Stingray

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Chapter 10 January 2, 1995

Mrs. Sampson turned the sheet of paper to the back side. It was clear that Philly was no artist as most of what he had drawn was pretty rudimentary. Nevertheless, he needn’t be the next DaVinci for all three of them to immediately identify at least one thing he had drawn. There in the right top corner of the sheet, a swastika.

“Sort of confirms the name on the list,” Alan said. The other two nodded in agreement. “But what does this have to do with Ms. Green?”

“Well, I am not entirely sure.” Mark conceded. “Take a look in the middle of the page. It looks like he drew a bike.” The others nodded. The bike was the biggest addition to the page. It also appeared to be the thing he took the most time with. “He showed up with a brand new bike this morning. Ok, now take a look to the right of the bike,” Mark instructed.

“Maybe, a stuffed Christmas stocking?” Mrs. Sampson suggested.

“Yea, maybe. What about you Alan? What do you see?”

Alan took the sheet of paper from his wife, looked at the drawn image intently, and said, “Same thing, I guess.” Alan looked up from the page, and directly in Mark’s eyes. “Look son,” he said, “if you see something else – or if you are wanting us to see something else, I think it’s about time you let us know.”

“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have a confirmation bias. Y’all don’t know what I know, and saw the name Hitler same as me. It was the same thing with the Nazi symbol. Ya’ll both saw it. Then ya’ll both see a stocking which naturally you figure is a Christmas stocking. Why not? Tis the season after all.”

“Spit it out, Nelson,” Alan demanded.

“Ok. The day before school let out, Julie and I had Late Duty. To pass the time, the students were each telling us what they wanted for Christmas. By the time Philly had a chance to say what he wanted – all the other kids had already been picked up. Philly wasn’t exactly sure what to ask for. And decides to ask one of us for help.”

“Well since you are ‘too cool for Christmas,’” Alan says with a smile. Mark looks Mrs. Sampson who is now blushing at Alan’s remark. Mark winks at her and shrugs. The wink tells her, It’s cool. The shrug says, C’mon, you know I don’t care you told your husband.

“Exactly right, I am too cool for Christmas,” Mark says comically. “So he asks Julie what she wants for Hanukkah.”

“But Julie isn’t Jewish,” Mrs. Sampson said.

“Exactly. So, she tells Philly the same thing.”

“Weird.”

“So Philly looks shocked. It’s almost like he couldn’t believe it. So he rephrases his question to something like: Since you still celebrate Christmas. Neither one of us thought anything about it at the time, but it felt almost like Philly was saying it in a manner like he absolutely knew she had -.”

“Like she had converted but maybe hadn’t picked up the customs,” Mrs. Sampson finished the thought.

“Exactly,” agreed Mark. “So she says something like she hadn’t been good, and I said well there is always lumps of coal, or something. And I swear Philly snickers a bit under his breath agreeing with me. Then he whispers ‘or Ivry Specials.’”

“Shit,” said Alan, “and you didn’t say anything?”

“It was barely audible and it didn’t click until I saw the picture this morning,” Mark pleaded.

“Well I definitely see it now you said something.”

“What? Ivry Special? What is that? What do you see?” a completely lost Mrs. Sampson asked the both of them.

“An Ivory Special is big ski sock filled with bars soap, and used for a weapon.” Alan said. “Mark believes that our Hitler writing student drew an Ivory Special below his swastika.”

“That’s not all,” Mark said. “Philly has been making what I swear sounds like a busy tone with his mouth all morning. Beep…Beep…Beep.”

“Shit.” Mrs. Sampson said. “So what are you going to do?”

“Before I walked over here, and I thought I would get the crayons and have the students color their pictures. In my heart I wanted it to be a stocking too. Philly would come in and color it green or red – and we’d be done with it. But now that you both have confirmed what I am thinking. I think we need to do something more.”

“Alan run home,” Mrs. Sampson said. “Call Julie at home again. If you get a busy signal, call the police tell them to do a wellness check. Make them swear that they will call you back immediately after they check on her. Don’t go quite yet though. Wait until after recess. Once all of the students make it back to their seats send half to me and the other half to Mr. Nelson. Then go.”


The bell signaling the end of recess rang, and Alan must have done what he was told, because a few minutes later Mark had ten additional students in his class. The problem was his classroom only had three additional desks.

“Three of you find a seat,” Mr. Nelson told Ms. Green’s students. They did. “The ones of you who were not quick enough to find a seat, stay standing at the front of the room. Ok class, Heads Down, Thumbs Up.”

Both classes knew the game Heads-Up Seven-Up well. This was a true treat for Mr. Nelson’s class because he rarely ever let them play. They were delighted for the chance.

“Hey Philly,” Mr. Nelson said at around the same volume than he had given the class their instructions. “I don’t want to take you away from the game, but I need a little help with something if you could spare a second.”

This request had the desired effect, because at least ten or more students, most of them the cool kids, raised their hands, saying: “Ohhhh me, pick me. If he doesn’t want to help you - I will. Pick me, pick me.” There was no way Philly would turn Mr. Nelson down, now.

Philly stood up and walked to Mr. Nelson’s desk. The rest of the class played them no mind as they were too caught up in the game.

Mark had Philly’s quiz picture side facing up on his desk. He pointed to it and asked Philly to tell him everything he had drawn. Philly did not say anything. He didn’t say anything this morning either, Mark thought to himself. Mark asked again. Still nothing. Philly started to fidget. His lips pressed together and opened three times without sound, but Mark knew it was, Beep…Beep…Beep.

“Maybe I can guess what it is and you nod if I am right?” Mark asked. Philly shrugged back at the suggestion. Mark decided to try it anyway.

“This here, it’s obviously that fine bike you peddled in here today.” Philly smiled back. “Ok, now along the side the bike right here.” Mark pointed. “See where I am pointing, Philly?” Philly nodded his head. “Is that a Christmas stocking?” He shook his head, no. “Oh it’s not?” Philly shook his head back and forth again. “Well if it isn’t a stocking what is it?”

Philly broke eye contact, and stared down at the ground. He opened his mouth, perhaps to say something substantive, but it was only, “Beep…Beep…Beep.” To Mark, it sounded just like a busy tone.

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