As the weather grew warmer in the spring, Tad could again be found sitting naked in the meadow, watching insects. Rachel told him he was a natural observer.
His parents continued to teach him, not just reading and arithmetic, but writing, and science and even some history. The boy loved his lessons and couldn’t wait to go to school in the fall.
The summer passed and Neil took Tad to a store in the town. There they bought him new outfits for school. He still didn’t like clothes, but he had to admit that, if he must wear them, the ones they bought were splendid.
Leaving that store, they went to another, where they picked out school supplies for him, working from a list the school had sent. First, they selected a bright blue canvas bag to put his belongings in. Then, choosing a plastic box, they accumulated a variety of pencils, erasers, and even a pair of children’s scissors. In addition, Neil bought him three folders, one red, one green, and one yellow, and told him they were to keep his work in.
The night before school began, Tad lay in bed, restless and unable to sleep. His feelings alternated between excitement and fear. Would he like school? What would it be like to ride on the yellow bus? Would he like the children? Would they like him? He had absolutely no experience with other children so the only references he had were the stories he had read. Well, he decided, in the stories the children all liked each other and had fun together even if they didn’t like school.
He fell asleep at last.
In the morning, he could barely eat his breakfast. Rachel put his lunch in his bag, and all of them ─ Rachel, Neil, Tad, and Woody ─ walked the length of the dirt driveway to the paved road.
As they waited, Tad bounced up and down with excitement. But when the bus drew up, he grew nervous.
His parents kissed him and said they’d meet the bus in the afternoon. Timidly, he climbed onto the bus and looked for a place to sit. Finding an empty seat, he plunked himself down and looked out the window as the bus began to move. Were there tears in his eyes? Perhaps a few. He quickly wiped his eyes with his sleeve and took a deep breath.
The bus stopped several times as more and more children got on. Finally, a boy came up the aisle from the back of the bus and sat next to Tad. The boy was older than Tad and he didn’t say anything for a few minutes.
“Hey, Goldilocks,” the boy finally said, “are you new this year?”
Tad didn’t understand the question. Was he new? No, he was now six years old. That’s what he told the boy, who laughed good naturedly and said, “I’m Martin. What’s your name?”
The older boy chatted with Tad until the bus arrived at the school. Saying, “Save me a seat this afternoon,” Martin got off the bus and headed to the school door.
Tad stood on the walk, wondering what he was supposed to do. A lady came up to him and asked him his name. When he told her, she said to go with her. Tad trailed along behind while they went into the building and down a long hallway. She stopped at a door and said, “Mrs. Hicks is your teacher. Then she motioned for him to go in and left.
Tad stood in the doorway until the lady in the room noticed him. Coming over to him she said, “You must be Tad.” The boy nodded. “I’m Mrs. Hicks, Tad, and I’ll be your teacher this year. Come with me and I’ll show you where to put your things and where to sit.
She took him first to a desk with a tag reading ‘Tad.’ After he had put his folders and his other supplies in the desk, she showed him where he could hang his bag and, when it grew cool, his jacket.
Thanking her, he hung his bag on the hook and returned to his desk. Watching, he observed the other children all greeting each other and then going to their desks.
A bell rang. Standing at the front of the room, Mrs. Hicks called the children to order. She began by taking attendance, asking the children to raise their hands when their names were called so she could begin to get to know them.
When she called Tad’s name, he raised his hand.
“Tad!” exclaimed a boy. “Is that short for Tadpole?”
The other children laughed before Mrs. Hicks scolded them, saying that Tad was the only new boy in their class, and they should be nice to him.
Meanwhile, Tad was blushing furiously, and he had sunk as far down in his chair as he could without landing on the floor.
Through the morning, as children passed out books or papers, each one said to him, “Here you go, Tadpole.”
When he couldn’t take it anymore, he blurted out, “That’s not my name. I’m just Tad.” He heard surreptitious little snickers around him and again he blushed.
When the time for recess came, the children went out to the playground, where Tad sat on a bench in the sun and watched. As he observed the children, he grew warm, so he did what he always did when he was hot. He took off his clothes.
Almost immediately, he was surrounded by giggling children. “Look,” said Wyatt, his tormentor from the morning, “Tad has a pole,” and he pointed to Tad’s little penis which was, to his embarrassment, pointing straight up. That comment got peals of laughter from the children.
Mrs. Hicks, not knowing what she was going to find, parted a way through the children and stood before Tad.
“Oh, my,” she said, as she ordered the children to leave.
Sitting beside him she said gently, “Tad, you can’t take off your clothes in public.”
“But I always take them off when I’m hot,” he said with tears in his eyes.
“Perhaps at home,” she replied, “but you can’t do it here. Please put them back on.”
Tad sighed and did as he was told. As they sat side by side on the bench, Tad asked, “Why don’t the children like me?”
“Oh, they will once they get to know you. It will just take a little time, Tad. You’ll see.”
When lunch time came, Tad dutifully got his lunch from his bag, but ate almost nothing. He saw Mrs. Hicks watching him, so he looked down at his desk and didn’t raise his head till the lunch period ended.
During the afternoon recess, Tad again sat on the bench. He knew children were watching to see if he’d take off his clothes again, but he didn’t, so they went off to play as he watched.
Soon, a girl named Molly from his class sat down beside him. She looked at him for a moment and then said, “Don’t be unhappy, Tad. That Wyatt can be a jerk, but the other kids will be nice when they get to know you.”
Tad said nothing, so Molly simply sat and chatted away for the rest of the period.
When Mrs. Hicks rang the bell to call the children in, the two rose and as they walked toward the building, Tad said very quietly, “Thank you.”
He thought the day would never end, but it did, and soon the children were outside the building looking for their busses. Tad found his, number twenty-seven, and climbed on, putting his bag down on the seat beside him to save room for Martin.
When Martin came aboard, he walked down the aisle to where Tad was sitting. Tad moved his bag, giving Martin room to sit.
As the bus began to move, Martin asked, “So how was your first day?”
Tad turned away and tears flowed down his cheeks.
Observing this, Martin said, “Tad, look at me.” When Tad faced him, Martin put his arm around the younger boy’s shoulder and said, “That bad, huh? Did kids tease you?”
Tad nodded. “Wyatt, especially, but they all laughed at me and called me Tadpole.”
“Don’t pay any attention to Wyatt. He’s my brother, and I know he can be a tease. He’s not really bad, he just likes to make the kids laugh. I’ll straighten him out tonight.”
“Don’t bother,” Tad said. “I’m not going back.”
Neil met the bus, and when Tad got off, he asked, “So how was your first day of school?”
Tad looked up and his father saw the tears in his eyes. Taking Tad’s hand, he walked with the boy back to the cabin.
When they entered the cabin, Neil said to Rachel, “Looks like it wasn’t a good beginning.”
Rachel sat and invited Tad to sit on her lap. Sadly, he climbed up and sat.
“So, what happened, Tad?” she asked.
He told her about the teasing. When he told her about removing his clothes at recess, she exclaimed, “Oh dear. My poor Tad. I should have warned you about that.” Then she asked, “Did your teacher do anything about the teasing?”
“She tried to, but it didn’t stop.”
“Did you make any friends?” asked Neil.
Tad nodded. “Molly came and sat with me on the bench during recess. And an older boy, Martin, rode with me on the bus.”
“Okay, well, that’s a start. Give it a little time,” Neil said.
“I’m not going back,” Tad blurted out.
“Well, honey,” said Rachel, “you don’t really have a choice, but things will get better. You’ll see.”
Because he hadn’t eaten much lunch, by supper time he was ravenous, devouring everything in sight.
After supper, Tad went out to the meadow and sat in the waning sun. He thought about what had happened in school and he wondered if the other children would be nicer to him in the morning.
The sun slowly set as Tad watched the colors ─ yellows, pinks, reds and purples ─ tint the sky. He always enjoyed that time between day and night. As the sky slowly grew dark, Tad looked up, watching the stars come out and without thinking checking his favorite constellations to be sure they were all there.
When Rachel called him in to go to bed, he sighed, stood, and, carrying his clothes, walked back to the cabin, where he brushed his teeth and climbed under his covers.
He was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to sleep because he was still thinking about the day, but he closed his eyes, took hold of his little penis as he usually did, and was asleep in no time.
When his parents came to bed, they stood looking at him in the dim light. “He’s so beautiful,” whispered Rachel. Neil nodded, and they went to their bed, where they removed their clothes and climbed in.
The only sounds to be heard were the softly sighing of wind, the occasional creaking of a tree, and the calls of night birds and insects.