`David knew big kids eat lunch with big kids. David was a little kid. That’s why his sisters didn’t lunch with him.
When he became a big kid, little kids would eat with little kids.
And anyway, girls don’t eat with boys, no matter what size they are. It’s the way things work. Those are the rules.
David’s mother, Debra, didn’t get it. She worried about David being stuck in a wheelchair. He rarely thought about that.
When making their lunches for the day, Debra always said, “Hey kids, I know you trade and share. But be sure to get something good in exchange. Don’t just eat candy.”
“I don’t trade, Mommy.”
“Then kiddo, you are the first holdout, since sack lunches were invented.”
She wanted him to make friends. As if it were so simple.
David didn’t want to share his lunch. He liked what his mother made for him. But he also knew the path to loneliness included trading with the ‘wheelchair kid’. No one did that. Some kid told him he had ‘cooties.’
Almost every day, when his sisters, Melissa and Emily, entered the lunch room, Emily stopped to say hello.
“C’mon!” Melissa pulled Emily’s hand.
Emily looked over her shoulder. “Bye, David. We’re gonna eat over here.” Melissa led Emily to the big kid’s table. They were his older sisters. Sisters don’t eat with brothers.
David watched them while he unwrapped his sandwich. Emily made a little wave hello. David waved back.
Melissa always asserted her big sister authority with Emily. Except for this last birthday when Emily got the doll Melissa had her eye on.
A year older than Emily, Melissa’s birthday came a week after Emily’s. David didn’t quite get how that worked.
David remembered Melissa’s look when Emily pulled that doll from the wrapping. Emily loved that doll. She had no idea what Melissa had planned.
David didn’t get the point of dolls. He especially didn’t like when his Aunt Jane called him a doll. She picked him up and rocked him the same way Emily did with her doll. Only Aunt Jane laughed loud and hard. What a great big joke. David wished he could kick dear Aunt Jane.
One day at school, some kids approached David pretending to be his friends. The biggest one pushed his chair, running as fast as he could. Everyone raced down the hall shouting and laughing. David feared falling from his chair more than anything.
Other kids ran along side. “Faster! Faster!”
David yelled for them to stop. When they got to the end of the hall the tall boy spun David’s chair around on one wheel and headed back the other way. David gripped the hand holds, terrified of careening into the lockers.
Then Melissa stepped into their path and stopped them cold. “Leave him alone. That’s my brother David. Don’t bully him ever again.”
Some kids protested, saying they were just having fun. But Melissa squelched them. She took David aside. “How are you?”
David couldn’t stop trembling, but he didn’t cry. He only said, “Thanks Mel.”
Melissa didn’t know what to make of David. Though much younger, he didn’t respond to her mature influence. They didn’t talk much, but that incident brought them closer.
After that, David kept a small hammer at his side to defend against people pushing him where he didn’t want to go.
David loved sitting by himself, playing with his Legos. He excelled at bringing order out of chaos, piece by piece. Long hours alone taught him to entertain himself.
Sometimes David’s Dad played chess with him. He always complimented David’s superior playing. But David sometimes felt like his Dad let him win. He made stupid mistakes and David couldn’t resist taking advantage. He didn’t want charity.
With dinner and homework complete, Debra wheeled David before the TV set. She told his sisters to play quietly so she could ‘regroup.’ But David didn’t watch much TV. He had his Legos.
Melissa and Emily made little dramas with their dolls and stuffed animals. Except lately, their playing seemed more like squabbling. Melissa wanted Emily’s doll.
It started when Melissa called Emily a bad mother.
“I am not. What are you talking about?”
“Look at her. She’s dirty. You never comb her hair.”
Emily went into the kitchen and grabbed a damp cloth. She came back and methodically wiped down her doll. Emily challenged Melissa with a hard look.
Melissa looked back harder. “Her hair still looks like it got stuck in a vacuum cleaner.”
“That’s her styling. That’s the fashion.”
Melissa mimicked her, “That’s the fashion… Fashion is supposed to make you look prettier…”
“She is pretty.”
“Stop it, Mel.”
“If I called Social Services, they’d put her in foster care.”
“Let me show you.” Melissa reached for the doll and Emily pulled it away. She wrapped it in a little blanket and held it close.
“No one is going to take my baby.”
“I just wanted to see it, Em. Let me show you.”
“No. I won’t let you give it to Socialist Services.”
Melissa laughed. “Don’t be silly. It’s ‘Social’, not ‘Socialist’. That’s not even a word.”
“Well, I’m keeping her anyway.”
“Em, let me see the doll.”
“I’m in charge. Mom said so. I can fix it.” Melissa reached for the doll and Emily pulled further away.
Melissa changed her tone. She looked at David.
“Em, let’s have David decide. Let him be the judge.” Emily looked at David concentrating on building a Lego space craft.
“But it’s my doll. I love her. Why let him decide?”
“That’s what judges do. They look to see what’s fair, when it’s none of their business.”
Emily kissed her doll’s face and then offered it to her brother. “David?”
“Just a minute. I’m finishing up this part.” Emily turned to Melissa.
Melissa tried. “Hey, Dave! We need your help.”
David rolled his eyes. “Okay. What?”
“Give him the doll, Em.” Emily handed David her doll. “We need you to decide whose doll it is.”
Emily stamped her feet and tried to get the doll back. “That’s not what we’re deciding!”
“It is now. David, you are the judge. Whose doll is it?”
David looked at the doll and then at his sisters. How did he get drawn into this silliness?
“Why don’t you cut it in half? Then you each can have it.”
Emily let out a wail and began to cry. Melissa cheered. Emily reached for the doll but David held it close.
Melissa stood triumphant. “Should we cut it up and down? Or side to side? Where does Dad keep the saw?”
Emily shouted, “Stop!” They looked at her. Through tears she said, “Give it to Melissa. Just don’t kill it.”
“Yes!” Melissa danced around the room. She reached for the doll. “Mine, mine, mine…”
David looked at his sisters and then at the doll. He handed it to Emily. “Here, Em. It’s obviously yours. You were willing to give it up, to save it, rather than see it destroyed.” Emily took her doll, smiling through tears.
Melissa shouted, “That’s not fair! You already decided.”
“You asked me to judge. I did decide. Case closed.” David punctuated his decision by hitting the wheelchair tray with his hammer. Lego pieces flew everywhere. David burst into laughter. Emily joined in.
Furious, Melissa left the room.
Emily helped find the missing Legos.
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Dialogue works well here moving the story on apace.