Now as you know by now, Thing was always looking out the mouth of his cave waiting on his family to return. One day his mother went away and promised to come back but Thing hadn’t even seen her shadow or smell her warm scent on the wind.
And maybe if his mother had stayed, he might have found out sooner rather than later what we all find out in the end.
It was just like any other day when Thing made his way down the mountain-side and on to school. He enjoyed school but most of the time he kept himself to himself.
That way the folks who spat on him, or threw stones at him or called him names because he wasn’t like them, would leave him alone. He breathed, he lived, he had stuff running around his body, he was born and would die someday and so Thing couldn’t see how he was any different from the rest.
Maybe if his mother returned she’d put all this right. Sometimes he thought he saw her out the corner of his eye, or maybe he’d think he’d seen her smiling in some dark place in the cave. Maybe she was watching after all, because some nights as he lay awake he was sure he could feel her looking over him.
But this day at school a new kid joined the class. He was ragged in dress and his hair was dirty and needed a wash and as the kids in class were always ready to do, they judged the kid as not one of them. So the kid was placed next to Thing, not that the teacher meant anything bad by it but she thought it might help both of them.
Thing showed the boy, who was called Kennedy, how to get around the school without attracting much attention and basically how to survive a day in class.
The kids would see the two of them, Kennedy and Thing coming down the corridor and turn their backs. The other kids weren’t bad kids you understand, they had just been shown a different path by their elders on how to treat those who weren’t the same (and that didn’t mean different – no sir).
That afternoon Kennedy went to get a drink of water and told Thing to wait on him as he would be back soon. Yet after 20 minutes or so, Kennedy hadn’t returned and Thing went to look for him. He found the kids trying to push Kennedy’s head down the toilet – shouting words like, ‘don’t yer mama wash you? You stink boy’. Thing did something he’d never done before, he shouted, shouted loud like he’d never done before. This scared the kids who went running from the room.
Kennedy’s face showed neither sadness nor anger – he’d told Thing that he’d seen it all before. Sure, stuff like that was nothing new to him. He said his mama told him that what don’t kill you, makes you that teeny little bit stronger.
Thing smiled, and the smile caught him so much by surprise that he even scared himself.
Thing thought that probably Kennedy’s mama was right in what she said. But Thing felt that sometimes you just got plain fed up getting stronger that way.
That night Thing went over the day in his head and realised he hadn’t thought about his own problems at all and he also realised what we all learn eventually: that there are some people worse off than us and some people better off than us and that’s just the way life is.
Thing thought that he might just have to help Kennedy from now on, perhaps look after him and this made Thing smile again.
Someone needed him.
bobby stevenson 2017