“Autism” Speaks

I apologize for being remiss in posting anything for a while. Family matters took priority, as I’m sure We the Average people understand. Those darn kids, always cramping our style!

I’ve copied below the first half of a short story I wrote that was published in two literary magazines: The Galway Review, out of Galway, Ireland; and Watershed Review, out of California State University, Chico, CA. It features “Autism,” the entity, as the narrator. It’s based on a true story that happened to my son with autism, when he was a freshman in high school.

In my next post, I’ll include the second half of the story. Please feel free to send in your feedback! I look forward to reading your comments!

 

“Autism” Speaks

The noon bell sounds like cardiac arrest. Six hundred loyalists advance. Jacob and I brace for the onslaught. We cannot retreat. Jacob is on a suicide mission.

“Last chance,” I say.

Trays slap on tables like minefield explosives. The crackle of shrink-wrapped cutlery hurtles through Jacob’s ears. The sizzle of hot dogs. The splat of ketchup from a bacteria-infested dispenser. A boy shouts, “No shit, Sherlock!”

“Sherlock Holmes was a fictional—” I say, but Jacob interrupts.

“No! They will laugh at me.”

Fair enough. Jacob’s not dressed for battle—yellow t-shirt with a caricature of Hemingway, Kelly-green Adidas pants, neon orange high-tops. No tags, no buttons. Once he started wearing glasses, Jacob no longer donned a hockey helmet to school. Now his head goes unprotected, and his thick black hair clumps in coils over his ears.

He holds out his tray for the spoon-it-up slop masquerading as mashed potatoes. Processed chicken patty, apricots browned in fruit fly syrup, and we’re on our way.

“Into the valley of Death,”[1] I say.

Jacob recites another line, “Half a league / half a league onward,”[2] then repeats it in echolalia. He’s obsessed with classic war literature. What teenage boy isn’t?

“How about “Into the jaws of death / Into the mouth of hell,”[3] I say. “That’s where we’re headed.”

He frowns. “How about ‘Theirs not to make reply / Theirs not to reason why.’”[4]

But I know so much more than he does.

I have over 3.5 million friends. One in forty-two boys, one in sixty-eight kids overall. All the directors and correctors scattered throughout the cafeteria. My peeps. There’s Tyler, stemming in the shadows. Brianne and Brendan, the twins. She doesn’t speak, and he talks incessantly about bus schedules. Malik, back from a three-day suspension. He destroyed the science lab after Billy Chambers held his face down in the guts of a dissected frog.

Jacob is one of the cool guys. He has a superpower, the power of invisibility. Walks through halls like he’s wearing the One Ring. Kids look through him, as if through cellophane. My problem? Jacob doesn’t want to be invisible anymore.

To be continued…

 

[1] Lord Tennyson, Alfred. “Charge of the Light Brigade.”  1854: 7.

[2] Ibid, 2.

[3] Ibid, 24-25.

[4] Ibid, 13-14.

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