Lynna Clark: The dreaded boy

Published 10:57 am Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Dreaded Boy

I heard about the kid long before we met. He had terrorized numerous Vacation Bible Schools every summer from the time he was old enough to attend. Being four years old he would likely be entering preschool. I prayed it would not be the one where I taught. With summer nearly over, I received my class roster. The terrible prospect was real. The dreaded boy would be mine.

A colleague advised me to speak with the principal to ward off the coming doom. Perhaps he could inform the parents that the class was full. But it was not.

Or maybe he could have a frank discussion with the parents ahead of time to place the kid on some sort of probationary agreement. The first time he crossed the line, bam! He’d be out. Surely they’d understand that we can’t have one boy ruining the school year for the rest of the children. Maybe they’d get mad and enroll him somewhere else.

I spoke to the principal who listened well. In fact he agreed that the boy would definitely be a handful. “Let’s give him a chance. You never know. Maybe you are just what his family needs.”

I seriously doubted it.

The school year began as usual. Care Bears greeted my new students from bright bulletin boards. Clear contact paper secured new nametags to each desk. Grumpy Bear shed a tear over the time-out chair in one corner which I was sure would be occupied by the dreaded boy.

At orientation I greeted each parent and child, handing out supply lists with smiles and dreams of a great new year. Each parent received a request for an optional home visit. I prayed that one certain family would opt out.

But they didn’t.

I scheduled their visit last hoping something would come up and we’d have to cancel. In the meantime I waited for the other shoe to fall. The boy could not stay in his seat. His blonde hair was always a mess and in need of a trim. His fingernails stayed black with some sort of crud and his shirttail was generally snotty from wiping his nose.

Then it happened. Busy at my desk while the students worked on a coloring page, I noticed that once again his chair was empty. Suddenly two grimy little boy hands covered my eyes from behind.

“Miz Clark! Guess who?” came his raspy voice. Suddenly he twirled around my neck and hugged me with all his might. He buried his little head in my hair and whispered, “I love you.”

Home visits went particularly well that fall. Parents gushed over the folders I brought with examples of their children’s school work. Still looming however, was the visit to the parents of the dreaded boy. Directions to his home included phrases like “way out in the country,” and “lots of dogs but don’t be afraid; they’ll be chained up.” As I drove I rehearsed how the boy was still tipping his chair over numerous times per day, but at least he had not been in a fight in a while. I prayed not to get lost or bitten or murdered.

Down the long gravel road through dark woods I drove, having not a clue if I was on the right path. There was no street name or sign since apparently this was family land. A small clearing opened up to the front steps of a trailer. I hoped that the barking dogs chained toward the back of the lot confirmed I was at the right home. Either way, I sure hoped those chains held. Suddenly a little blond head appeared as the metal door flung open. “Miz Clark is here! She’s here mama, she’s here!”

“Show her what you made for her!” his mother beamed as she invited me in. On the table was a little pan of brownies her son had stirred together and microwaved “all by himself.” With it he served Kool-aide he had mixed and poured into a tall glass just for me. His purple mustache assured that he’d sampled it properly before my arrival.

Somehow the fact that he still had a problem keeping his chair on all four legs never came up. His mother’s warmth and care for both me and her son were so beautiful. The scales fell off my self-righteous eyes that night and my heart was changed forever.

The prediction the principal made was somewhat true. That family turned out to be just what I needed. Nearly thirty years later, I still think of the dreaded boy… the one who forever stole my heart.

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