Brody Speroni stood fidgeting with the satchel he shouldered as he stood in front of the class with his new teacher Miss Sewell introducing him. Once the introductions were over and with a dry mouth he was forced to say something about himself he was shown to his seat in a cluster of tables with some other students.
The sixteen-year-old got out his Braille machine so that he could take down notes from the board. He heard the whispers from the group something, of which he should be used to by now, as he placed it on the table and began to type.
‘Hey Brody,’ one boy said. ‘What are you wearing sunglasses inside for? Do ya think you’re really cool or something?’
Brody ignored him. He should be used to it by now of other kids’ intolerance of his vision impairment but the hurt never ceased to surprise him. It wasn’t the fact of what they said that caused him grief but the fact that they’d said it at all that really got to him.
‘Good on ya, Brett!’ a girl named Ebony-Rose said. ‘Can’t you see he’s blind?’
Brett moved closer towards Brody. His breath stank. ‘Are you? Are you really? Is that why you have that weird machine?’ He moved even closer. ‘Hey, what does this do?’
He pushed down a key.
‘Thanks a lot! Now you’ve ruined my work!’ Brody exclaimed.
Brody pushed him away, which Miss Sewell saw coming down on him like a ton of bricks.
‘Brody, I will not tolerate violence in the classroom. Pack up your things and go to the coordinator’s office at once!’
Brett sat back with a big, dumb smirk as he watched Brody slowly put his belongings back in his satchel. Once his bag was packed, he got up but before he left, he swung his satchel at Brett hitting him in the head with his Braille machine, which was now safely hidden away in his bag.
‘Aw, fuck! That hurt!’ Brett exclaimed.
‘Brett Brown I will not tolerate that sort of language in my classroom. You can go to the coordinator’s office as well.’
Brody strode out of the room with a big smile pasted across his face as he heard Brett pleading his case with the young teacher.
* * *
‘Turn around! I don’t want to see your ugly face!’ Brett exclaimed. ‘Man, what a squinty!’
Another day and another lesson sitting with Brett and his football hero mates Nick, Ben and Scott with Ebony-Rose chained to Brett like a golden, good luck charm. Brody had just removed his sunglasses to clean them when Brett jumped at the chance to have a go at him about his weak eyes. He wasn’t completely blind and people often didn’t believe he was vision impaired because he didn’t need a dog.
‘Don’t be mean,’ Ebony-Rose said. ‘Can’t you see he’s disabled?’
‘Ah, shut up will ya? No one gives a shit what you think,’ Brett said. ‘Just keep your bloody mouth shut!’
Ebony-Rose lowered her gaze.
Brody knew that she hadn’t meant to hurt him but being called “disabled” hurt. Disabled?
Disabled? Disabled? Disabled?
He could probably see more than all of them put together. There was something that they knew nothing of: the gift of telepathy. He had the purported ability to directly know another person’s thoughts. Once he’d told someone and they’d asked him what they were thinking right there and then. He said it didn’t quite work like that. It was more of a sense of what the person was thinking and a sixth sense of what was happening. He had this supposed sense of perception including this intuition that wasn’t one of the other five senses.
He also had a great sense of smell and could smell the perfume she was wearing that reminded him of springtime. But before he could get lost in his thoughts they were at it again.
‘Have you been watching Rage lately?’ Nick asked. ‘They’ve been playing a lot of old stuff.’
‘Yeah,’ Scott said, ‘they played Wham! Remember Wham!?’
‘I hated The Wham! Rap. That was crap!’ Nick declared.
‘Young Guns (Go For It!) was worse,’ Ben remarked.
‘The third and possibly the worst was Club Tropicana,’ Nick said.
‘I also saw Nirvana last week,’ Ebony Rose piped up.
Nick sat back and folded his arms. ‘One hit wonders with Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ he said.
‘What about Come As You Are?’ Ebony-Rose asked.
‘Who are you, Molly freakin’ Meldrum?’ Brett demanded.
Ebony-Rose bit her lip. Brody could sense that she wanted to cry and yearned to reach out to her.
‘Then there was Heart-Shaped Box,’ Ben added.
‘OK! So they had three hits! Geez!’
‘Then there was the unplugged stuff,’ Scott said.
‘Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!’
* * *
‘Mum, am I ugly?’
Maria-Luisa Speroni, who’d been stirring sauce on the stove, stopped what she was doing and walked over to her son. ‘No! Who said that?’
‘Just some kid at school,’ Brody mumbled.
‘You are bello! Bello! And don’t let anyone tell you any different, OK?
Maria-Luisa bent down, gave him a big hug and a kiss on the forehead before wandering back to her cooking.
Brody wondered if Ebony-Rose would prefer a darker and slightly shorter Sicilian to tall and blond football hero ruckman Brett. He also wondered how she felt about being treated like garbage. If she was his girl he’d give her his all. His intuition told him she wasn’t happy in the relationship but didn’t know how to get out of it. For once he was tuned into his senses and was going to do something about it.
Later that night he decided to make a few adjustments to his Braille machine. His mechanic father was always bringing home spare parts that kept in his shed so Brody decided to raid his collection and build onto his Braille machine. While other kids at school played outside, he would stay inside, study and build things thus achieving great results in science and technology. So building upper and lower limbs onto his Braille machine was no trouble at all. He was even able to program it so that it had a “good” and “evil” switch.
And he knew just what he’d do with it, too.
The school formal was coming up and although he didn’t have a date, he was determined to go and he was taking his Braille machine with him. And after that, he would enter his new project into the school arts and technology fair and win some prize money. That’s something Brett and his jock mates couldn’t do!
* * *
The closer the night came the more Brody thought that something was going to happen and it was something he felt he had to expose. Like any good Catholic boy he’d been taught the importance of forgiveness, but he just had to get one up on Brett once and for all!
* * *
The night came along soon enough and Brody turned up with his jacket draped over his Braille machine. In his pocket was a remote that controlled the machine’s limbs, which were now all folded up. He would wait for the right moment to exact his revenge on his tormentor.
He’d been sat with a group of students who were nice enough. One boy named Domenico who played in the local soccer team told him they were setting up a team for vision impaired students and would he be interested? Brody said he’d think about it although deep down he was keen to get into athletics. But for now he had a matter to attend to.
He saw his chance when everyone was dancing to the funky cuts the DJ was playing. A fast song was playing so couples were dancing apart and Brody saw his chance to spring into action. He got out the remote, lifted his jacket off the machine and turned the machine on setting it from “good” to “evil”. He put it in the direction of Brett and let the machine do the rest.
Before Brett could take in what was happening the machine reached out and ripped off his shirt revealing very pasty skin and a tattoo on his chest.
Suddenly, the music stopped.
Ebony-Rose simply looked at her boyfriend and Brody could sense she wasn’t happy and he soon saw why.
Scrawled across Brett’s chest over a love heart was the name “Sam-Alisha.” Ebony-Rose put her hands on her hips and started to tap her foot.
‘Who the hell is Sam-Alisha?’ she demanded.
‘You mean you two haven’t done it yet?’ Nick asked.
Ebony-Rose glared at him. ‘I was waiting till tonight! I wanted it to be special!’
Brett put his hands up. ‘Look babe, you said “no funny business” so I had to get it from somewhere!’
With that Ebony-Rose burst into tears but not before socking him one in the jaw.
‘Oooh. That’s cold,’ Scott said.
Brett pointed at Brody. ‘You! You did this! You prick!’
‘Alright, that’s about enough,’ Miss Sewell said as she walked up to them. ‘Assistant Principal’s office in the morning for all three of you!’
‘Ebony-Rose, I’m really sorry,’ Brett pleaded.
‘Piss off! I don’t want anything to do with you! I’m going to dance with someone nice,’ she said and grabbed Brody’s hand.
The music started up again and this time it was a slower song. Ebony-Rose linked her arms around Brody’s neck and moved closer to him. She seemed to melt in his embrace. She smelt of vanilla, cinnamon and autumn breeze. Brett and his mates walked out while everyone else started dancing again as well.
‘I’m sorry if I humiliated you,’ Brody murmured.
Ebony-Rose looked up at him. ‘No. It’s OK. You did me a favour. I had no idea he was cheating on me.
‘What did you see in him anyway?’
Ebony-Rose smiled ruefully. ‘I have no idea! But thank you for exposing him and sorry he was so mean to you.’
‘Hey, I’m sorry he betrayed you!’
‘Well, it’s all over now.’
Brody held her close. Yes, it was all over. It had gotten them into trouble but it had been worth it.
He bent down and whispered in her ear. ‘No c’e nessun modo per essere me stessa finche mi vedo riflettere in quegli occhi.’
Ebony-Rose looked up at him again. ‘What does that mean?’
‘It’s Italian for: “There is no way to be myself as long as I see myself reflected in those eyes.”’
Ebony-Rose blinked. ‘And what colour are my eyes?’
‘Blue with flecks of green.’
‘Good answer. I don’t think Brett even noticed.’
‘Well charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you.’
‘You’re way better looking than him anyway.’
Brody smiled. ‘You’re not too bad yourself.’
‘We are going to be in so much trouble tomorrow.’
‘It was worth it. Hey, let’s just enjoy the rest of the night while we can.’
The DJ pumped up the bass and soon they were just two more dancers amidst a dance floor of sweaty teenagers enjoying their youth while it lasted. Brody smiled. He’d got the girl, was going to enter the art and technology fair and all was right with the world!