Saturday, January 09, 2010

Entry #88

Segregation
by Susan Ellis


“What do you see in the picture?” the lady with the grey hair asked me.

I looked from her unreadable brown eyes, hidden behind bifocals, down at the picture lying flat on the table before me. It looked to me like a silhouette of a hawk aloft in a cold twilight sky. The tips of the bird’s wings were finger-like, black against blurry bare branches. But anyone could see that. What did the lady want me to see? There must be hidden meaning or she wouldn’t be asking me. I felt heat flood my nine-year-old face and I searched her eyes again for clues.

“Tell me what you see, ” she repeated, looking down and tapping the photo with the eraser of her sharpened pencil.

“Ummm, a bird? In the sky? Maybe like the tail is the mouth?” I guessed, miserable.

“Mmmmm,” she murmured noncommittally. She wrote in a notebook that was angled away from my line of sight. She replaced the picture with a puzzle.

The lady was the raptor and I was an undefined leafless branch.

Three weeks later the results from the test were mailed.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” Mom sighed.

At recess I played hopscotch on gritty asphalt with a girl from the Special Ed class. She usually played alone. She couldn’t talk, but I could read her eyes. She hadn’t found the hidden meaning in the picture either.

29 comments:

Aimee Laine said...

Been there, done that! It's amazing what kids "see" that adults don't.

macaronipants said...

I love this one. Nice use of the image.

pjd said...

You've captured the voice wonderfully, especially the the finish. So much told with so few words. Very nice work!

Leah said...

I like the twist on this, having characters looking at the inspirational photo which reminds me of an ink blot test. And then at the end...well it reminds me of how children find a bond in things. And there's a mystery, too, something like who is the lady with the gray hair and why is there so much apparent pain in the children who can't figure out the picture?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Alas, another sad but true story. Well done. Your voice is spot on.

Craig said...

Touching, you made care about the fate of the child in just a few words. Well done.

JaneyV said...

Susan - I have often thought that psychological tests tell us more about the psychologist than the subject. And as usual the mother had it just right,
They don’t know what they’re talking about

Beware of labels.

Very nice writing.

wrath999 said...

Wow, very well done

Anonymous said...

From a teacher's perspective, I can certainly relate to this story. I like your portrayal of the innocent child, how the test doesn't hinder her interaction, how she's able to move on.

--JR

Bernita said...

I think you found the meaning in the picture quite nicely!

lena said...

I wonder how many kids were labeled "thanks" to such tests which could have ruined their lives. And which maybe did.
A sad story indeed. But greatly presented.

Aniket said...

A very touching tale. One of my favourites.

Growing up used to be fun...

catvibe said...

Good one. She doesn't (know). Sad state of affairs.

Preeti said...

Very nicely written.
Felt sorry for the child. Loved the mother's reaction. I think the child is in safe hands. No amount of psychiatric intervention can ever face off to a mother's faith and acceptance of her child.

Kartik said...

Very poignant tale. It's quite telling of this society how children who are "different" have to go through these things.

Kurt Hendricks said...

I agree with Bernita. This story kind of reminds me of the time my son was labeled as being slow in the development of his speech, and possibly hard of hearing. Turns out he just found the person who was testing him to be completely uninteresting and not worth his attention.

austere said...

Very interesting , the child's voice is so authentic

Great work.

laughingwolf said...

coolios!

Laurel said...

This captures so much frustration in just one line:

They don't know what they're talking about.

Compelling portrait of a child being labeled based on the subjective judgment of one person. The saddest part to me was how much this child wanted to give the right answer and was intimidated into saying the "wrong" thing. She is already afraid that what she sees isn't what the test standard says she should.

A big whallop in a small amount of words.

Four Dinners said...

We (adults) can be so quick to judge kids eh?

I enjoyed this in a sort of sad way.

Mind you! Many kids are 'written off' and make good!

Deb Smythe said...

Realistically rendered... unfortunately. Nicely done.

Susan Ellis said...

Thank you to everyone for your comments. It's really been fun to read everyone's stories and to get comments on my own. Helpful also, as I take my first steps as a (wannabe) writer.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love the last paragraph here. the whole story is excellent, insightful.

truevoid said...

at some point in life, i think everyone experienced similar story. very touching.

McKoala said...

Lovely story.

Chris Eldin said...

Sad but honest depiction of a slice of life. I really like this take on the prompt. How true that we're all expected to see the same things, and if we don't, there's something wrong with us.

SzélsőFa said...

great parabole.

Meghan said...

I love this entry. It's powerful, especially the last line. Great job!

Aerin said...

Dear Entrants #1-105,

I have read your pieces so that I can fairly participate in the Readers' Choice vote. (I read all of them through last week, before I started commenting.) I will be coming back around to offer my keep/tweak comment, but I didn't want anyone to snark.

Cheers,
Aerin (#236)

BTW, it's perfectly fine if you still want to snark, but this way you can choose a more appropriate subject, like the Golden Globes or those wretched Old Navy dummies.