Not me. Please, don’t pick me. I dig my nails into my palms and chew on the inside of my cheek. It’s all I can do to keep from fidgeting. Miss Wednesday touches the back of my chair and I think I’m going to throw up.
‘Eric,’ says Miss Wednesday, in her sonorous and sweet yet sadistic tone. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
I um and uh. The nerves already getting the better of me. I had planned an answer but it sounds silly now. Boys don’t cut hair. Boys don’t work in salons, they work in offices, like Dad. Dad works doing something that requires business cards. I guess I could enjoy business cards…
‘I want to be a business card man,’ I say. Miss Wednesday smiles. Was that a good answer?
‘A business man?’ she says. ‘And what type of business would you like to work for?’
A follow up question! No one else had a follow up question. Abuse. Child abuse. My hands start to clam up, my fingers slip over one another like slimy eels. I feel hot. Why isn’t Tommy pulling that blind down? The sun shines right in my eyes.
‘I want to work for… for a blind company.’
I hear Laura Wiggins and some of her friends snickering behind me. I swivel in my seat and tell them they can shut up and Miss Wednesday turns me and my chair back to face the front.
‘A blind factory,’ says Miss Wednesday, ‘I think that sounds very interesting.’ For a moment, I start to think it actually does. My shoulders relax and the sun does not seem so obnoxiously bright anymore. Then, Miss Wednesday asks Daniel what he would like to be when he’s older.
‘A superhero,’ he says. I almost laugh. I refrain as I realise there isn’t a hint of humour in the way he has said it. A few people laugh nonetheless and I feel like turning round and telling them to be quiet for him, but he does not seem to be phased by it at all. His eyes are piercing.
We’re almost in secondary school; he can’t still believe in superheroes, can he?
‘A superhero?’ says Miss Wednesday. ‘Hm. And what superpower would you have?’
A follow up question! My eyes dart back to Daniel.
‘I will have ninja powers,’ he says, ‘and people will call me Ninjaman. I will save the world.’ Almost everyone in the class laughs now. Even Miss Wednesday cracks a grin behind a hiding hand. But he had said it with such assurance that I can’t help but believe him. He will be a superhero.
And I will be a business man.
‘Miss Wednesday,’ I say, raising my hand. ‘I want to be a hairdresser.’ Miss Wednesday simply nods in my direction. Good answer.