"Andre, come on up here! I gotta tell ya som in'!" A lady with dreadlocks tied with a big golden band yelled from the patio.
"Comin' Mama!" Andre shouted. He sat crouched against white bark, looking at the reflective pond and at the hopping frogs that jumped from slick lilypad to lilypad. The aspen trees sang through the clear pink mist that shrouded him in the thick air.
"Andre!" she yelled again, louder this time,
"Ok, Mama. Ok!" he dropped the rocks he had collected and marched down to the white-sided house that was gleaming in the morning sun.
He sat down on a wool-cushioned chair next to his Mama and looked her in the eyes with this 'why-are-you-calling-me-and-can-I-leave-now?' look. She just returned his look with a pouty one.
"Andre go study, with you sista!" She stroked her hands through his fuzzy hair.
"What's the point?" Andre muttered to the sky which was twinkling with a sun that was making a beam of light that shined through the blanket of clouds.
"I meant what's the point of studying when none of it darn matters."
"What do you mean it doesn't matter?"
"Well, Mama, what am I going to do. Become an English professor? You studied hard and no one's even givin' you a job. You studied your back off."
"Andre-we learn for opportunities. And in your future, you may have them. And even if you don't Andre-you should study for ya own good."
"Your tellin' me to study. Wow, Mama." He left his mom. And she just looked up at the sky with a brief prayer, her eyes cloudy with wet fog.
Andre marched upstairs to his Sister's room. It was a room with a big chestnut bookshelf filled with old books and new ones. His sister sat on the wool carpet, her face golden and brown hair curled around her ears.
"I can't believe that ya studyin'"
"Andre, come on over here. See, let me tell you something, I got a hold of this book-that's not important, let me just tell you the main point. See, Andre, there's this thing called Xenophobia."
"Xen-a-pho-bi-a," she said slowly, emphasizing all the consonants, "It's the fear of someone different from you. Most white people have lived their lives with no change; the biggest one being the birth of a baby. But what happened when they saw people who were absolutely different from em'? They got scared, Andre."
"Yeah, yeah. They got scared and enslaved people. Did they need their mommies to tuck them in? Were they scared of ghosts?"
"Andre! It was incredibly wrong Andre, but you gotta understand! You can't pretend like you know everything. You can't blame em'. Unless you actually know what happened Andre! Or else you...are...fake."
Andre's sister straightened her shirt.
"You must be trippin'. So you're on their side?"
"No Andre-no. I want you to understand, that's all."
Andre’s mother straightened his tie and pushed his hair backwards.
“Mama, I don’t need you doing all this for me.”
“Honeyyyyy, you forgotta tuck in your shirt. How many times have I had to tell you that, Andre.”
“Yeah-yeah. I’m goin’ to school now!” He picked up his black bag and walked out the door.
The school was small and placed on a hill, filled with angled windows and small desks. It was surrounded by a brook filled with glass bottles of milk and smooth stones.
Andre sat on his desk, looking through his window. He pictured himself as a man who worked on the farm. With a little piece of wheat sticking through his teeth.
“That’s ma future, he moaned, his head buried in his arms.
“Student, get up here!” the teacher yelled, her hair was bunched into clumps, hanging around her pale face that was freckled with dark spots. Her eyes were a greyish blue, like a dead seal.
“Student? I have a name-It’s Andre.”
“Get up here! You will be punished for your misbehaviour.”
Andre stumbled out of the class with a clump of red blooming on his palm. How much that steel ruler hurt! He stared dizzily at the pale grass, not aware of which direction he was wandering. He felt a nudge on his forehead.
“Go!” it was less of a shout and more of demand, a blond-haired boy yelled into Andre’s ear.
“Go back to where you belong!” he yelled again, his blue eyes twinkling with malice.
Andre wanted to take that face of his and shove it up the chimney, but instead, he just whispered, “If I go back then you’ll have to, too.”
“What?” the blond-haired boy rubbed his head against his dirt-smeared palm.
“Canada doesn’t belong to anyone-the European settlers killed the actual residents. So shut up and leave me alone.”
The blond-haired boy wouldn’t just walk away. He punched Andre’s side and when he had heard a good groan from Andre, he walked off.
The next day of school was the same as always-he got looks from the teacher. Snears from the majority of the class. And a few punches after school ended. This particular day, Andre wanted some time alone so he walked a longer route through an apple tree trail. Everything was quiet, all he could hear was Mother Nature’s presence. The white birds were soaring from branch to branch and the apple trees were making a feathery nest on top of him, filling the air with white sunlight.
He could also feel God-he believed in God. God would help Andre all the time- but sometimes Andre never felt God with him. His aunt had told him, “God helps those who help themselves” and he trusted that saying. He sat down before a long brook.
“Oh, God. Thank you for letting me live. It’s the greatest. I love Mama and Heather, my sister. But God-why are some people so mean to me? I don’t do anything to them-I just treat them like people, you know. Thank you for everything God, and God, if you could fit in a little miracle in your busy schedule then would you please change the world. Thank you.”
He sat up and dusted off his trousers.
“That was beautiful.”
Andre turned around to see a small stubby boy, with dark knees worn with bruises and pale cheeks which were red in the sun. His hair was a dusty blonde, that was poked into different directions.
“My name’s George. Yours?”
Why wasn’t this white boy being mean to me or making fun of me?
Andre scratched his head.
“You’re the first person I’ve seen in a while.”
Andre ignored that statement and asked a question, “Why don’t you go to school?”
“What do you mean, what’s school?”
“My mummy died and we lived in a little cabin besides the brook, it’s real nice there and since then I’ve lived alone, shooting down juicy birds and picking up fat fish from the creek.”
Andre just nodded.
“There’s this little book that my mom left-It teaches me things and I learn while in a once, sorry, I mean once in a while.”
Andre nodded a second time.
“You have to see it.”
The front door was rusty mahogany that carried a doorknob which was strung with many flower leaves and small pieces of feather to make it “more feel good.” as George said.
The lounge held a torn, faded couch with striped patterns. The holes were strung with patches of dresses, George’s mother’s dresses. All the indoor doors had velvet ribbons on the handles. On a little shelf, George had a flower garden, filled with delicate marigolds and bits of gossamer webs that clung to small coloured stones that George had found in the brook. George’s room was home to a small cabinet filled with fragments of green glass and other small collectibles.
Andre was wowed by the glorious place.
As he walked out of the cabin he thought of all the bad jokes that George had told him and how he had caught a slimy fish between his fingers. He stared at his soily hands, ( he had helped George search for flowers along the roots of the apple trees, he had found beautiful ones.) He was surprised, he had laughed so hard that he couldn’t even breathe.
Is this what friends are like? He puzzled, looking up at the canopy of feathery apples, Cause if they are, boy I’ve been missing out.
The pink shadows flung themselves along the brick school side and the small stars started to fade into the peach sky. Andre had decided to show George school
Andre and George walked, shaking their heads and imitating “gentlemen”. That they’d seen during their walk. Words were broken with laughs and laughs were broken with words.
“Isn’t is a peachy day!” George exclaimed while watching a small ladybug creep up his hand.
Andre just smiled. They developed such a strong friendship that they could understand each other by merely facial expressions.
Andre noticed a few boys ganging up on them.
“What are you doing?” a brown-haired boy with white cheeks stared at George.
“Yeah, what are you doing with him.” Another boy sneared. Andre felt his face redden.
“Yeah.” another boy nodded.
“What do you mean?” George asked cluelessly.
“He’s black.” a blond-haired boy stated.
“Who cares?” George asked, still clueless.
A red-haired boy slapped Andre’s red cheek, a burn pulsated through Andre’s body.
“Hey! Stop it.” George yelled, “So you guys don’t treat him like a human just ‘cause his skin looks different than yours. Am I right? Wow.”
“Wow,” George muttered.
George began to yell again, “Who made you believe he’s different. He’s not-he’s human. He’s funny and kind and smart and nice and tough and he’s my best friend. So back off!” George yelled.
The five boys stared at their shiny shoes, not feeling ashamed, but defeated.
Andre sat on his desk, rubbing his thumb against his other palm, he felt his eyelids droop. He picked them open with his fingers, quick as a fox.
“You know it’s just my mother. She tells me you're not human- I don’t actually think so. She just said never ever talk or be friends with you. My name is Clark and it’d be an honour if I could be at least-maybe. Not a bully to you?” the blond-haired boy whispered to Andre.
Andre smiled. He felt a heavy weight drop from his back, he wanted to cry in amazement, “Sure,” he nodded, “I’d like to.”
Andre walked home with George, he stared up at the canopy of petals, they looked like the feathers of a dove. Doves were so peaceful, he felt that at the moment.
“George. The mothers and fathers of the schoolkids might never accept me but it’s great that the kids do, isn’t it? And it’s amazing to be treated so fairly. I love it-and-and I’m gonna cry. Stop me.”
George wiped Andre’s tears.
“It’s amazing to be treated like a equal.”