Friday, December 18, 2009
Truman Learns that Adults Sometimes Lie. A Harsh Reality Check.
Truman was the first to jump up to get the swine flu shot when the nurse arrived to administer the vaccine to Miss Maple’s 5th grade class at Confederacy Elementary in Cloverdale. He wasn't afraid like the other kids because he was told the Swine Flu shot wouldn’t hurt, and he trusted his mother and teacher. He also wanted to impress Lucy Olpin with his bravery. Lucy was his girlfriend of two days, which was a new record for Truman. Truman works hard at getting noticed by the 'hot' girls in the class. He courted Lucy for three months by sending notes, leaving little gifts in her desk, and downright giving her money before she agreed to 'go' with him.
“Come on everyone. My mom says the shot won’t hurt,” he said to his classmates, many of whom were still in their seats - reluctant to willingly allow someone to poke a needle into their arm. Lucy sat in her desk admiring her new boyfriend. His bravery easily compensated his moderate to average looks. She glanced at her friends. They looked jealously at her, envious of her good fortune to land someone like Truman.
“I don’t like shots,” Loopy Langford said from under his desk.
“Loopy’s right,” said Carrot Top from the back of the room. He was perched in the open window, ready to jump out to the playground below. Miss Maple approached Carrot cautiously, urging him to get back to his seat.
“The shot won't hurt,” she said. Carrot Top looked at her distrustfully. “Don't jump out the window. Stay calm and come sit down."
Carrot looked at his teacher. He remembered his depression when he saw he was in her class at the beginning of the school year. To date, things haven't gotten better. "Your friends don't want you to jump either,” she added in her condescending voice.
Carrot Top glanced across the room. Several of his classmates had the same idea as Loopy and hid under their desks. Others gazed blankly back at him, having switched their emotions off to succumb to the inevitable flu shot that awaited. They were too weak to resist the camp commandant's (Miss Maple) orders. A few, mostly girls, were nodding their heads up and down at the teacher’s suggestion. Billy Murphy urged him on by mouthing the word “jump”. Miss Maple crept closer and closer, her arm outstretched in a gesture of friendship and love - something Carrot knew was foreign to Miss Maple.
“We’re your friends Carrot Top,” she calmly said while waving her arm in the general direction of his classmates. A simulated smile cracked across her porcelain face, exposing her yellow, coffee stained teeth.
Billy Murphy snorted out, “Speak for yourself Miss.”
“Billy!” Miss Maple shot a dirty, crusty look in Billy’s direction. “100 lines after school.”
“Not if I don’t jump first,” Billy answered back sarcastically. Billy slumped down in his chair and stared straight ahead. He’d lost interest in Carrot Top’s attention getting stunt.
“Carrot, its just a swine flu shot. Everyone is getting them. It won’t hurt a bit,” Miss Maple's blood pressure rose as Carrot scooted further through the windowsill. In her 40 years of teaching no student ever successfully escaped her classroom and Carrot wasn't about to upset her unblemished record.
“He’s going to jump!” Penny Packer screamed. The sudden shock of Penny’s scream nearly sent Carrot plummeting out the window and to the playground three feet below.
Billy raised his hand to offer a solution. “Can I push him out and get this over with?”
Miss Maple shot back by adding 200 more lines to his 100. Billy slumped further down in his chair and started blowing spit bubbles through his lips.
“Carrot, look at Truman - already up front ready to get the shot. You trust Truman don’t you?”
“Yes,” Carrot answered. Carrot and Truman were best friends. Miss Maple knew that and used that knowledge for leverage. A skill fined tuned over her several decades of tormenting children.
“Truman, are you scared to get the shot?”
”No Miss. Like I said. My Mom said not to be afraid because it wouldn’t hurt a bit.” Truman unbuttoned his shirt, pulled half of it down to reveal his arm and waited.
Carrot froze along with the rest of the class. All eyes were on Truman. Even Billy sat up, knowing if the nurse missed and shot him in a vein there would be blood, lots of blood, and he wasn’t about to miss that. Loopy crawled out from under his desk. The squeamish in the class covered their eyes. Alice Tinker put her head down on her desk remembering her tendency to faint when exposed to disturbing images.
The nurse swabbed Truman’s arm. Truman’s smile straighted out with the smell of alcohol. The nurse produced the needle, uncapped it and started for the boy’s upper arm. Billy licked his lips. Loopy went back under his desk. Alice blanked out. Penny stifled a scream with both hands. Miss Maple started praying, hoping her lie about the shot not hurting wouldn’t be exposed.
Truman watched the needle advance. He looked at the nurse's face. Her tongue protruded a few centimeters from her closed lips as she lined the shot up before striking. She looked like she was trying to thread a needle. Her concentration frightened Truman. He felt ice water pump through his veins as the needle grew closer and closer.
"Now this won't hurt a bit," she said with subdued pleasure. Truman panicked.
“No I don’t wan...........” Truman started to say. The needle found its mark. The nurse pushed it in with full force.
“Awesome!,” Billy shouted. “Here comes the blood.”
Something happened inside Truman. The shot did hurt. His mother lied. His teacher lied. “Do adult’s lie?” he wondered. An explosion of grief and pain blasted out from his lungs, filling the room with a scream only a young child can produce. Miss Maple covered her ears with both hands. The nurse worked quickly to cover the puncture with a band aid. Billy stood on his desk to see the blood.
“I’m outta here!” Carrot shouted and leaped out the window into the void. He was quickly followed by nearly everyone else in the class. Miss Maple watched helplessly while all 30 of her students, except Billy, Alice and Truman jumped out the windows. They ran, all of them ran for the playground’s edge.
It was a bad day at Confederacy Elementary School in Cloverdale.