(Author's note: I have decided to use my real name after this story, since I have now reached fifty stories on this page. xox)
My house is at the end of the street, really a cul-de-sac, so when I used to play outside we were surrounded by all of those neighbours we knew for years, and the kids were all the ones who lived around there and knew each other. It was perfect for all of us and then it was not. It all got ruined and I better tell someone why it happened (why I am telling you, I do not know, but…)
So, it was a cul-de-sac for all of us. If it was the right time of the day, no one had to run off the road to avoid a car or stay away from some bully at school. We could play road hockey, soccer, basketball (if Dave let us drag his net out on the street and his dad did not give us a hard time about it), tag, bike stunts, whatever we could find to do. And it was summer, so most of us – even Dave, who had summer school – were out there and enjoying it. I was enjoying a bottle of Crush and had some Freezies to hand out (mom said I had to) and it was great.
And then that stupid van showed up.
Better explain what happened: I was sick and home from school, so I was up in my room and trying to read my comics (mom said that I should read something) and I heard something in front of my window.
It’s strange to think about it now, but I wondered why they were moving here in September. The school year already started and I had already started a new grade, so if they had kids…
And yeah, they had kids. I saw a hockey net and a pink banana bike (y’know the one with that big seat in the back). I figured that they at least had two kids with them. Didn’t see them that first day, but I was still happy. We needed a new net for our games.
Anyway, there were some moving men waiting around for the new people to show up and I saw a car pull up (a Ferrari!) with two people in it. They looked like they had money, so I wondered why they were living here.
And then I saw their heads.
You try not to stare at people who are different from you. That was something I was taught by my family. You try to treat everyone the same way. But their heads stood out a mile. Very large and very strangely shaped (oblong is a good word for them). They spoke to the moving men and went inside. And that was weird, too. None of the moving men said a thing to themselves (I was waiting for it) or laughed about them. They just kept bringing things into the house. And I went back to bed. I really did feel a little sick.
So, the kids were there. I met Carl first because we had another game going and I mentioned that the new kid probably wanted to play. Dave wanted me to go over and say hello and ask if he could come out (he was always delegating – that’s the right word?) I went over and knocked (the Ferrari was not there and there was some loud music playing). Good thing they had a doorbell.
“Hello, young man.”
“Oh, hello. Um, we were just wondering…”
“He can come out. Let me just get him.”
So, there was Carl with the net. Danny didn’t want to be in net anyway, and we all played until it got too dark to see the ball. And I have to say, Carl was cool. He did not seem weird or different at all and he was really good in net (almost shut us out that first day). What I should have noted is that all the others saw the mother when I was standing at the door. And I knew that because I could hear the sticks no longer scraping the ground and no one was shouting.
“You think that he’ll look like that when he gets older?”
“What disease you think it is?”
“Contagious? Is it contagious? Is it?”
That was just the first day.
And then things went really wrong.
I wondered where Carl was when we were all at school. He played hockey and basketball with us when the weather got better, but he was not at school. He was never on the bus or in our classes (Dave wanted to find out more than me). But I did keep looking. After school, I searched all around the streets and looked carefully around the local park. And then, one day, on another weekend, I saw the bike.
The pink banana bike…
I was at the park and it was just there lying against the jungle gym.
It was his sister, Carla. She slid down from the winding part and saw me standing there.
“Yeah, the neighbor. Hi!”
She grabbed my hand and really shook it hard.
“You never came by again after you said hello to my mom.”
She knew that and was still nice.
“Well, I really don’t see Carl unless we play hockey or basketball.”
“Oh, ha ha!” She picked up her bike and sat on the seat. “We home-school!”
“Yeah, my parents teach us everything and we take a government test to see if we are doing well.”
“Wow, really? You can do that?”
“Sure. Dad works from home and Mom has the money so it makes it easy for us to do it.”
We both laughed and smiled, and I thought that this was great to know (why couldn’t I do that?).
And I should have ended there.
“You both are in the same grade?”
“Oh, no.” We were both walking home by then. “He is one year ahead. We were not twins.”
“Oh, okay. And your family must be really smart to do that.”
“Oh, and…rich. But also big brains, too, right?”
Carla just froze, looked at me with hard black pits for eyes, and hopped on her seat.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I just mean, they are really smart.”
“You said, ‘big brains’. Big heads, right?”
“No, no, that is not what I mean, I just noticed…”
“Everyone notices this. We know this. And people sometimes just stare and try not to laugh. But they’re no different from you or me. You should know what it’s like to be different.”
And then I got offended.
“How am I different? What is…?”
“You take a special bus to school. You have to be inside your room on certain days so that you don’t get too sick. And you are holding an I.V. bag right now. Why do think that you are better than them.”
I felt really cold when she said that, even though it was spring and the sun was still out. I knew that the others in the neighborhood had received notices about us, but still…
“Sorry. I just wanted to say…”
She started to pedal and I can see remember her last words to me.
“Better to have a big head than to be just a fat head!”
Not the worst thing I’ve been called, but it lingered. And it was something that followed me since then.
Still don’t know why I am telling you this. We have a class soon, and I have to make sure that the meds are right for me. Please tell me that I can fix this up and get out of my room and play with the others without embarrassing myself. Right now, Carl is in charge and he really does not want to see me again. Please give me an idea about how I can fix this. It is really lonely in that neighborhood. It is really too much to be different.