Wonder, p.13

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Wonder
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  I was crying a lot by now, and the second Mom put her arms around me, I started to bawl.

  “Let’s, um …,” said Mr. Tushman, taking his glasses off to clean them, “let’s do this, Jack. We’re out for winter break as of next week anyway. How about you stay home for the rest of this week, and then after winter break you’ll come back and everything will be fresh and brand new. Clean slate, so to speak.”

  “Am I being suspended?” I sniffled.

  “Well,” he said, shrugging, “technically yes, but it’s only for a couple of days. And I’ll tell you what. While you’re at home, you take the time to think about what’s happened. And if you want to write me a letter explaining what happened, and a letter to Julian apologizing, then we won’t even put any of this in your permanent record, okay? You go home and talk about it with your mom and dad, and maybe in the morning you’ll figure it all out a bit more.”

  “That sounds like a good plan, Mr. Tushman,” said Mom, nodding. “Thank you.”

  “Everything is going to be okay,” said Mr. Tushman, walking over to the door, which was closed. “I know you’re a nice kid, Jack. And I know that sometimes even nice kids do dumb things, right?” He opened the door.

  “Thank you for being so understanding,” said Mom, shaking his hand at the door.

  “No problem.” He leaned over and told her something quietly that I couldn’t hear.

  “I know, thank you,” said Mom, nodding.

  “So, kiddo,” he said to me, putting his hands on my shoulders. “Think about what you’ve done, okay? And have a great holiday. Happy Chanukah! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa!”

  I wiped my nose with my sleeve and started walking out the door.

  “Say thank you to Mr. Tushman,” said Mom, tapping my shoulder.

  I stopped and turned around, but I couldn’t look at him. “Thank you, Mr. Tushman,” I said.

  “Bye, Jack,” he answered.

  Then I walked out the door.

  Season’s Greetings

  Weirdly enough, when we got back home and Mom brought in the mail, there were holiday cards from both Julian’s family and August’s family. Julian’s holiday card was a picture of Julian wearing a tie, looking like he was about to go to the opera or something. August’s holiday card was of a cute old dog wearing reindeer antlers, a red nose, and red booties. There was a cartoon bubble above the dog’s head that read: “Ho-Ho-Ho!” On the inside of the card it read:

  To the Will family,

  Peace on Earth.

  Love, Nate, Isabel, Olivia, August (and Daisy)

  “Cute card, huh?” I said to Mom, who had hardly said a word to me all the way home. I think she honestly just didn’t know what to say. “That must be their dog,” I said.

  “Do you want to tell me what’s going on inside your head, Jack?” she answered me seriously.

  “I bet you they put a picture of their dog on the card every year,” I said.

  She took the card from my hands and looked at the picture carefully. Then she raised her eyebrows and her shoulders and gave me back the card. “We’re very lucky, Jack. There’s so much we take for granted.…”

  “I know,” I said. I knew what she was talking about without her having to say it. “I heard that Julian’s mom actually Photoshopped August’s face out of the class picture when she got it. She gave a copy to a couple of the other moms.”

  “That’s just awful,” said Mom. “People are just … they’re not always so great.”

  “I know.”

  “Is that why you hit Julian?”

  “No.”

  And then I told her why I punched Julian. And I told her that August was my ex-friend now. And I told her about Halloween.

  Letters, Emails, Facebook, Texts

  December 18

  Dear Mr. Tushman,

  I am very, very sorry for punching Julian. It was very, very wrong for me to do that. I am writing a letter to him to tell him that, too. If it’s okay, I would really rather not tell you why I did what I did because it doesn’t really make it right anyway. Also, I would rather not make Julian get in trouble for having said something he should not have said.

  Very sincerely,

  Jack Will

  December 18

  Dear Julian,

  I am very, very, very sorry for hitting you. It was wrong of me. I hope you are okay. I hope your grown-up tooth grows in fast. Mine always do.

  Sincerely,

  Jack Will

  December 26

  Dear Jack,

  Thank you so much for your letter. One thing I’ve learned after being a middle-school director for twenty years: there are almost always more than two sides to every story. Although I don’t know the details, I have an inkling about what may have sparked the confrontation with Julian.

  While nothing justifies striking another student—ever—I also know good friends are sometimes worth defending. This has been a tough year for a lot of students, as the first year of middle school usually is.

  Keep up the good work, and keep being the fine boy we all know you are.

  All the best,

  Lawrence Tushman

  Middle-School Director

  To: [email protected]

  Cc: johnw​[email protected]​hilli​psaca​demy.​edu; amand​[email protected]​coppe​rbeech.​org

  Fr: [email protected].com

  Subject: Jack Will

  Dear Mr. Tushman,

  I spoke with Amanda and John Will yesterday, and they expressed their regret at Jack’s having punched our son, Julian, in the mouth. I am writing to let you know that my husband and I support your decision to allow Jack to return to Beecher Prep after a two-day suspension. Although I think hitting a child would be valid grounds for expulsion in other schools, I agree such extreme measures aren’t warranted here. We have known the Will family since our boys were in kindergarten, and are confident that every measure will be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again. To that end, I wonder if Jack’s unexpectedly violent behavior might have been a result of too much pressure being placed on his young shoulders? I am speaking specifically of the new child with special needs who both Jack and Julian were asked to “befriend.” In retrospect, and having now seen the child in question at various school functions and in the class pictures, I think it may have been too much to ask of our children to be able to process all that. Certainly, when Julian mentioned he was having a hard time befriending the boy, we told him he was “off the hook” in that regard. We think the transition to middle school is hard enough without having to place greater burdens or hardships on these young, impressionable minds. I should also mention that, as a member of the school board, I was a little disturbed that more consideration was not given during this child’s application process to the fact that Beecher Prep is not an inclusion school. There are many parents—myself included—who question the decision to let this child into our school at all. At the very least, I am somewhat troubled that this child was not held to the same stringent application standards (i.e. interview) that the rest of the incoming middle-school students were.

  Best,

  Melissa Perper Albans

  To: [email protected]

  Fr: [email protected]

  Cc: johnw​[email protected]​phill​ipsaca​demy.​edu; amand​[email protected]​coppe​rbeech.​org

  Subject: Jack Will

  Dear Mrs. Albans,

  Thanks for your email outlining your concerns. Were I not convinced that Jack Will is extremely sorry for his actions, and were I not confident that he would not repeat those actions, rest assured that I would not be allowing him back to Beecher Prep.

  As for your other concerns regarding our new student August, please note that he does not have special needs. He is neither disabled, handicapped, nor developmentally delayed in any way, so there was no reason to assume anyone would take issue with his admittance to Beecher Prep—whether it is an inclusion school or not. In terms of the application process, the admissions dire
ctor and I both felt it within our right to hold the interview off-site at August’s home for reasons that are obvious. We felt that this slight break in protocol was warranted but in no way prejudicial—in one way or another—to the application review. August is an extremely good student, and has secured the friendship of some truly exceptional young people, including Jack Will.

  At the beginning of the school year, when I enlisted certain children to be a “welcoming committee” to August, I did so as a way of easing his transition into a school environment. I did not think asking these children to be especially kind to a new student would place any extra “burdens or hardships” on them. In fact, I thought it would teach them a thing or two about empathy, and friendship, and loyalty.

  As it turns out, Jack Will didn’t need to learn any of these virtues—he already had them in abundance.

  Thank you again for being in touch.

  Sincerely,

  Lawrence Tushman

  To: [email protected]

  Fr: [email protected]

  Cc: ltush​[email protected]​beech​ersch​ool.​edu; amand​[email protected]​coppe​rbeech.​org

  Subject: Jack

  Hi Melissa,

  Thank you for being so understanding about this incident with Jack. He is, as you know, extremely sorry for his actions. I hope you do accept our offer to pay Julian’s dental bills.

  We are very touched by your concern regarding Jack’s friendship with August. Please know we have asked Jack if he felt any undue pressure about any of this, and the answer was a resolute “no.” He enjoys August’s company and feels like he has made a good friend.

  Hope you have a

  Happy New Year!

  John and Amanda Will

  Hi August,

  Jacklope Will wants to be friends with you on Facebook.

  Jackalope Will

  32 mutual friends

  Thanks,

  The Facebook Team

  To: [email protected]

  Subject: Sorry ! ! ! ! ! !

  Message:

  Hey august. Its me Jack Will. I noticed im not on ur friends list anymore. Hope u friend me agen cuz im really sorry. I jus wanted 2 say that. Sorry. I know why ur mad at me now Im sorry I didn’t mean the stuff I said. I was so stupid. I hope u can 4give me

  Hope we can b friends agen.

  Jack

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 4:47PM

  got ur message u know why im mad at u now?? did Summer tell u?

  1 New Text Message

  From: JACKWILL

  Dec 31 4:49PM

  She told me bleeding scream as hint but didn’t get it at first then I remember seeing bleeding scream in homeroom on Hallween. didn’t know it was you thought u were coming as Boba Fett.

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 4:51PM

  I changed my mind at the last minute. Did u really punch Julian?

  1 New Text Message

  From: JACKWILL

  Dec 31 4:54PM

  Yeah i punchd him knocked out a tooth in the back. A baby tooth.

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 4:55PM

  whyd u punch him????????

  1 New Text Message

  From: JACKWILL

  Dec 31 4:56PM

  I dunno

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 4:58PM

  liar. I bet he said something about me right?

  1 New Text Message

  From: JACKWILL

  Dec 31 5:02PM

  he’s a jerk. but I was a jerk too. really really really sorry for wat I said dude, Ok? can we b frenz agen?

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 5:03PM

  ok

  1 New Text Message

  From: JACKWILL

  Dec 31 5:04PM

  awsum!!!!

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 5:06PM

  but tell me the truth, ok?

  wud u really wan to kill urself if u wer me???

  1 New Text Message

  From: JACKWILL

  Dec 31 5:08PM

  no!!!!!

  I swear on my life

  but dude-

  I would want 2 kill myself if I were Julian ;)

  1 New Text Message

  From: AUGUST

  Dec 31 5:10PM

  lol

  yes dude we’r frenz agen.

  Back from Winter Break

  Despite what Tushman said, there was no “clean slate” when I went back to school in January. In fact, things were totally weird from the second I got to my locker in the morning. I’m next to Amos, who’s always been a pretty straight-up kid, and I was like, “Yo, what up?” and he basically just nodded a half hello and closed his locker door and left. I was like, okay, that was bizarre. And then I said: “Hey, what up?” to Henry, who didn’t even bother half-smiling but just looked away.

  Okay, so something’s up. Dissed by two people in less than five minutes. Not that anyone’s counting. I thought I’d try one more time, with Tristan, and boom, same thing. He actually looked nervous, like he was afraid of talking to me.

  I’ve got a form of the Plague now, is what I thought. This is Julian’s payback.

  And that’s pretty much how it went all morning. Nobody talked to me. Not true: the girls were totally normal with me. And August talked to me, of course. And, actually, I have to say both Maxes said hello, which made me feel kind of bad for never, ever hanging out with them in the five years I’ve been in their class.

  I hoped lunch would be better, but it wasn’t. I sat down at my usual table with Luca and Isaiah. I guess I thought since they weren’t in the super-popular group but were kind of middle-of-the-road jock kids that I’d be safe with them. But they barely nodded when I said hello. Then, when our table was called, they got their lunches and never came back. I saw them find a table way over at the other end of the cafeteria. They weren’t at Julian’s table, but they were near him, like on the fringe of popularity. So anyway, I’d been ditched. I knew table switching was something that happened in the fifth grade, but I never thought it would happen to me.

  It felt really awful being at the table by myself. I felt like everyone was watching me. It also made me feel like I had no friends. I decided to skip lunch and go read in the library.

  The War

  It was Charlotte who had the inside scoop on why everyone was dissing me. I found a note inside my locker at the end of the day.

  Meet me in room 301 right after school. Come by yourself! Charlotte.

  She was already inside the room when I walked in. “Sup,” I said.

  “Hey,” she said. She went over to the door, looked left and right, and then closed the door and locked it from the inside. Then she turned to face me and started biting her nail as she talked. “Look, I feel bad about what’s going on and I just wanted to tell you what I know. Promise you won’t tell anyone I talked to you?”

  “Promise.”

  “So Julian had this huge holiday party over winter break,” she said. “I mean, huge. My sister’s friend had had her sweet sixteen at the same place last year. There were like two hundred people there, so I mean it’s a huge place.”

  “Yeah, and?”

  “Yeah, and … well, pretty much everybody in the whole grade was there.”

  “Not everybody,” I joked.

  “Right, not everybody. Duh. But like even parents were there, you know. Like my parents were there. You know Julian’s mom is the vice president of the school board, right? So she knows a lot of people. Anyway, so basically what happened at the party was that Julian went around telling everyone that you punched him because you had emotional problems.…”

  “What?!”

  “And that you would have gotten expelled, but his parents begged the school not to expel you


  “What?!”

  “And that none of it would have happened in the first place if Tushman hadn’t forced you to be friends with Auggie. He said his mom thinks that you, quote unquote, snapped under the pressure.…”

  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “No one bought into that, right?” I said.

  She shrugged. “That’s not even the point. The point is he’s really popular. And, you know, my mom heard that his mom is actually pushing the school to review Auggie’s application to Beecher.”

  “Can she do that?”

  “It’s about Beecher not being an inclusion school. That’s a type of school that mixes normal kids with kids with special needs.”

  “That’s just stupid. Auggie doesn’t have special needs.”

  “Yeah, but she’s saying that if the school is changing the way they usually do things in some ways …”

  “But they’re not changing anything!”

  “Yeah, they did. Didn’t you notice they changed the theme of the New Year Art Show? In past years fifth graders painted self-portraits, but this year they made us do those ridiculous self-portraits as animals, remember?”

  “So big freakin’ deal.”

  “I know! I’m not saying I agree, I’m just saying that’s what she’s saying.”

  “I know, I know. This is just so messed up.…”

  “I know. Anyway, Julian said that he thinks being friends with Auggie is bringing you down, and that for your own good you need to stop hanging out with him so much. And if you start losing all your old friends, it’ll be like a big wake-up call. So basically, for your own good, he’s going to stop being your friend completely.”

  “News flash: I stopped being his friend completely first!”

  “Yeah, but he’s convinced all the boys to stop being your friend—for your own good. That’s why nobody’s talking to you.”

  “You’re talking to me.”

 
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