A Little Story of A Short Boy Who Grew.... His Way
Timmy At Nine
Ms. Rollins, the third grade teacher at Morton Elementary, glanced at the clock and threw up her arms in mock surprise. “Good grief!” she exclaimed. “Could it be 1:20 already? Why, we were having so much fun doing math,” at this, several students goraned good-naturedly, “that we almost missed recess!” A few of the kids sat expectatnly with hands pressed to their desks, ready for blast-off. “Okay, class, you know the procedure- it’s time for recess. Remember to walk- not run, walk- quietly to the playground.”
The eager third graders rose from their desks and headed for the playground en masse, except for one little boy who reamained anchored to his seat in the front row.
“Go ahead, Timmy,” Ms. Rollins urged. “Go on outside and have some fun.”
The boy named Timmy remained seated. “That’s okay, Ms. Rollins,” he said. “I think I’ll just stay here and finish reading my book.”
The teacher sighed. This wasn’t the first time Timmy had asked to remain inside during recess. One would think that a teacher would be thrilled if a student chose reading over recess, but Ms. Rollins suspected that, in Timmy’s case, at least, the choice to skip recess was motivated by something other than a passion for reading. Sure, Timmy was one of her best readers, but his decision to stay inside during recess concerned her. It had been happening more and more often.
“How about if I walk outside with you, Timmy. You may check out the book and take it home, if you’d like.”
The little boy remained silent for a few minutes. “Now what do I do?” he thought. “If I go out there with the teacher, it will just make things worse.” He sighed. “That’s okay, Ms. Rollins. I’ll go out by myself. I can check my book out during library time.”
“Good boy.” The teacher shook her head and smiled as she watched him rise and head slowly for the playground. Timmy certainly gave new meaning to the term “little boy.” His small stature made him undeniably adorable but also far more akin to a kindergarten student or a small first grader than a nine-year-old third grader. It was true that boys tend to have their growth spurts later than girls do. Andrea Rollins hoped for Tmmy’s sake that his wouldoccur sooner rather than later. She had overheard some of the cruel things other students had said to him.
When Timmy reached the playground, he headed without enthusiasm for the jungle gym.
At least there weren’t too many kids over there. He reached for the lowest bar and started to climb. “Need a boost?” Jackson, a boy in his class, asked.
“No, thanks,” Timmy mumbled.
“Ah, c’mon...no problem,” Jackson replied as he took Timmy by his waist and pretended to lift hiim; he immediately loosened his grip, and Timmy fell to the ground. “Whoops!” Jackson said gleefully as he turned and ran away.
Timmy brushed himself off and stood to the applause of the small group that had gathered around him.
“Gee, Tim, another fall?” Jackson’s friend Linc asked with ingenuous concern.
“Are you okay, Timmy?” Olivia asked. Tiimmy knew her question was sincere. Olivia always looked sad when the other kids teased him.
“Yes. I’m fine.”
Jackson was back. “Well, if you need anymore ‘help,’ just let me know,” he laughed.
Tim turned away and headed for another corner of the playground.
This was always how it went. No matter what he did, they wouldn’t let him alone. Lately, they had taken to calling him Timmy the Toad. He couldn’t help it that he was short. He wished he could be a hero, like Jack in the Beanstalk. Or a Superhero, liked SpiderMan. Then they’d let him alone. He didn’t want Mom and Dad to know how bad he felt, but he knew they suspected. Sometimes he let the tears come out when he was lying in bed trying to get to sleep, and all he could think about was how to make himself invisible so that nobody could pick on him.
Timmy felt relieved as Ms. Rollins appeared and usherd the class back inside. The kids usually left him alone when adults were around.
As soon as the srudents had settled back into their their seats, their teacher directed them to take out their books of the week. This week’s book was part of a series about Miguel, a mouse with super powers.
“Hey Mickey- I mean Timmy,” Jackson whispered from behind, “maybe you’ll be as tall as Miguel some day.”
Ms. Rollins directed a stern look at the direction from which the stage whisper was coming.
“All right, class, let’s focus. Who would like to be the first reader?”
A hand shot up immediately.
“All right, Jackson. Please begin on page eleven, at the top.”
Jackson made his usual production of composng himself as he stood and began to read. “Even though Miguel was tiny, as most mice are,” he glanced at Timmy, “ his magical powers made him seem mightier than the fiercest, most fer-fer-” he stuggled with the word as Timmy whispered to himself, “ferocious.”
“Good, Timmy, That’s right. The word is ‘ferocious.’ Please continue, Jackson.”
If looks could dislocate a shoulder, Timmy would have been in extreme pain from the look Jackson shot him before continuing. “tiger.” he finished the sentence. “I don’t want to read no more, Ms. Rollins.”
“ ‘Anymore.’ Thank-you, Jackson. Would you please continue, Timmy.”
As Timmy proceeded to read the next paragraph without an error, Jackson and his cohorts carried on a silent pantomime aimed at humilating him whenever Ms. Rollins turned her attention to another part of the room.
Finally, it was three o’clock. Ms. Rollins briefly reviewed the homework assignments due the next day, after which the class hefted their backpacks and lined up at the door. The teacher dismissed the ‘walkers’ and accompanied the remainder of her class to the front of the building, where a yellow bus was waiting outside. “Now remember the Golden Rule,” she reminded the students as they clamored onto the bus. “I’m not kidding!” she added.
Timmy, as usual, was one of the last students on the bus, which was okay with him. All the other boys wanted to sit in the back, so they could didn’t have to worry about the bus driver keeping a close eye on them. Timmy liked sitting up front. At least they couldn’t bother him as much up there.
Olivia sat next to him and without preface said, “Why don’t you just smack him?”
Timmy knew she was referring to Jackson. He shrugged. “ I don’t know,” he said. “I guess ‘cause I know he’d get all his buddies to come after me.”
Olivia sighed. “He prob’ly would. Maybe I could get my friends to help.”
Timmy turned and smiled. “Thanks, Livvy, but I think that might make it worse.
Sixth period. Finally. Langauge Arts class had been Tim’s favorite subject since the beginning of middle school. His performance in math, science, and socail stuides was exemplary, too, but he particularly liked the many avenues of escape and entertainment that books provided. His eighth grade class was slated to read four novels and an array of short stories during this school year. Now, at the beginning of December, they were about to begin their study of the second novel.
Mr. Falacetti, the teacher, started class with a brief verbal sketch of mid-eighteenth century England. After distributing the thin paperback novels, he opened his well-worn copy and began to read. “Marley was dead: to begin with.” He paused dramatically and slowly and distincly spoke directly to the class. “There was no doubt about that.”
After reading a bit more, he said, “Finsh Stave 1- the first chapter- for homework.”
A hand in back of the room shot in the air. It belonged to Susie Lambert, nicknamed Miss Kissup by her fellow students. “Mr. Falacetti, could you please read us some more? You read so good-”
“It’s ‘well,’ “ the girl next to her whispered loudly.
“Yes, ‘well’.... anyway, it’s much better when you read it out loud. I understand it better.”
The teacher smiled. “Thanks, Susie, but we don’t have time today.”
During this exchange, Tim could feel the flush that was creeping up his neck into his face. A Christmas Carol was one of his favorite books. He had read it at least three times, so he felt that he was almost on speaking terms with the characters.... which accounted for the sudden fear he was feeling. He knew that, eventually, the character of Bob Cratchitt’s crippled son would appear.... the character named Tiny Tim. If they were going to read a chapter a day, Tim knew that it would be no time at all beofre his namesake appeared.
‘”That’s all I need,” he thought. He had been trying to keep a low profile this year, but it didn’t take much to set Jackson and his gang of ‘devoted followers,’ aka the 13-year-old boys who were just glad they weren’t the targets of Jackson’s endless humiliations, off into their all-too-familiar tirades of bullying and humiliation. It was just his bad luck to be in the same class as Jackson five out of nine years, if you counted kindergarten.
Fortunately, Jackson was only in his academic classes this year. Tim couldn’t even imagine the bullying that might have ensued in gym class. He’d been doing a pretty fair job of holding his own in that class, as a matter of fact., especially since he’d had the opportunity to choose a sport this year. He’d chosen wrestling, and despite some initial cruel comments tossed his way,was becoming more skilled at the sport each day.
The entrance of Tiny Tim that Tim had been dreading occurred at the worst possible time: during one of Mr. Falacetti’s dramatic readings. Following the introduction, there was total silence in the class room, until a voice from the back of the room called out gleefully, “Yo, Tim.... they wrote a book about you!”
Laughter erupted. feigning a look of sheer terror, Mr. Falacetti said, “Oh, no. Aliens have replaced my eighth graders with kindergarteners.” Then he shook his head and added,“Shame on you.”
Most of he class managed to put on a facade of shame.
Jackson raised his hand.
“Sorry, Mr. F., but it’s all in fun. We were just playin’.”
“ ‘Playin’ at someone else’s expense is called something else in my dictionary,” he paused, “ and that’s ‘bullying.’ ” He looked right at Jackson.
“Amen!” the young lady next to Jackson spoke under her breath but somehow loud enough for all to hear.
The entire time this scenario was taking place, Tim had sat stock still, eyes riveted on his book. He was tired of this: the berating, the humiliation, the need for support from the girls and the teachers. He did appreciate the support of those who could see through Jackson’s ‘harmless teasing’ act, but it almost made him feel worse.
“Okay,” he thought to himself. “It’s now or never: time to act.”
And act he did. Tim rose to his feet, and in a surprisingly good imitation of a child’s voice, threw out his arms and said, “God bless us, one and all.”
After a moment of stunned silence, applause broke out. This time, Tim knew the applause was genuine, and he reacted with a bow.
Who would have guessed that would mark the beginning of the acting career of the legendary Timothy McHale?