For some reason, I was not very good in school. English and Math were my worst two subjects. There was just something wrong with me, inside my head. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not figure out why I didn’t understand what all the other kids found so easy to learn. I do not think there was ever a day that I went to school that I was not afraid.
One day, I was told by Mrs. Winters, the head matron of the Children’s Home Society Orphanage, that if I got one more E on my report card, I would be taken to the Juvenile Court in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. She would tell the judge to send me away to the “big prison for kids.”
I tried really hard for weeks to learn how to multiply, do fractions and compound things. I just could not understand how to make different parts of numbers into whole things. My brain could not do it, no matter how hard I tried.
The day before report cards were to come out, I already knew that Mr. Young would give me an E, just as he always did. After class ended, I went to Mr. Young and told him that the orphanage was going to send me to the “big prison,” if I got another E on my report card. He told me there was nothing he could do; it would be unfair to the other kids if he gave me a better grade than I actually earned.
I turned, walked toward the door and then I stopped. I looked at the teacher and said, “Mr. Young, you know how all the kids make fun of you, because you’re missing one of your fingers?”
He looked at me, moved his mouth to one side like he was biting the inside of his gum and said nothing.
“They shouldn’t do that to you, because you can’t help not having a finger, Mr. Young. Just like I can’t help not being able to learn numbers and stuff like that,” I said.
Again, he said nothing. He just looked down at his desk and began grading papers.
The next day when I got my report card, I tucked it into one of my books. While on the school bus, I opened the report card envelope and looked at my grades: Geography B+, Mechanical Drawing C-, English D-, History C-, Gym B+, Art C, Math D-.
I stood up, placed the report card against my heart and immediately fell to my knees in the center aisle. Everyone on the bus began to laugh as I cried uncontrollably.
That math grade was my favorite grade I ever received in my whole life—not because I wasn’t sent to the big prison for kids, but because I knew that someone in the world finally understood what it was like for me to be missing a finger inside my head.
R. D. K.