“Nice save,” he said. She smiled, glancing around the room. Four hands were in the air. “Yes, Mitch?” AP called on the 7th grade violinist.
“What’s wrong with your sister?’
AP bristled. “Nothing. She has disability called Williams Syndrome. According to google, that means that she has “a rare congenital disorder associated with deletion of genetic material in chromosome 7; characterized by mental deficiency and some growth deficiency and elfin faces but an overly social personality and a remarkable gift for vocabulary. In reality makes her high strung, hyper, and a bit emotionally volatile. She’s a little slow on the uptake, but she does learn. My mother spent months teaching her the bus routes. Now she can go anywhere she wants all by herself. She’s memorized every bus route. She could you what buses to take to get from South Deerfield to Springfield and back without ever having to consult a schedule.” AP smiled, as she noticed that a few of her classmates looked impressed.
“ She takes budgeting and learning to do laundry and make her own food,” AP continued. “ She can play music by ear. She plays the panio, flute, and violin. She sings really complicated material really beautifully. She goes to Berkshire Hills Music Academy. It’s a special postsecondary school for musical people with developmental delays. She with her roommate Julie, in a dorm on the second floor. The school only has one building I love her just the way she is. At least she’s not rude like some people I could mention.” she glared at Mitch who shriveled into his seat.
“Are there any other questions?” Mr. Russo moved quickly to disarm the tension. “Alison, how about you? Why don’t you ask Aretha about her very well presented report?” said Mr. Russo. Mr. Russo didn’t believe in nicknames, AP was listed as Aretha on his roster, so Aretha she would be called in his classroom. There was no room for democratic negotiation in his class, unlike other teachers classrooms at PVPA. He also didn’t let students call him by his first name. “I know it’s old fashioned, particularly in a place like this. But it feels disrespectful.”
“How did your mom come to take the position at Mount Holyoke? I mean she sounds like a seriously accomplished artist and why is she taking a non-paying fellowship.”
“That’s a good question,” said Mr. Russo, relieved at the change in topic.
AP considered. “Well, my dad is here for a year. And, I think although of course I can’t truly tell you what her motivations were because I’m not her, she wanted to make sure MJ and Moonbeam were settled in at school properly and taking this fellowship would although her plenty free time to intervene if she needed to. Paying visiting professorships wouldn’t allow that freedom. But, my mom being my mom, just couldn’t sit around for a whole year playing wifey and doing nothing to stimulate her mind. She loves making art and educating young people. When dad goes back to Yale, she’ll return to chairing the Art Department at Gateway Community College.”
The last two students with raised hands asked about the Freedon Rides. After 10 more minutes, AP was permitted to return to her seat.”Very nice, Aretha,”
After class, Mary one of the few people she was stating to think of as her bestfriend in the strange, new world of PVPA, said, “I’m sorry about Mitch. He just lost two rating points for being an insensitive jerk.” Mary kept an ongoing list of every boy in school, rating them from high to low in terms of future husband potential. She had several factors that determined a boy’s standing: They were, in no order particular order: interest in girls, personality, sense of humor, motivation, money (because she figured the more money they made the less she’d need to make from dancing), and physical appeal. Each factor was given a 1 to 10 rating Freddie Murray the sophomore dancer, who’s arabesque was the envy of the dance department, was atop the list right now. He ranked an astounding 47 out of 60. The only reason was nearer the perfect 60 was that his interest in girls was less than zero and his family was middle class on their best days and working class on their worst. Mitch ranked an already poor 22. This deduction would make a 20. And move him into the lowest 10 percent in Mary’s rating system.
AP didn’t much care for the system. Usually whenever Mary brought it up, she changed the subject. Being the daughter of an ardent feminist, she could hear her mother’s unspoken critique within the walls of her brain without even thinking to hard “Aretha Pocahontas Washington-Williams, we can’t object to men talking to our breasts instead of looking us in the eye or cat calling us in the street, if we’re going to do the same thing to them.”
Under normal circumstances, AP supported her mother’s position, but today because he dared ask “What’s wrong with your sister?” in the tone of voice that AP had learned was a bad disguise for unspoken bigotry by the time she was 6, she egged Mary on. “Doesn’t that move him into the bottom 10%?”
Mary removed a notebook from her backpack, flipped to the section labeled “PVPA hotties and the otherwise” and consulted it. The notebook made AP uncomfortable. “It was on thing,” she thought, “to rank boys. It was another thing to keep records of these rankings and treat them like they actually mattered. “Yes,” she said with a giggle, “It does.” AP laughed deeply, despite her reservations.
Two weeks later, it the official start of National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo. This would be AP, MJ, and Moonbeam’s fifth year in the worldwide endeavor. The young organizer and artist in AP was drawn into the idea that she and her siblings were involved in a process that 150,000 people worldwide (99.99% of whom they would never meet) was appealing to her. Even if she was incredibly busy which she was, there was no way she was going to miss the opportunity.
But November 2nd was not a very good for day for AP. Her mom always called her the Diva of Organization, but that day she proved that even divas had their off days. In A block, she discovered that her much sweated over and well researched paper was somehow missing. This was despite the fact that she remembered the feel of the folder in her fingers, the sound of the book bag unzipping and rezipping to accept the precious document, she had left somehow left her Malcom vs. Martin paper at home. Mr. Russo had not been amused and AP was sure he would deduct every bit of the bit of the threatened half grade for turning in the paper 24 hours late.