It was a Thursday, and it began like every other Thursday had for as long I can remember. My mom woke me up, and after a quick stretch and the most powerful yawn my 7-year-old lungs could muster, I rolled out of bed. I stood there, still groggy from the 12 hours of sleep, in my Spiderman tighty-whities watching my mother pick out my outfit for the day. She ruffled through my shirt drawer until she found something that caught her eye. She laid it gently across my bed, then pulled open the pants drawer, and began to search. I knew, even at the ripe age of 7, that women loved to take their time with clothes. While my mom continued to search for the remaining pieces of my outfit I looked around my room, my eyes floating across my desk like a ship on calm, crisp water. My eyes finally docked at my piggy bank, which was in fact not a pig but a miniature garbage can. A grin crawled across my face. The night before was Wednesday, meant poker night which in dad talk. On Wednesdays, just about weekly my father, meet up with all his friends and played poker. My father’s name was John, and virtually all of his poker buddies were also named John. This was my father's excuse to exclude me from games, he said if I wanted to play, I had to be a John. Nevertheless, I loved sitting in bed and listening to the ruckus they caused, hearing men in their forties scream at each other for three and a half hours was like a lullaby to me, each scream of frustration and victory screech lulled me farther into slumber. But when I heard the faintest knock on my door I jolted awake, because I knew who it was. It was John, my dad, he entered and like always asked if I was awake. I was so of course I said yes and grinned, because I knew what was next. He asked me to borrow some money because he wasn’t doing so hot in poker and all, and I hated parting with my money, but I loved letting my dad gamble with it. I’d crawl out of my bed and flip the lid on my trash can bank and give him a twenty. When every I gave him money I felt like a John too, even though I wasn’t. He’d thank me and head back to his friends, with more money and ruined pride. He would always pay me back though and if he won I’d get my cut.
The sound of my mother’s voice snapped me back to the present, she had my outfit all picked out, and without looking I put it on, like the good puppet I was. I waved my hand over my head. I didn’t feel the strings, but I knew they were there. After I got all dressed I ate some breakfast, cereal probably, and then went to go turn on the TV. I had hardly gotten out of my chair before my mom stood up and walked in-between me and the TV. My first obstacle of the day. She said no TV until my teeth were brushed. I hated brushing my teeth, and although I knew teeth were not animate I had a feeling they hated being brushed too. I scurried off the bathroom, really pushing my little legs too, because I did not want to miss my daily dose of Archie's Weird Mysteries. I skidded to a halt in front of my bathroom and slowly walked in. What I was about to do was a very delicate process. I turned on the faucet and started to count: 1…2…3…4. I carefully peered out the door way, this was the climax of my operation, at this point I was either busted or in the clear, and today, much like everyday luck was on my side. I looked to the left, then slowly turned my head to the right. The worst part was over. I pulled my head past the threshold and back into the bathroom. The fear was over. 57…58…59…60. I rushed and turned off the running water, then as quietly as possible I balled up a huge luge-e in my mouth, and then spit it out. This almost perfectly imitated the sound of spitting out the dirty toothpaste. Between this and the perfectly timed water, I would never be caught pretending to brush my teeth. I walked out to my mom, smiled and she said good job. She took my bluff, already better at poker than my dad. I turned on my cartoons and sat in front of the TV. These next 30 minutes were my minutes. I knew that during this time my older sister would get up and start her own morning process and also that my mother would leave for work, but I didn’t care. My full attention was on Archie, Jughead, Veronica, and Betty. Mostly on Veronica and Betty.
Once the mystery was solved my dad came upstairs from his office and told me I had to go catch the bus. I grabbed my back-pack, put on my shoes and walked down the street to my bus stop. The whole way there I could only think about the extreme boredom I would experience for the next 7 hours. I hated school. But more important in the moment I hated the bus, and ever more important than that I hated the bus stop. There was only one other kid at my bus stop, a girl. A third-grade girl. She was girl, but she wasn’t like my mom, or my sister, or even Betty and Veronica. She was mean. She thought she was so much better than everyone because she was a big third grader and she had a Macintosh computer, a Macintosh computer with Spores on it. She talked my ear off about something I just didn’t care about every day, including this one. Even though I hated the sound of her voice I nodded and laughed just like my mom had taught me. I waved my hand above my head, looking again for those invisible strings. My bus pulled up. The number 9 bus. I sat in the front. We were the second stop on the bus route, and since there was only one kid at the first stop, the bus was quiet. It wouldn’t be for long. By the fourth stop the big yellow Twinkie on wheels was plunged into utter chaos. The back was where it was the worst. Somedays I loved sitting in the back and participating in the chaos. The back of the bus was a roller-coaster, in part because of the rowdiness of the crowd and in part because after every bump in the road our tiny elementary school bodies would be blasted straight up into the sky. But today, I sat in the front. I wanted to think. Think about the cartoon I had just watched. In this cartoon, Archie’s car came alive, and It feel in love with him. The whole concept just really confused me. How could a car come to life? And why would this sentient car fall in love with its owner, someone who it was a slave to? Someone who in all senses of the word, owned it. Stockholm syndrome? I don’t know. And I certainly didn’t know as second grader. But there was one thing I knew, the idea of something being in love with its captor disgusted me. My bus pulled up to my school. I waited until it rolled to a stop and the pneumatic doors hissed open before I jolted up and out of the bus. I walked to my classroom, careful not run into any friends, I was not in a talking mood. I arrived at my classroom the second person in the classroom, the first being the teacher. I sat down at my desk and looked straight up. My desk was situated right in front of the behavior chart. I scanned through all the names in order. Aaron….Bella…..Elizabeth… until I finally got to mine. Right underneath my name was a colored card. A yellowed colored card. It was not green like the other kids’ cards. Yesterday I had stood on my chair in class during the indoor recess. That was frowned upon. According to my teacher I put myself in a dangerous situation by climbing up onto a chair. So dangerous it was deserving of a yellow card. To me the chair was not dangerous. You see in my head I was delivering a speech to my troops, I was a general, and the chair was my pulpit. My teacher did not see my pulpit, or the hundreds of captivated and cheering Roman warriors in front of me. All she saw was a yellow card. So now sitting at my desk, looking the behavior chart, all I saw was a yellow card. Class started, we were coloring that day, I hated coloring. All it is filling in the lines on someone else’s work, I hated it so much so that instead of coloring in the picture, I started doodling around it in cyan colored crayon. I continued doodling pictures of Jedi and dinosaurs and my lovely Betty and Veronica, until my teacher walked by. She told me to color in the lines. She took my sheet and threw it away. I got a new one and I started coloring in the lines. Still all in cyan crayon though.
About forty minutes later I heard the loud speaker boom to life in my classroom. They were asking for me to head down to the cafeteria. I didn’t know what was going on, but it had to have been better than sitting here reading Charlotte’s Web. I walked into the cafeteria and saw about twenty or so kids sitting at one table with a woman. I saw some familiar faces, a few people I had seen around the school. I didn’t know it at the time, but the faces I saw were those of the people who will shape my life and my very sense of being. I sat down at the very end seat of the long lunch tables we had. Across from me was the unfamiliar woman, and to my right was a blonde boy, he was in my first-grade class. I only remember him because he got caught cheating on a spelling test once. The women across from me spoke. She explained that we were brought out of class because we are very special. That we learn very differently than the rest of our classmates. She continued to drone on, but I lost focus, I was distracted by the numerous pictures spread across the length of the table. The one right in front of me stood out he most though. It was a patch-eyed man holding up a magnifying glass to his one good eye, inspecting a bowl of shining red and green jewels. The look of all the red and green in the bowl reminded me of apple jacks. To the right of the man was a suit of armor, with a set of large jealous eyes peering at the treasure. I heard pencils start to race on paper. I missed the instructions. I looked up to the unfamiliar woman, and she sensed my confusion. Write about that picture, she told me. So that’s what I did. In those short 10 minutes that I wrote,I felt freedom. The pencil glided across the paper with an almost intentional uncertainty. After it was over I looked upon my work. An entire page, of my thoughts. I had learned more in those 10 minutes of self-discovery than I did in all of 1st grade. I put down my pencil. I wasn’t sad about my drawing getting trashed anymore, or having to brush my teeth, or even the yellow card. I was to honed in on my own thoughts to see how others would even perceive them. I was Archie’s car, alive for the first time, but I wasn’t in love with my master, my captor. No, I was going 95 down the wrong side of the parkway, no one else within miles of me in all directions. I waved my hand over my head and sighed with relief. Now I am certain; there are no strings. I am no puppet.