Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Two:

Patrick Mackenzie (Afternoon of May 31, 1994)

It was three o’clock in the afternoon; the school had been out for nearly two hours. Not a single kid, except for me, had been hanging around anywhere near campus. It made the school look much bigger than it was. The truth is that we only had six classrooms, one for each grade and then an extra one for the “special” students. That room had been especially small, about half the size of a regular classroom. This wasn’t so much because they were an afterthought or anything, but more so because I could count the amount of mentally challenged students on my fingers. However, peering into that classroom now, after school hours, it looked to hold at least thirty full-grown adults in it.

I sat on a wooden bench in the main hallway, fiddling with my thumbs as I listened in closely to hear my parents and Mr. Smalls discuss my academic progress. Smalls said that I was at the top of my class with all of the A’s I’ve been receiving on my report cards. I used to think that was enough, but then they started talking about my behavior during class.

“Now, I’m not trying to pin all of the blame on Patrick; I do realize some of the other boys are at fault here, as well,” I heard Smalls explain. “However, the constant outbursts and tantrums from your son will no longer be tolerated in my classroom. I do not care what sort of disorder he has.”

“Well, that’s just it, he does have a disorder. His brain doesn’t work like yours or mine. He can’t help it if he acts out; he’s sensitive,” my mother responded in the most polite way she could. I am still shocked Smalls made it out of that conference, alive. Ma has always been quite protective of us, her boys. Lord help anyone who disrespects or harms them.

“I realize that Mrs. Mackenzie, I do,” Mr. Smalls replied with empathy in his voice. “However, my job is to teach and with the number of Patrick’s disruptions this year, it has been very difficult to do so.”

“Oh has it, Mr. Smalls?” Ma said, mockingly. “Has my son’s constant harassment and torment gotten in the way of your teaching? If so, why don’t you talk to that dreadful Billy Whitmore and his parents?”

“Hun,” my dad interacted for a split-second. Unlike Smalls, my old man knew quite well that there was no arguing with my mom beyond this point. That just goes to show just how strong-willed Ma truly was because Pops had been one of the best defense attorneys in the state of New Jersey. At least now, he could say that he said something.

“Trust me, Mrs. Mackenzie, I have, multiple times,” Smalls assured. “Please, do not think he is getting off the hook here. The reason that I called you down here was not to get Patrick in any sort of trouble. I just simply wanted to discuss his future here and lack thereof. That is if you are willing to take my advice, fellow parent to parent.”

Ma, then sat back in the tiny plastic chair, quietly. Like her, I had patiently waited to hear Mr. Smalls suggested to them a private school up in Freehold. “My niece graduated from there when she was younger and now she’s valedictorian at her high school.”

“No, no way,” Ma uttered. “We pulled him out of homeschool for a reason, so that he could gain social skills and experiences of a public elementary school.”

“Well, that’s the great thing about private school, isn’t it? You get all of the socialization of public school, but with better-behaved kids,” Smalls exclaimed. “If you are worried about him not making friends right away, being the new kid and all, you can move during the summer break and have him start the new year off fresh.”

“I don’t know,” Ma hesitated.

“Sue,” Pops put his two-cents in once again. At this rate, he may need to sleep on the couch tonight. “Please, this is our son’s happiness we’re talking about here.”

“We could always put him in that other class,” Smalls added. “Although, seeing as how our prior conversation on the matter didn’t go so smoothly, I feel this may be your best option.”

And like that, my future education was decided. As Mr. Smalls and Pops talked about expenses, Ma had come out into the nearly deserted hallway to tell me the verdict.

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