The school bell rings. All the elementary school children flood through the doors and join friends, or rush to their bus or their parents’ car. A homely little boy rushes through the crowds and down the sidewalk. He skids to a halt in front of five older boys, their arms crossed haughtily over their puffed chests.
“Well, would you look who it is,” one of the boys sneers. “Our favorite little playmate. Ready for a game?”
“The first one to get him to talk wins!” a second boy shouts. He and the others reach out and grab at the little boy’s jacket, clamp their hands on his arms, pinch his exposed white wrists, yank his dark hair and tug at his ears, as he struggles to get free.
“Come on and end it!” the ringleader of the older boys goads the younger boy on. “All you have to do is say 'stop' and it’s all over!”
The younger boy wriggles to get free and yells and screams, but none of the gawking students surrounding them come to his aid.
“Say it!” yells another.
“C’mon, talk, you retarded mute!” shouts the third.
The younger boy’s green eyes narrow into an icy glare. Much to the bullies’ surprise, the boy kicks one of them just enough to make him let go, then twists one of his arms around his back and knocks him down; he then sweeps another’s feet out from underneath him, letting him fall onto one of his cohorts until they all come crashing down like dominos. As soon as they are all on the ground, distracted for the moment, he bolts away down the sidewalk.
I’m Naoyuki Kondo, age 11. And this – well, this is normal for me.
He arrives at a small house not far from the school and stops on the porch to catch his breath before opening the door.
“Naoyuki, is that you?” A tall woman with short, dark hair meets him inside. “Ah! You’re a mess!” she cries fretfully. “What happened?!”
This is my teacher and caretaker, Shizuyo. I know she means well, but sometimes she’s just such a worrier.
Naoyuki’s caretaker sits him on the couch and starts cleaning him up. “Oh, why do you let people do things like this to you?” she asks.
Naoyuki just shrugs.
His caretaker sighs. Even after all these years he’s still so distant, she thinks. She squats down to his level and looks him in the eyes and holds him gently by his shoulders. “Naoyuki, I know..I’m not your mother. But still, I wish you would – ” Before she can finish, Naoyuki wrestles away from her and bolts for his room. Shizuyo sighs. Even after all these years, she thinks regretfully, he still...won’t let me in.
Naoyuki sits on his bed, clutching the photo of his family in his arms. Where are you? he wonders sadly.