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The wood chips splintered into her hands as she broke her fall.
“Look! Bones is on the ground! “
“Yeah, just where she belongs. And what’s she gonna do about it, she has no voice!”
They sauntered back to their posse, with all the swagger fourth graders could possibly have. Bones, as she was known, was not really named Bones. But other people called her Bones, so she went by Bones. It wasn’t her fault that she was so frail, but the other kids didn’t stop to consider the why portion of it, they only saw her for what she looked like. You guessed it, bones. She took a deep, burning breath and blinked back the tears welling up in her eyes, imagining her bullies getting reprimanded for their wrongdoings. As if from out of nowhere, a teacher’s shrill voice broke her train of thought.
“Ex-CUSE me! What was that?” She was not yelling at Bones, but at her offenders. The bullies awkwardly stammered and tried to pull together a believable excuse.
“I’m listening. Explain yourselves!” Anybody could see they were struggling; their faces were growing redder and redder each time the recess aid’s buggy eyes bounced between them. The stuttering didn’t help their cause. Without much more discussion, they were sent on their way to the principal’s office.
“Sweetie, are you alright?” The recess aid helped her to her feet.
“Uh, yeah I’m fine,” Bones looked anywhere except at the aid.
“What happened, why did they push you down?” The questions were scarier than the bullies were. Bones just shrugged her shoulders and ran to the back of the playground. Once she reached safety, she rolled up her sleeve and began picking woodchips out of her elbows and hands. After the first few were out, the pain really started to set in, so she closed her eyes, willed herself not to cry anymore, and imagined that it didn’t hurt so badly.
To her surprise, she opened her eyes and saw the skin around the scrapes moving inwards. The tears stopped, and Bones stared in utter amazement as the skin regenerated around and under the woodchips, pushing them out and healing her wounds. She watched as the wood chips rose up and fell back to the ground like they had never been in her arm at all. Confused as ever, she got up and followed the crowd of kids back to the school; recess was over.
Taking her seat in the classroom, she happily noticed that her bullies were nowhere to be found. They both sat across from her in the group of four desks closest to the windows. The windows were Bones’s main source of entertainment throughout the day. It was obvious, too. If you looked at her in math class: staring out the windows. History: staring out the windows. Writing: staring out the windows. She was pretty much always staring out the windows.
Her face flushed and she jumped as the boy next to her tapped her arm.
“Were you listening, young lady?” Their teacher always addressed everyone “young lady” or “young man” when she was mad. Bones began frantically nodding up and down.
“Then answer my question! Two hundred thirty eight divided by fourteen!” She had this sort of smug look on her face, as if she was certain that Bones would get it wrong and then she would be able to give her some business about the importance of paying attention in class. Without missing a beat, Bones correctly shot back,
“17’’and resumed her stance facing the window, paying no attention to the class. It was a clear defeat on the part of the teacher, and although she was still upset at Bones’s disdainful attitude, she resumed the lesson without bothering her anymore.
Bones even surprised herself by knowing the answer to that question. She hadn’t been paying any attention, just like the teacher suspected. Silently reveling in her strange mathematical success, she wished the class were less boring, as usual. Her thoughts drifted to a book she had been reading, something about animals breaking out of a zoo and taking over the city. A flash of orange and brown dashed across her peripheral vision, breaking her daze. Trying to peek around the corner without looking too conspicuous, Bones concentrated on the flash of brown and orange, imagining that it came back. And then it did.
Before her eyes, a lion regally walked through the back parking lot, where Bones usually stared into the distance when the lessons got boring. She sat up straight and pinched her leg under the desk to make sure she was awake and not dreaming. It was real… unreal, but real. Bones closed her eyes and wished the lion away, hoping that nobody saw it so that there would be no fuss. She opened her eyes and the lion was gone. And of course, somebody saw.
Teachers were frantically speed walking up and down the halls, trying to convince the children to remain calm, and that nothing had happened. The office buzzing with phone calls from concerned parents, and even a local news channel was covering the lion sighting. The frenzy of everybody worrying and moving around made Bones extremely uncomfortable. Suddenly, Bones’s vision began to blur, and her head began to pound. In a moment of luck, Bones was called down to the office to leave, but she didn’t know why.
“Hello?” She snapped out of it, long enough to respond. Or at least, acknowledge. Bones looked up at the crooked face of her teacher and nodded.
“You are wanted at the office.” Bones grabbed her bag, shoved her grimy pencil case and math workbook into it, and was out of the room before anyone else could say another word to her. To her delight, there stood her mother in the office, waiting to sign her out. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t care. Without a word, she and her mother walked out of the building, through the clusters of news vans, concerned parents, and very confused zoo-keepers from the nearest zoo, which was over an hour away. Still silent, they got in.
“Why a lion?” Bones’s mom asked her as she put the car in reverse and backed out of the spot to go home.
“What?” her face flushed, and she was very concerned that she was going to get yelled at.
“The lion, that was you, you know that right?” All of a sudden it started to make a little bit of sense to her, and there was a common theme of the strange events of the day.
“Um…” She thought she knew, but wasn’t sure.
“It was you. It runs in the family, we’ve been waiting for you to start.”
“Sweetie, in our family imagination runs strong, so strong it sometimes leaks out a little bit into the real world. That’s why you can get away with never paying any attention in class, that’s why the woodchips came out of your arms on their own, and that’s why the lion appeared.” It was like the clouds parted, Bones finally understood.
“I came to get you so you can rest, it takes a lot of energy. Take a nap, and when you wake up, we’ll start your training.”