Chapter 4: Killing in Gotham City
Tuesday was uneventful. Wake up, listen to Tony and Leslie fight, go to class, see Natalie, go home, eat, and read Batman. And that was about it. Then Wednesday came and I had to tutor Kevin again. I didn’t really want to see Kevin, the boy in the Batman costume, and try to suppress the pity I felt for him. I was jealous of him for being able to show how much he loved Batman where as I always felt I had to hide it.
I was sitting in English and Mrs. Cobalt had just asked the class if anyone knew anything about The Odyssey. I personally had read it when I was in fifth grade because I had been interested in Greek mythology, it wasn’t a bad book. Mrs. Cobalt waited, she was getting anxious.
“Anyone? Anyone know anything at all?” She was asking. I raised my hand slowly. She looked at me, almost in disbelief. “You better not be asking to go to the bathroom.” She said when she called on me.
“Umm… no… The Odyssey is about an epic battle where Odysseus, the main character, is lost at sea and trying to get home but he keeps running into all these obstacles, and then when he finally gets home he has to fight off all these suitors who want to marry his wife, and wins.” I said slowly but surely. Mrs. Cobalt just stared at me in disbelief for a few seconds, amazed that I’d answered the question correctly.
“That’s exactly right Henry. Yes Odysseus is fighting to get home after the Trojan War, and then has to fight off a group of men who want to marry his wife, with the help of his son.” She says summarizing what I had just said. The bell rang then and everyone got up to leave and started filing out the door.
“Good job today Henry.” Mrs. Cobalt said as she walked by my desk as I packed up. I don’t answer just finish packing up and got out of the class as quickly as possible. I didn’t see Natalie in the hallway outside of her room and that depressed me. I liked seeing her during the day, she was always bright and happy and surrounded by a bunch of friends not noticing me. I wished for once she would notice me, or say hi to me, or just look in my direction, but she never did.
I thought about how well I’d done in Mrs. Cobalt’s class today and how she’d complimented me. “Maybe she didn’t hate me, maybe she’d just giving up on me. I knew I was smart, I always had been. Just a lot of the time I just didn’t care enough to do the work. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life which made me care about school even less. Who knew, maybe this whole tutoring thing would help me.” But then I stopped and wanted to kick myself. “What was I thinking?! I was acting like a suck up little girl. Tutoring some annoying little kid wasn’t changing me at all apart from maybe making me more of a baby.”
By the end of the day I was worn out. I hadn’t seen Natalie all day, she hadn’t been in any of her classes, and I had to keep trying to work hard and pay attention in all of my classes. And now I had to go be a teacher, the last thing I wanted to be, for a nine-year-old kid who probably didn’t even care if I helped him in school or not. I went home quickly with Tony and Leslie just to drop off my books, get my bike, and say hi to my mother and then left trying not to be too early to the tutoring session. I peddled up to the brick library about five minutes early like I had the Sunday before. I got off my bike and chained it up to the bike rack, feeling the rapidity of it. And then I walked sluggishly into the air conditioned, quieter than real life lobby of the library. I walked in past the shelves of children’s books and over to the table where I’d sat the time before. To my surprise Kevin was already sitting at the table, this time with out the Batman costume. He was dressed similarly to me, worn out sneakers, blue jeans, and a Batman tee shirt. I envied the tee shirt too and wanted one like it.
“Why are you here so early?” I asked protectively of the little boy.
“My dad said that he wouldn’t drive me. So I had to walk here from school.” The kid seemed so tiny, and he must have been small for his age, but at that point there was something about him that seemed extra small, maybe just in the way he had said the statement. The school was about ¾ of a mile away and it must have been a long walk for him. I couldn’t believe the boy’s menace of a father wouldn’t even drive his own son to a tutoring session so he could learn!
“Oh.” I replied trying not to let on that I cared. “Well we should get started. You remember where we left off last week, right?”
“Yah, they went to that old ladies house that they thought was the witch and she talked about the melancholy.” And his face seemed to lighten up a bit. And I was surprised that de didn’t even persist about not wanting to work. Maybe I really had gotten to him last time about working and how Batman would do it too if he had to.
“Right, so why don’t we start from there and maybe you could do some of the worksheets today.” I placed the book open in front of him and had him read it out loud to me again. And again he read it very well. I stopped him about 30 pages from the end and said that that part was for next time. Then I had him start working on all the many worksheets he hadn’t done, with questions about the book. At first he persisted. Asking why he couldn’t just read Batman, and how he’d thought that if he did so well on the stupid dog book he could read Batman, and how unfair it was. I tried to console him, saying that he really did have to read the book and do the worksheets. He complained and finally I gave in. We only had about 10 minutes left and I decided to end it early.
“That’s enough for today.” I said after 10 minutes of his complaining about how unfair it was. “Is your dad coming to get you?” I asked him, knowing the answer was probably no.
“No.” He said and he looked small again and I wanted to put my arms around him and comfort him but wouldn’t dare do that. “He says that it’s my fault that I didn’t do the work in school so he shouldn’t have to waste his time on me.” I wanted to cry. What an awful man his father was. I was glad my father wasn’t like that, and that every chance he got he came home to be with his family that he loved. I debated whether of not I should walk him home. I decided that he’d be fine and started leaving with a quick “ok bye”. I was half way out the door when my conscience got a hold of me and I turned around and walked back over to the table and said, “Ok come on, I’ll walk you home.
I wheeled my bike along side of me as he walked on the sidewalk oh the street.
“What’s your family like?” Asked the little boy suddenly; I thought of not responding but decided that I probably should.
“Well, I have a brother, his name is Tony. And I have an adopted sister, her name is Leslie. And then you’ve got my mom who’s really nice, and my dad who’s in New York for work a lot but always tries to come home.” I hoped this wouldn’t make him feel bad since his dad was so awful to him. “What about you?” I asked because I really did want to know.
“It’s just me and my dad.” He said almost sadly. I was shocked, I felt really bad and didn’t want to ask him to continue but he did anyway. “My mom was killed eight months ago. She was trying to stop a mugging. I think that’s why my dad hates me so much, I remind him of her too much.” I wanted to cry. How could this poor little boy be so awfully jaded to the world because of one awful man? “He’s putting me up for foster care. He hates me.” Kevin finished. He seemed smaller then ever when he said this and I just wanted to drop to my knees and comfort him like you do when a little kid falls down.
“No, he probably doesn’t hate you. He’s probably just sad.” I say trying to comfort him. By then we’d reached Kevin’s house and had turned into the driveway. He turned around to look at me with his sad little eyes and his Batman tee shirt.
“No Henry, he hates me.” He said in the smallest, saddest little voice ever and then he turned back around and walked into the house with out another world. I was about to cry. The tears were starting to fill my eyes so suddenly and I was trying so hard to push them away, but they wouldn’t leave. I couldn’t believe that poor, cute, little, Batman loving kid had to go through that every day of his life. I felt awful. I just wanted to go home and tell my mother about the whole story but I knew that I couldn’t because it wasn’t my business, and it wasn’t my place. But I wanted to help him. I had to make this tutoring thing last, I had to connect with him. I had to tell him about Batman. I sighed, this was my biggest secret in the world and I was telling it to a nine-year-old.
I looked back at the house; it was small and brown and seemed to be falling apart. It had little white shutters that were partially falling off their hinges and a stone wall with weeds poking out of small holes. I sighed again and turned around, feeling bad for the kid. I had to find some way to help him, make him happier, give him a family, give him a chance, and give him a life.