Normie (part one)

NormieHow he hated that name, how it made him shrink to hear it.  For the longest time, he thought it was the cause of all his problems, the snickering, the disrespect he had endured.  He cursed his mother for giving it to him, for sticking him with that built-in diminutive, instead of the still nerdy but nobler “Norman”.  There’s strength in a name like Norman, but the name she had them put on his birth certificate made him feel lower than worms.

For a year before he went himself, he had walked two of his sisters to school every day.  It wasn’t very far, they lived on the corner of the same street as the school, it being in the middle of the block.  The older of these two, (there was an oldest, who was by then attending junior high), decided to set him up with an even worse appellation, by telling him that the older girls he obviously wanted to impress would respect him if he dug up some worms, and chased them with them.  Sounded plausible; he did it.  And was forever after referred to as “Wormy Normie” while he attended elementary school.  Maybe not everyone knew of it, but enough to give him grief.  This sister even spread it around the family, on a Christmas visit to their grandfather’s house. So all the cousins knew.

When he complained to his father, who had divorced and left his mother a year or two before, his father told him to tell people, “The name’s ‘Puddin’ Tame’, ask me again and I’ll tell ya the same.”  To him, that did not sound plausible as a way to make friends, and he chose not to do that one.  When he brought it up with his father again, years later, his father told him, “If it had been up to me, I would have named you ‘Percy’.”  Apparently, his father was a devotee of the “A Boy Named Sue” philosophy.  It took him umpty-dozen years before he figured out that both of his parents had occasionally taken out their vengeance for each other, using him as a pawn.

In school, he found that he was far ahead of his classmates in reading; it was really tortuous for him to hear them “sounding out” their words.  And it annoyed him when the teachers usually wouldn’t correct their pronunciation, because she figured at least they were reading.  But he also found that when it came to arithmetic, he just wasn’t getting it.  He invented his own system of putting dots on the numbers, to aid him in addition.  It took him a lot longer, but at least this way he had a shot at coming up with the right answer.  It did get to be cumbersome though, when his 6th grade teacher thought it would be interesting to make up long columns of 4 and 5 digit numbers.  You’d think he’d eventually learn how to add, say, 5 and 38 in his head, but you’d be wrong, because his mind just couldn’t work that way.  He had to count the dots.

The real cause of his problems wasn’t known at the time, and he didn’t stick out too much as being different, because in elementary school, friends are only friends until somebody gets hurt, or angry about something, and then they make a big point of avoiding each other.  So his experiences didn’t seem too different, except that he was unusually quiet, for a boy.

Junior High was kinda brutal.  There was this thing that, if somebody came up and put their hand near your face, and you flinched, they were allowed to call “Two for flinching!” and punched you in the upper arm, hard, twice.  They were doing it to everyone, but it seemed they were doing it to him even more.  It was like there was this formal ‘rule’ that everyone had to do this.  Who comes up with this stuff?  Ah well, at least he got through before somebody came up with “wedgies” or “swirlies”.

For Senior High, the last 3 years, he had transferred to a small rural school, because he had gotten into an argument with his mother at a bar she had dragged him to, and then told him to “Go home”.  He did, but not to hers.  He was past the age where he could decide which parent he wanted to live with, and he made his decision.  Of course, at the new school, the pecking order had to be established, but he defaulted every challenge, having decided not to join in their reindeer games.  He had made a few friends, a very few friends, but not the long-lasting sort.  He was glad to graduate, even though he knew he would have to get out of his father’s house, as his sisters had, as soon as they graduated.


Normie appeared originally at Comet’s Corner, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

on 04/6/10 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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