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by James Calore

Young J.T. Starett frowned, and continued to look around, not impressed with anything or anyone he saw. Today was supposed to be a special day; he came to work with his mother this morning, skipping his seventh grade class with permission. He was excited and edgy after a sugar cereal breakfast and a fitful night of intermittent sleep. J.T. looked up at his mom, a pleasant looking woman with blonde hair pulled back into a bun, tightly, which she believed removed wrinkles from the corners of her eyes. Her face was animated and she was smiling at the others in the room, using her hands for emphasis. The room was small, too small for the number of people present and the mix of adult scents, body heat and moldy old books was overpowering.

The teachers assembled in their get-ready room every morning in preperation for the bell signaling the start of first period classes, then they would proceed to their respective rooms. J.T.’s mom took advantage of this gathering of her peers to push him this way and that, facing him towards this tweed jacket or that wool-pleated dress. She talked non-stop about him to whoever would listen, praising her son and outlining his positive characteristics. He did not look up and made no eye contact, more like belt contact or shoe contact. J.T., who was small for his age but strong and athletic, felt belittled to be on display like this, his mother treated him more like a little kid instead of the star seventh grade lacrosse player that all his classmates had come to admire.

“But Mildred, what a handsome young lad you have,” a nearby woman said, who smelled strongly of lilacs and soap.

“Yes, he’s a fine one, that,” a man with a drooping mustache bent over to stare into his face. J.T. backed away, repulsed by the man’s tobacco and mint breath. He squirmed in his mother’s grasp, wrinkling his long-sleeve dress-shirt at mid arm where she held him firmly. What’s going on, he thought, this is not fun, momma said she would take me to watch the high school lacrosse team practice, maybe meet some of the players, not any of this other stuff. He wanted to scream, but knew better and held it in. Disappointment crowded his face; he moved his eyes from place to place to avoid acknowledging any of these terrible people. Just take me to the practice fields, he thought.

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