispering and pointing at me.  Becca laughs at me and calls me names every day.  She likes to gang up on me with the boys.  My face feels hot as I hold my tears in.

“Clean up this messy desk,” Mrs. Hatchback orders.  “No recess for you today.”  She turns and starts to walk away, then stops.  “Also you are going to sit alone for a while until you can learn to get along with the other kids.  Get up.”  My legs are shaky as I stand up and look down at the floor with a scowl across my full cheeks.  The other kids stop what they are doing and follow me with their eyes.  She pulls my desk to the front of the room against the chalkboard.  Each time the teacher turns her head a group of kids behind me take turns mocking me and throwing things at my back. Frank joins in with them

“Do NOT turn around in THAT seat!”  Mrs. Hatchback barks as I turn around to see what is hitting me.  Hatred radiates from my eyes as I send a red crayon-one they threw at me- flying through the air and landing a foot from the bullies.  They stop throwing stuff as soon as she turns toward them.  Her eyes zone in on the red crayon in the middle of room.

“It looks like you are throwing things, Miss BDL.”  She says as she leans over my desk and peers over her large round glasses.

“Becca threw it,” I mumble, staring down at my lap.  Mrs. Hatchback stands there, glaring at me.

Holding the crayon in front of her like a detective showing a guilty man evidence of his crime, she walks toward Becca and questions, “Becca.  Did you throw this?”

Becca looks up at her through big brown innocent eyes.  “No Mrs. Hatchback, I was doing my work.”  She slyly blinks her eyes, as the start of a smile pulls at the corner of her mouth.  Mrs. Hatchback walks away and rolls her eyes.  Becca turns around and sticks her tongue out at me.

Blood pumps in my ears.  Little hands ball up into fists. I stare at my never-perfect-enough -according –to-mom colored alphabet strip.  I don’t want to do my work, so I don’t.  I sit there and stare off in defiance.

End of the day announcements come on the loud speaker and Mrs. Hatchback tells us to start packing our book bags.  I linger at my desk.  Frank lingers at his desk.  Finally he grows tired of waiting and walks slowly to the cubbies.

I take a long time packing.  All of my stuff is scattered all over the floor.  I try to stop the other kids from stepping on my papers.  Kids tell me to move, I’m in their way, as they push past me.  The teacher says, “Hurry up and pack BDL.”  My heart sinks.  She is going to make me go in the hall with Frank.

I stay after class for a minute and try to tell her he hits me with his backpack in the hall every day lately, but she says “Go on to the bus now.”  I step into the hallway, look both ways and breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t see Frank.  I walk in a sea of kids.  A bag hits me from behind.  I lose my balance and crash into the wall.   I feel dizzy.  I turn around and see Frank.  I stumble and begin dodging kids as I run down the hallway.  Frank runs after me.  I am out of breath as I run up and stand next to a teacher.  I bend down and act as if my shoes need tied.  Frank sees the teacher and runs past me, through the door and toward his bus.  Frank’s bus leaves.  My legs shake as I run across the parking lot.  My bus driver is closing the door.   My bus pulls off.  Now mom is really going to be mad, I think.

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