Friday, May 6, 2011

M.I.A.



"What do you want?"

I get a blank, brown-eyed look for an answer.

"Really, I'll give you anything you want....What do you want?"

This can be a startling question coming out of the blue. Especially coming from an adult and you're a fifth-grader.

"Because here's what it looks like you don't want: It looks like you don't want to be in Shakespeare Club anymore. It looks like you don't want to play Oberon, and if that's the case, then you got it. Let's get you off the hook, my friend."

Dominick and I are sitting alone at the back of the auditorium during lunch. I'd located him on the field, crooked my finger,walked away, and he'd followed.

I ushered Dominick into a seat and planted myself across the row. In the distance we could hear squeals and shouts of kids roughhousing, but inside the cavernous hall it was quiet. I didn't say anything. For a while Dominick didn't say anything, then:

"What?" He shrugged his shoulders.

"Right. That's my question. What?"

"I'm sorry."

"For?"

"For skipping Shakespeare Club yesterday."

And that's when I offered him the world. Whatever you want, Dominick.

"It's just that I hit my head—"

"You know what?" I cut him off. "We're not even going there because I know you went to baseball practice."

Hmmm.

And I knew this after hearing from other kids that Dominick had left school, and after searching the grounds for him, and after writing his dad and finding out Dominick had convinced his caretaker to take him home, and after hearing Dominick ended up playing baseball....Well, he had two strikes with me.

"Are you mad at me, Dominick?"

"No."

He said this with a world-weary shake of his head. It was an adult reaction. His face looked so exhausted he could only be sharing the truth.

I knew then whatever was going on with Dominick had nothing to do with me, or playing Oberon, or Shakespeare Club.

"Okay, do you want to be in Shakespeare Club? Do you want to play Oberon?"

"Yes, I do....I do, Ms. Ryane."

"Then no more missing. I don't care if you're throwing up, cut and bleeding. No more missing because you're letting down your team and you're wasting my time. Do not mess with me, Dominick. Do not."

He gave me serious nod.

"I think you'll be great as Oberon, but you have to do the work. You have to show up. I don't want thirty percent of you, or sixty-five percent....I want one hundred and fifty percent of you, every week."

From the time he was a baby, Dominick was moved home to home, house to house, pretend-family to pretend-family over and over again in the foster-care system.

He and his little sister have been adopted and are now in a stable situation, but the family is about to relocate to another city and it looks like Dominick might be having a reaction. He wants to run.

I do too, some days, but we're going to stay put, me and Dominick. We're going to stay in the dream.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
Dear William,

I received your letter. I'm very glad you met the queen. Just to let you know Hamnet is getting sick. The doctor came to our house yesterday morning and he said that if you don't give him medicine he will die. Hurry home.

Love,
Annie Your Wife

Dear Annie,

I fell sad that our baby boy might die. The Queen is beautiful. I will come back as soon as I can.

Love,
William Your husband
Krystal, 4th grade


"Oberon" by Melissa Findley

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