Day 9 of StoryADay May.
The Prompt: Write a story based on the ugly duckling structure, with a life-changing moment or realization or event that comes in the middle.
Once upon a time there was a girl who found herself in a bit of a predicament. That girl was me.
Like many girls who found themselves in such a predicament, I went to the boy who helped me get myself into the predicament in the first place. I imagined that he would sweep me up, carry me away, love me forever. Instead he said “That’s too bad. Good luck with that,” and walked away.
I went to stay with my Aunt Trudy. A solid back-up plan for a fair number of girls, I’ve been told. The idea was that I would bear my predicament, then give away the fruits of my labor. I would be free to return home, return to my life, as fresh and clean as I was before I got into this mess.
Nine months is a long time. I had no friends, no school, no distractions. It was me and the tiny little life that I was growing from scratch. How could I not love him? How could I bear to give him away? He was mine. He is mine.
When the time came, Aunt Trudy called her friend Liza. Together, they helped me bring Salvador into the world. Liza brought extra blankets and a bassinet. She planned to tuck him in, take him away. I didn’t let her. I convinced Aunt Trudy to let me and Salvador stay with her. Here I could be a widow. There would be no avoiding the shame and ridicule if I returned home.
He was beautiful. Sleepy brown eyes. Dark brown hair that swirled over his pink scalp. A perfect pink pucker for a mouth. Aunt Trudy was worried about his head, though. “Childbirth is hard,” I told her, “even for the baby.” She was worried about the peak on his brow. The shape his skull had taken on to be able to fit through the birth canal. I wasn’t worried. I knew it would take care of itself.
At two weeks of age, Salvador still had his peaked head. Aunt Trudy made me take him to the doctor just to get checked out. The doctor was even more concerned than Aunt Trudy. He called it a “bony protuberance.” He wanted to schedule surgery. He wanted to remove it.
I said no. It is part of Salvador, part of what I grew inside me. It makes him special. There was no way to tell what might happen if we removed it. Or what he might become if we let his life take it’s natural course. That was what I wanted to see. What he would become.
When Salvador was five, Aunt Trudy brought me paperwork to enroll Salvador in kindergarten. I thought it was a terrible idea. Salvador was an incredibly quiet boy. He would spend hours sitting silently in a chair, staring into the air in front of him. I had no idea what he saw there, what he was thinking. He never told me. I knew that other children wouldn’t understand. I worried that teachers might not understand, that they would punish him for not meeting their limited expectations.
Aunt Trudy was persistent. Pushy. I finally caved and agreed that Salvador could leave me every weekday morning for three and a half hours.
The mornings were long. I missed him.
But I only had to make it through three of them. On the third day, the principal called me to a meeting. Salvador was waiting for me in his office. I pulled my boy onto my lap, kissed his growing forehead. The principal described the morning’s events. The teasing, taunting, name-calling that my Salvador had listened to in silence. He is such a good boy. He did not fight back, just turned the other cheek.
The principal thought that perhaps Salvador would be more comfortable staying at home with me. He wasn’t like the other kids, the principal said, he didn’t quite fit in with them. I smiled. I knew my boy.
Salvador and I had lessons at home for the next ten years. I would bring him books and other things. I would read to him, explain what I saw in the world and on the news. He listened, soaking it all in.
Aunt Trudy found it somewhat disturbing that Salvador never spoke to her. Despite my assurances that he was fine, that he would speak up if he had something important to say, Aunt Trudy brought in another “professional.” A cute little speech therapist. She claimed that she would have Salvador talking within three months. I was willing to give it a try.
For two weeks she came to the farm and took Salvador out into the fields for therapy. She said that she was trying to get him connected to the earth, to nature. He was nature, I thought to myself. I didn’t understand how he could be any more connected.
I followed them once. I watched the cute little thing settle Salvador onto the grass, criss-cross applesauce. I watched her settle herself in front of him. I watched her take his hand in hers. She spoke softly, looking directly into his eyes.
She was trying to take him away from me. Steal his tender heart from me. I couldn’t have that. I fired her. We were better off alone.
My once little boy was now a teenager. Hormones brought on all the changes you would expect in a young man. For Salvador, there was an added bonus. His peak began to grow. The change was subtle, but I saw it. It became pointier, taller. Like a horn. A single horn. My boy was magic. He was going to become a unicorn.
I watched him. I waited. I couldn’t wait for the day that he became what he was always meant to be.
Today he turned thirty. He has not grown in ten years. He has not changed. He is frozen. Stuck. A silent boy in his own little world with a lump on his head. Apparently not every ugly duckling grows up to be a swan. But he is still my ugly duckling. My boy.
Tonight I took him on a special birthday tour. We have made only two stops so far, but it has been a magnificent journey.
The first stop was at the home of a small country doctor. I cut off that doctor’s bony protuberance (you know what I mean) while Salvador watched. I swear I saw him smile.
We then visited the home of a cute little speech pathologist. I held Salvador’s hand. I guided it and the knife, helped him to cut out her tongue.
Now we are headed for home. The home we share with Aunt Trudy. Salvador wants her to be put on display. He doesn’t have to say the words out loud, I know this is what he needs. He wants her imperfections, her misunderstood and unique traits to be put on display. He wants to watch as this small community gathers round to tease, taunt, and name-call.
He is my special boy. Of course I will give him what he wants.
Aunt Trudy’s flaws are on the inside, though. We will have to open her up for all the world to see.