by Susan Rippe
He knew he was different. From the time he was very young, he knew.
The story his mother told again and again was pretty amusing to Keith. She'd say that when she was pregnant with him he moved around a lot, that he kicked, poked and prodded at her.
She’d smile and make a face of annoyance when she told her story. She’d say,“I knew you’d be trouble,” in her most poetic voice.
By the time he was a toddler she had already taken to making excuses.
“He’s not bad,” she’d tell them, in her most matter-of-fact tone, as the other mothers took their children and walked away from them. “He’s just misunderstood.”
He knew then he was different. I knew, too.
He was just about seven when his mother received the first phone call.
“Mrs. Tifton, we need to speak. Keith is in my office and he’s disrupted the class while they were taking a test. We have tried, time and time again. It’s quite obvious by Keith’s total disregard for authority figures that there are deep issues. This is what we need to address today. Please come in. Keith will be waiting in my office.”
Principal Franchi placed the phone on the cradle and shook her finger in Keith’s direction. “You are in big trouble, Keith.”
Kicking at the sides of the large wooden chair, oblivious to his surroundings, his mind took a journey to faraway places. While music played within his head out of sounds from the past, he looked quite puzzled when he asked, “Why, Ms. Franchi?” He kicked at the chair and fumbled with his hands.
She moved quickly from behind her desk and pointed at him. “You’re a bad boy, and you need discipline.”
Keith was still kicking at the legs of the chair when she moved her foot to stop his shoe from connecting with the wooden leg. Again, Keith was puzzled. He sat with his head down. He began to fist clap into his hand. One hand and then the other, repeatedly. Keith thought it was quite musical.
Clop, Clap, Clop, Clap. Clop, Clap.
When Ms. Franchi approached, Keith did not hear her. Se grabbed both his hands. “Stop it now! Stop it! Can’t you sit quietly?” She squeezed firmly. Keith looked up to see the scowl upon her unpleasant face.
His mother arrived shortly after Ms. Franchi’s phone call. Keith was able to tell by the look on his mother's face that she was not at all pleased. Her usual fun-loving demeanor had turned to bitter frustration. Ms. Franchi approached and told the story of Keith’s disruption. How he had finished the test and handed it in before any other students were done. Nodding her head, Keith’s mother waited to hear about the disastrous deed.
Taking some official-looking papers from her desk, Ms. Franchi said, “I’d like to say that I’m not surprised by this behavior. We have had students in the past with similar problems."
She handed the papers to Keith’s mother. “We cannot have children walking around the classroom whenever they want. We cannot have cheating in our school. Please call the numbers on the first page to make an appointment to have Keith tested for learning and discipline difficulties. We have an excellent Special Ed program that handles students such as Keith.”
She placed her hand upon Keith’s mother's. “There is no shame in obtaining help for a special needs child.”
Keith’s mother seemed to have blanked out during Ms. Franchi’s comments. “I believe you said that my son had finished the test and handed it in," she said. "How then, did he cheat? If he finished before the rest of the class, how then?”
Before she could continue, Ms. Franchi interrupted. “Yes, it is true that Keith completed the test before the other students. What he did after was walk around the classroom giving everyone the answers to the test. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in my school.”
Keith’s mother walked over and took him by the hand. She turned to Ms. Franchi. “You mean to tell me that my son, who was obviously bored, helped the other students in his class after he had completed his test? Is that what this is all about? Your school and your teachers cannot handle someone so bright and curious, you need to condemn him and label him? You have got to be kidding!”
She and Keith walked toward the door.
“Mrs. Tifton, this is not helping matters any," said Ms. Franchi as she followed them to the door. "Keith was wrong. He cannot sit still, he is fidgety and disruptive. How can the other students learn? Keith continues to disrupt the class.”
“Perhaps the children would learn if they had the appropriate materials, environment and qualified teachers!" said Keith's mother, spinning around to face Ms. Franchi. Whatever happened to teachers who actually cared about their students, instead of shoving them into a 'Special Ed' classroom?”
With her finger extended, her jaw twitching as it did when when she got very angry, Keith’s mother told Ms. Franchi that she would be home schooling Keith for the rest of the year.
Keith and his mother continued to walk toward the stairwell, stopping only long enough for his mother to toss the forms and papers into the trash.
“Now Keith, Let’s go get some ice cream,” said his mother, as the color came back into her cheeks and her beautiful smile returned.
This was the beginning of Keith’s nightmare. His punishment for being different.
“Keith! Keith!” Ms. Omado slammed the book down onto his desk. “Keith!”
Startled, he sat straight up in the chair and slowly opened his eyes as he came back to the present. “Yes, Ms. Omado. How can I help you?” He slipped his sly smile at her.
“Don’t get cute with me! You were daydreaming again. Take this math worksheet and complete it. You will be the first person I call on.” She slid the sheet onto his desk and headed toward the other students.
Oh God, she’s got to be kidding. She wants me to add fruit. I need to get the hell out of this class.
Raising his hand, he called out, “Ms. Omado! Ms. Omado…..”
Nothing. She was ignoring him.
By the look on her face as she spun around, Keith took it that she was pissed. He could not help but laugh. This she did not appreciate. His classmates joined in, and this infuriated Ms. Omado even further.
Keith sat in the back of the class, where he felt safer and more in control. He looked around at his classmates. Danny caught his eye as he rocked back and forth, laughing and snorting at Keith’s calling out. Shelly grabbed her thermos, looking around, making sure no one could see her sipping at the Bacardi she had mixed in with fruit punch. Tommy picked up his chair and starting swinging it around and above his head.
Oh Christ, here we go again…
As Keith took cover under his desk, Ms. Omado grabbed the two-way and called for backup behavioral techs and security. Peering from under his desk, Keith saw Manny running toward the front desk in hopes of obtaining the stapler that he loved to use on the rest of the class. Keith had been stapled several times.
“Keith, your behavior . . . is the reason you are in this class. I know you think you are better than anyone else here, but you’re not. This is the work you will do when you are in my class." She waved the worksheets in the air.
“Remember, this is a self-contained classroom and the reason that each and every one of you are here is . . . how should I put this to make sure you fully understand? You students are here because you are all predators, and the rest of the students in the school are your prey. . . We protect the others by keeping you here. You students are in this class because you all have one disability or another, and the end result is. . . You need to be locked in until you learn to socialize with the rest of society. Now, do your work.”
Keith did not feel better after Ms. Omado’s speech .Keith was angry.
Keith’s mind started to drift. It did that when he was upset or did not want to deal with an issue.
Chucky Cheese….Basketball….Normal classes…Accelerated Classes….Jet Planes…Donna…hmmm…Donna.
Smiling, he snapped out of it and began to do the math worksheet. In a matter of 20 seconds he had completed the worksheet. What a joke.
With a smug look on her face, Ms. Omado called on him. “Keith, what is the answer to question number 5?”
“Fruit Salad,” he replied, pulling out his Honors Algebra math book.
Flinging her hands up in the air, she approached and grabbed his book.
From that moment on Keith could barely remember what happened next. All he knew was that he ended up in the Blue Room.
Blue. Blue seeps slowly from the sweat-stained thick rubber mat. Keith can smell the essence of the color. It travels through his mind like a poison; killing him slowly, that color blue. His face pressed firmly into it. His nose and mouth engulfed by the material. He smells it. Blue. The texture of the mat forms over and around his features. He had become one with this blue material. The musky smell envelopes his face. Between the strong odor and the pressure of being smothered by Him, darkness winds around his mind. He forces his head deeper into the mat with his large hulk like hands. Keith lies limp and helpless. Thinking the entire time: if he hurts me or even kills me, they would find no defensive wounds. Mr. Paul, the descendent of Hitler, would be arrested and tried for my death.
This is the only thought that keeps Keith going; that and the words from 50 Cent’s song. He now thinks of those words, changing them to fit his current situation:
I wish he would just step over the line a bit, just once. He would have no where to hide and this injustice would be brought to light. The Bastard.
Mr. Paul grabs a handful of Keith’s long dark curls. Keith lifts his head off the mat, and as he does, Mr. Paul pulls. Hair falls onto Keith’s face. He can feel the roots ripped from his scalp. The pain, the pain, unbearable.
Each extracted root brought tears to Keith’s eyes. As he gritted his teeth, he breathed in deeper; his nails digging into the mat to hold back the tears.
I will not cry. I will not give him the satisfaction. I need an escape. I need a song to escape this madness. I need a song to escape this blue were his thoughts as Mr. Paul pressed harder.
I need you to pray for me and
I need you to care for me and
I need you to want me to win
I need to know where I'm heading,'cause I know where I've been
He loved the lyrics of 50 Cent. Keith felt he could feel what 50 Cent felt through his music. Keith needed to escape. Please let it take me away from the blue.
Come through your strip, fronting, stunting
It's something you want, 745 chrome spinnin'
Haters hate that I'm winnnin' . . .
With the lyrics of 50 Cent spinning around in his head, Keith feels Mr. Paul’s bulky knee pressing into the middle of his back even harder. The mixture of sweat and tears burns his eyes. He tries to concentrate on the words from the song. If he can just concentrate, he can make this asshole disappear.
Mr. Paul presses his face deeper into the mat. “Say Uncle, you punk, or I’ll make you eat the mat." The words barely reach Keith’s ears as the constant pressing of his head into the mat muffles the sounds. Waves of pain form within and around him. He can hear sounds but cannot make out the words.
Damn. Shit, can’t he just go away? Think. Think, concentrate….
The words come rushing through his head:
Right now I'm on the edge
So don't push me
I aim straight for your head
So don't push me
Fill your ass up with lead
So don't push me . . .
Mr. Paul finally releases Keith and, laughing, pushes him up against the blue mat on the wall. “You’re not all that tough, are you?” He he walks out, locking the door behind him.
Screw you, Mr. Paul. Keith catches his breath.
As he pries his eyes open, the first thing he sees is blue. That damn Blue surrounds him. It covers the walls and the entire floor. He can smell it. He feels it. He sees it. It will never leave him. The color, the feel, the smell, and taste of blue will long stay with him.
As he rolls over, he can see nothing but blue. A nauseating feeling overwhelms his entire body as the wretched foul smell of sweat and thick rubber mixed with industrial disinfectant fills his nasal path. Keith forces himself into a kneeling position to vomit. Crawling to the other side of the room he falls into a fetal position welcoming solace and sleep.
Hours later his slumber is interrupted. A large, rough hiking boot nudges at his face. “Ok, blue boy, the cheese bus is here to take your ass home. Get up, you punk and get out of here.”
Startled, Keith jumps up in one swooping movement and leaves the room. Running to the classroom to gather his belongings, he hears Mr. Paul call out, “Don’t forget to take your meds tomorrow, or you’re back in the Blue Room.”
The tech snickers as he walks past Keith.
Grabbing his backpack, Keith walks swiftly out the door. Grays, creams and pale yellows dawn the halls and are a refreshing sight for Keith. He smiles as he walks out into the gleaming sunshine. Keith embraces the series of colors. He breathes it in. He feels it.
The big yellow bus shines like gold as the light hits it at just the right angle. The light trickles from the sky to illuminate what Keith likes to call his “golden chariot.” Even the high-pitched screech of unfolding doors fails to bother him today. His only thought is, “I’m out.”
Mr. Dixie walks down the three steps of the bus, extending his hand to greet him. His gesture always puts a huge grin on Keith’s face. Hearing the words, “Good afternoon, Mr. Keith. Did you make good choices today?” gives Keith a feeling of familiar comfort.
“Apparently not, Mr. Dixie, and good afternoon to you.”
“Oh, Mr. Keith, what happened this time?” Mr. Dixie asks as they step onto the bus.
Mr. Dixie takes the driver's seat and Keith the front seat. Their routine for the past year has worked well for them both. Mr. Dixie has the utmost respect for Keith. Keith enjoys the camaraderie and the mutual respect they have for each other.
“Well, Mr. Dixie, It seems that the extreme difficulty of Ms. Omado’s mathematical handout got the best of me today.”
“Oh, Mr. Keith, do tell!” Mr. Dixie pulls the bus into the street.
“While trying to interpret the reasoning behind adding several different fruits, I was asked the question, 'What is the answer to adding four apples, two pears and five oranges?'
"I simply answered, 'Fruit Salad.'"
Keith can hear Mr. Dixie’s snicker as he approaches the intersection.
“. . . and at that point," Keith continues, "Ms. Omado snatched the worksheet from me and tore it up, announcing that I would receive a 'failing grade.' Can you believe that?”
Keith raises his arms in disgust.
Through the rear-view mirror, Keith can see Mr. Dixie’s eyebrows rise. “Oh My, Mr. Keith, did this encounter warrant the Blue Room"?
“That particular situation did not . . . but….” Keith moves in his seat as he attempts to continue with his story.
“But?” Mr. Dixie sighs.
“Yes, when I pulled out my Honors Algebra book and attempted a few of the most difficult problems… .”
Mr. Dixie was actually laughing now. “Oh, Mr. Keith, you didn’t! You shouldn’t have! You are way too smart to put yourself in such a situation!”
Gently flipping the edge of his backpack, Keith continues the story. “Well, Ms. Omado grabbed the book from my desk and told me that I would not get it back for two weeks. That's when I stood up said, 'This is bullshit' and tossed the desk. That is what warranted a visit to the Blue Room.”
Keith hung his head down. “I am so sick and tired of being treated as if I were mentally challenged, with them giving me First Grade Work. They want to force me to take my medication. I hate the way it makes me feel. I hate not being ME. I just want to be me.”
Keith wanted to cry. He wanted to scream.
“I know, I know," Mr. Dixie soothed. "But in order for you to get through middle school, you must follow the rules.
"You are going to be something really great one day. You’re a good kid, they just don’t see it yet. You’re really special and one day your name will mean something, something to be real proud of." Mr. Dixie was using his most serious, parental voice and mannerisms. "Just bide your time. You’ll be out of there soon enough."
Keith smiled at Mr. Dixie as he looked at him through the rear-view mirror.
“Mr. Dixie, I have something else in mind, something more positive in regard to my emotional state and less insulting to my intelligence."
Mr. Dixie, still staring at Keith through the mirror, sees that Keith is very serious about this. This was not their usual banter and fluff on the way home from school. Keith was dead serious and Mr. Dixie knew it.
Keith’s mind drifted to the view outside. He was taken in by the vibrancy of color. Color intrigued him. Color stimulated his mind. The greenest grass, the most vibrant meadows pass as the bus flew down the boulevard toward Keith’s house. The row of white and yellow houses seem a smear to the eye and the black mailboxes intriguingly resemble one dynamic line as they speed down the road.
“I have something for Dixie Jr., " Keith continued. "You mentioned it was his birthday today, and I thought it nice to give him something." He pulled out a carefully wrapped package from his backpack.
“Mr. Keith, that is so nice, you didn’t have to,” said Mr. Dixie as he viewed the wrapping and smiled. Keith had used the Sunday comics section of the newspaper for the wrapping, each page layered and placed to form a symmetrical pattern.
Keith explains to Mr. Dixie that this the present is a working model of an experimental airplane that he had been working on.
“It runs on batteries and it is not at all dangerous. It runs quite well and I must say that I am very proud of it.”
As Keith described the small plane, and how it worked -- how he had designed it and put it together -- Mr. Dixie became excited.
“This is amazing. I am honored that you thought enough to give my son one of your original projects. He will love it. The craftsmanship, the design and the aerodynamics of structure -- they're all incredibly impressive. To think that your teacher is giving you first-grade work is astounding, downright shameful.”
Keith rises and shakes Mr. Dixie’s hand as he exits the bus.
Donna is on her porch and calls out to Keith.
“Keith! Hey, want to hang out later?” She is waving and smiling.
Keith looks over at Donna and smiles. That is the girl I’m going to marry.
Keith waves back. “Yes, later, after supper, OK?”
Donna runs her fingers through her hair as she nods and walks into her house.
As Keith reaches his front door it opens. His mother is standing there with a foul look on her face. “Keith! Why, Keith, why? I told you that we are working on a new IEP. You know I've involved the Governor's office -- and my next step would be to contact the newspapers. But actions like the ones today only prove that you have problems. Keith, you need to work with me, not against me."
Keith had a blank stare, but his face had an annoyed look. “Leave me alone! You don’t know anything about this.
"You make your damn phone calls and research your damn IEP’s and 504’s, but what about me? What about me? I’m friggin' tired of being treated like this, real tired of it!"
He stomped through the house and slammed his bedroom door.
The late November rain was thud, thudding on the windshield of the family car. Keith looked up from his gameboy to witness sheets of water falling from the sky. Light peeked from the clouds and formed the most amazing rainbow. Keith smiled as the rain brought beauty to what was to be the worst day of his life.
Keith’s dad slowed the car to crawl.
“Damn it, this will spoil the entire day," his mother shrieked.
Smiling, Keith thought of it as the highlight of his day.
“Don’t over-dramatize everything, Helen,” said his Dad, peering over at her.
“You know I just had my hair done, and the food will get wet by the time we get into my mother's house.”
“Fine. We might as well turn around and go home, then.”
He maneuvered the car with care.
“Jeffery, kiss my ass, you smug bastard.” Her scowl turned into fury on her face.
My father laughed, saying only, “Yeah. Later.”
Keith’s mother reached over and smacked his father on the arm, laughing with him.
Keith never could figure them out. They yell, they fight, then, it’s over. This one was mild compared to their usual outbreaks. He used to be so scared, so upset when they started -- now he finds it awfully amusing. It’s his sister Jenny, who's seven, who cries and hides when they start the yelling and fighting. She’ll learn to deal with it, as Keith had.
He looks over and sees that Jenny has that somber stare upon her face as her eyes fill with tears. Keith reached over and places his hand lightly on hers. “Jenny, it’s O.K., really.”
She pushes his hand away and turns to him with a vicious smug look. "Shut up, Keith, You’re stupid.”
“Die, you little brat.”
Jenny knows how much Keith hates being called stupid.
Their mother turns around in the front seat and smacks Keith. “Don't you ever, ever tell your sister to die -- ever. Do you hear me, Keith?”
The rain lets up and thoughts of an agonizing five or six hours at NaNa’s house are making his stomach churn.
As the car turns onto the street where NaNa lives, Keith’s mother assumes her most direct and order-giving tone. “Pull onto the sidewalk in front of the house. I don’t want Jenny and me walking from down the block.”
“Yes, your Highness,” Dad bellows,
“Don’t you dare start with me, Jeffery. I’ll make your life a living hell if you do.” She slaps Keith’s dad’s arm again.
“As if it isn’t already,” his dad whispers.
Rolling his eyes, Keith tilts his head back, When will this all end?
His dad drove the car onto the sidewalk in front of NaNa’s house. Keith could hear the dog barking and the old screen door open as his mother turned to give them a final warning: “Kids, behave yourselves today. Keith, you just ignore anything said to you and smile. Let’s have a good time today.”
A good time? A good time? Ha! She has got to be kidding. It’s always like a horror show visiting NaNa.
Keith’s great aunt, TiTi, was standing at the door. “Late as usual. Why bother coming at all, Helen? Do you know how long your mother has been standing over the stove?” She grabbed Jenny and squeezed and kissed her cheeks.
“All day?” he heard his Mom reply.
Keith could not help but laugh as TiTi gave his mom a good swat on the arm when she walked in the house. There was a distinct odor, a combined smell of pine cleaner and the spaghetti sauce that had been simmering for hours.
The smell is strong, so strong he can taste the sauce along with a hint of pine in it. There is also a faint smell of dog. One could tell that there is a dog in the house, being hidden by the combined smell of pine and sauce.
As Keith walked past TiTi, she grabbed his long dark hair. “What the hell is this? HELEN, this boy needs a haircut. HELEN, do you hear me?”
She pinched his cheeks and went on about his long curly hair.
“Only girls have long hair. Are you a girl, Keith?” she taunted him, running her hands through the back of his hair.
“Nope. I’m a boy, TiTi. I have all the equipment to prove it." He smiled as he pulled away.
“Carmen! Carmen! Come and hear this fresh kid telling me that he 'has all the equipment . . . " what the hell does that supposed to mean? Do you speak to your father like that?”
He was walking away and holding his head down. That’s when he heard,
Keith lifted his head to the angry stare of an old woman. She was bent over a walker and wore the standard baggy dress and large glasses. Her hair stood up like a white halo. Her face was screwed up in an expression of irate anger. She pointed one long finger at Keith.
“Keith, who do you think you are talking to? Respect your aunt, damn it!”
Turning to his mother, she hissed, “Don’t you teach these kids respect, Helen?”
“Ma, just leave him alone. He likes long hair. He's 'expressing himself.' Just leave him alone, and lets enjoy the dinner.”
By this time, the two old women had gathered around Keith, fingers in his face, their heads bobbing from side to side in disapproval.
Keith tries to dismiss their actions by looking about the room. The pictures on the wall are arranged just so, big one in the middle, two small ones on either side, one on the top corner, the other on the bottom.
Gee, these pictures are weird, he thinks. There is now a disjointed air about him. He had never really noticed how the couch sits, almost as if no one has ever sat on it before, the pillows arranged just so, catty-corner and puffed up, just so. Weird.
The full-length lace curtains at the front window are pulled aside just slightly so that the dog can have access to peer out the window. Weird.
NaNa and TiTi are still bitching at Keith.
“Don’t ignore me, Keith. Listen.” NaNa points her finger in his face.
Looking down, he notices how the carpet is worn from the front door to the far edge of the living room. The color is faded from years of wear. The color used to be Burgundy, I think.
“KEITH, damn it!” she continues, grabbing a handful of hair and pulling slightly, “Snap out of it, Keith.”
All Keith hears is bla, bla, bla, yadda, yadda, yadda.
She pulls at his hair a little harder. OK, I’m back, I’m back. . .
“OK, I’m hungry when are we eating?” says Keith’s dad, walking in the door, smiling.
The three women turn and begin to jabber about what food is ready and what they need to do. Keith’s dad has distracted them.
“Thanks, Dad,” says Keith, as his dad walks over and puts his arm around him.
“Hey, not a problem, but you’ll need to get used to this. Women will be telling you what to do all your life. The secret is…Distract them by telling them you’re hungry. Works every time, that’s the secret.” His dad smiled and slid himself onto the couch.
Keith walked toward the kitchen and was handed a plate with a roast beef sandwich on it and a glass of Coke.
“Here, sweetheart, you look hungry. Eat, eat.” TiTi guided him to the table.
Inside, Keith felt a hungry, suffocating, desperate need for more, more understanding and solace.
Ha, as if that would happen? In this family? Ha.
Keith ate his sandwich.
Keith and his family arrived home later that night. He prepared for the next day, placing all the equipment he would need into his backpack, along with his laptop. He left early the next morning and got a ride from Donna and her mother.
Keith was quiet the entire ride, thinking about how he would place the spy cams throughout the classroom and the Blue Room.
Donna placed her hand on his knee. “Hey, what’s going on in that head of yours, Keith?”She smiled at him. Keith thought her dimples were placed perfectly upon her face.
“Oh nutin' much Donna, nutin' much at all.” He did not want to involve Donna or her mother in what he was about to do.
Donna kept her hand on his knee as she said, "You’re up to something. I know it.” She giggled. “I know you all too well, Keith.”
Keith checked his watch as Donna’s mother pulled the car up to the front of the school. He had an intense look on his young face. I’ve got twenty minutes to set this all up.
Keith ran from the car, calling out behind him, “Thanks Mrs. Opel. Later, Donna!”
He did not hear the disappointment in Donna’s response as she muttered, “How rude.”
Keith began working as soon as he entered the classroom, checking placement of the cameras and synchronizing his laptop to correspond with the school's network. He knew it was illegal to tape what goes on in the classroom, but felt he needed to expose the staff for the best interest of the kids in Special Ed.
All the wiring and cameras were in place. He had gotten into the school network with no problem at all. He placed a cd in the drive of his laptop and checked to see if the recording would also go to his home computer.
Perfect, it’s done, now I wait for it al to happen, and then they are screwed. Royally Screwed.
Laughing quietly, Keith sat at his desk and waited. Ms. Omado and the rest of the class arrived shortly after Keith had everything in place. Let the games begin, he thought as he saw Mr. Paul walk into the room.
“Hey Blue Boy, take your meds this morning? Or are you ready for Round Two?” Mr. Paul half shouted as he passes Keith’s desk.
Keith, in his loudest voice, head held high as he placed his foot out to trip Mr. Paul, yelled, “Screw you, Pig.” Mr. Paul stumbled and the entire class laughed. Most of the children stood and clapped in favor of Keith’s actions. Keith laughed the loudest as Mr. Paul turned and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt.
“OK, smartass, let’s go. You know the routine.” His face was still red from Keith’s practical joke.
“No, I’m not friggin' going anywhere," said Keith, as Mr. Paul began to pull Keith from his desk. "Screw you!"
Mr Paul dragged Keith through the classroom. Keith screamed. Keith screamed and kicked all the way to the Blue Room, something he had never done before. Keith could see that Mr. Paul had worked up a good sweat from all the pulling and dragging.
Once in the Blue Room, Mr. Paul closed the door, “Now, your ass is mine, bastard,” he snarled, as he pushed Keith down and grabbed him by the back of his hair, pressing Keith's face deep into the mat.
Keith fought hard and was up on his feet in a few moments. Mr. Paul grabbed Keith by the arm and threw him against one of the padded walls. Keith felt the mats shake and move. He looked up toward one of the cameras he had placed between the seams of the top and bottom mat. Mr. Paul turned and followed Keith’s eyes to the spot where the camera was placed. The camera jutted out and hung half way toward the bottom mat.
Mr. Paul turned to Keith. “You dumb bastard! You just screwed yourself.” He grabbed his radio and called for backup and to notify the police.
Keith’s perfect plan did not work. All cameras were confiscated, the laptop’s hard drive was erased, Keith’s parents were called in and Keith was arrested for hacking into the school’s network.
Mr. Paul laughed and saluted Keith as he was taken out of the school in handcuffs.
“Good job, blue boy, good job,” he bellowed as Keith passed him at the front entrance.
Keith looked up at the school and saw Donna peering from the second-floor window. He put his head down as he was escorted to the patrol car.
Keith went to the Juvenile Center, spent two days in jail and served sixty days of community service. He used this time to help autistic children and tutor elementary school children at the library.
All of Keith’s efforts were not in vain, though. He had a copy of the incident on his home computer, which he submitted to the Governor’s office, the local newspaper and the local school district.
Keith made his mark early on in his life. He continued with his good work, but in a more productive, mature manner.
Today as I look in the freshly painted two-toned blue room, with illuminating stars on the ceiling, miniature jet planes hanging from the ceiling and Keith sitting in a rocking chair holding his newborn son, I cannot help but feel proud of my son. Through all the problems, the drama and confusion, I knew he was different. My son was different and special. As I look in and see a fine young man with a great future, a tear forms and as I brush it away.
“Hey Dad, come on in and hold your grandson,” Keith says, smiling from ear to ear.
Donna came walking in to check on baby Paul.
“Keith, honey, NASA called. They need the numbers by tomorrow morning. I told them that you'd call them back later."
She touched Keith’s shoulder.
Holding baby Paul, looking deep into his new eyes, Keith's dad whispers, "I can only hope that he is as special as my own son, Keith.”
Susan Rippe attends college in Florida and writes short stories "in hope of making a statements, sharing experiences and helping others." She describes herself as a "self-advocate and individual with a disability."