In the morning, Neil walked with a reluctant Tad to the bus. When it came, Tad kissed his father goodbye and climbed aboard.
Looking down the aisle, he saw Martin wave to him and went to the empty seat beside his friend. When he sat, Martin asked, “So you decided to come after all?”
“Rachel and Neil made me,” replied Tad.
“Who are they?”
“They’re my parents, silly,” Tad replied, a bit cheekily.
“You call your parents by their first names?”
“Sure. Doesn’t everyone?”
Martin thought for a moment before replying, “No, most of us call our parents Mom and Dad, but if your parents want you to call them by their names, that’s fine.”
“Mom and Dad? I’ve never heard those words, except once in a while in a book I’m reading.”
“You like to read?”
“What have you read?”
Tad named some of the books he’d read. Martin was sure that he was making it all up. Maybe Tad’s parents had read the books to him, but he was certain that Tad couldn’t have read them. However, he sounded appropriately amazed and, for the rest of the ride, they talked about the books.
As the bus pulled into the school driveway, Martin said, “I gave Wyatt a good talking to last night. If he keeps teasing you, tell me.”
Tad nodded, climbed off the bus, and the two of them went into the school together. Last night Tad had been a little afraid about forgetting where he was supposed to go, but he found his room. Mrs. Hicks was standing just inside the door, welcoming each child by name as they entered. When she said, “Good morning, Tad,” he replied, wishing her a good morning in return before hanging his bag on his hook and going to his desk.
When Wyatt entered, he looked at Tad for a moment before hanging his bag and going towards the back of the room to his seat.
One of the girls came into the room with a vividly blue flower in a small pot and asked Mrs. Hicks if she knew what it was. The teacher replied that she’d never seen one before. She held it out to the class and asked if anyone else had ever seen one.
Reluctantly, Tad put up his hand. When she called on him, he said, “It’s a closed bottle gentian. It’s called that because, unlike most flowers, it never opens up.”
There was a murmur in the class as Mrs. Hicks smiled and said, “Thank you Tad. I’ll write that down so Sarah can remember it.”
As the morning went on, Tad said very little, never raised his hand or volunteered. When Mrs. Hicks called on him, he replied politely. Otherwise, he remained silent.
At morning recess, Tad sat on his usual bench. Molly came over with Sally, the girl who had brought the flower. They sat on either side of him and talked to each other and to him.
He could see that Sally wanted to ask him a question, but she waited until the recess was about half over before she finally said, “If you’re a tadpole, will you turn into a frog?”
Tad was annoyed. He didn’t like to be called a tadpole, and most of the kids that morning had not said the hated word. He hoped if he didn’t react to it that the name would just go away. But he thought Sally was trying to be funny more than to hurt him, so he sighed and finally replied.
“Yes, I will turn into a frog. And, as I sit by my pond, a beautiful princess will come by and sit beside me. She’ll pick me up and look at me closely. Immediately, I’ll fall in love with her. Then I’ll say, ‘If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a handsome prince.’
“’Really?’ she’ll ask.
“Then I’ll say, ‘Yes,’ and she’ll kiss me. Slowly, I’ll grow bigger. My front legs will turn into arms and hands and my back legs will grow into human legs and feet. As I grow, my head will change, and I’ll become a handsome prince with blond hair. I’ll kiss her back and she’ll take me to her castle, where she’ll introduce me to her parents. We’ll have a big wedding and a very happy life together. Does that answer your question?”
Sarah was staring at him in surprise. Unable to speak, she nodded her head.
“That was lovely,” said Molly.
“Thank you,” Tad replied and once again turned into his taciturn self.
After recess, a reading period was scheduled. Mrs. Hicks had arranged a large number of books on the counter by the windows and asked children, a row at a time, to go to the counter, pick a book, and take it to their seats.
When it was Tad’s turn, he looked over the books, not selecting any, and returned to his seat.
Mrs. Hicks asked, “Tad, why didn’t you pick a book?”
“They’re all too easy,” he replied. “I read much more interesting books than those.” When she asked him to name some, he did. She wasn’t sure whether he was making up stories or whether she had a very advanced first grader in her class. She wrote a note and gave it to Tad, telling him to take it to the school library, which was at the end of the hall.
Entering the library, Tad smiled as he saw all the books. After he looked for a few minutes, he went to the lady behind the counter and handed her the note. She read it, read it again, and then asked, “Tad did you have a particular book in mind?”
“I’d like to read Charlotte’s Web,” he replied.
“Well, I think that might be a little hard for you yet.”
“I already read Stuart Little by E.B. White, so now I want to read Charlotte’s Web.”
A little surprised, the librarian asked him to tell her some things about Stuart Little. He did, but, like Mrs. Hicks, she couldn’t decide whether he had actually read the book or someone had read it to him.
Smiling to herself, she took him to find the book he wanted. Then she asked him to sit at a table with her and read the first page to her. He read smoothly and expressively, with no hesitation.
She walked with him back to her desk and checked the book out to him.
Returning to the classroom, Tad sat and read happily until the end of the period.
While the children ate their lunches at their desks, Wyatt came to Tad and asked if they could eat together. When Tad agreed, Wyatt pulled a chair up to the desk. They didn’t say anything for a bit, but then Wyatt said, hesitantly, “Martin told me I should apologize to you.”
Again they were silent before Tad asked, “So, are you going to apologize?”
Smiling a bit, Wyatt said, “I’m sorry I called you ‘Tadpole.’ I was just trying to be funny. I didn’t want to be mean.”
Tad nodded again before saying, “I really don’t like to be laughed at.”
This time it was Wyatt who nodded. “Can we be friends?” he asked.
Tad agreed and Wyatt showed him how to shake hands on the agreement. Then he asked, “I saw you reading a big book this morning. Can you really read it?”
“Yes,” Tad replied.
“Wow. So, you’re a good reader and you know about flowers. What else do you know?”
Tad told him about the creatures and flowers he had observed in the meadow and the woods, and they chatted happily until the end of lunch.
Arithmetic came right after the second recess. Mrs. Hicks passed out workbooks to the class and then asked them to look at the first page. She pointed out a couple of things and then told the class to finish that page and the next. She said she would go around the room and help anyone who needed assistance.
A minute later, Tad put up his hand.
“Yes, Tad?” she asked.
“I’ve finished,” he said. He didn’t sound like he was boasting; he was just stating a fact.
She looked at his work and asked, “Do you know how to add?”
“Yes,” he replied.
Writing out a two-digit by two-digit addition problem, she handed it to him.
Almost immediately, he handed the paper back with the answer. She wrote out another one which involved carrying, or, in modern parlance, regrouping.
Again the answer came back almost immediately.
Over the next few minutes Mrs. Hicks learned that not only could Tad do addition, but he could do subtraction with borrowing and was well on his way into multiplication.
Oh dear, she thought, what am I going to do with him?
She went to her shelf and found a fourth-grade math book. Handing it to Tad she said, “Why don’t you look at this for a few minutes?”
Tad looked through the book until he came to a section on multiplication with regrouping. Not wanting to write in the book, he took a piece of paper and worked happily till the end of the period.
Mrs. Hicks collected the book and the paper and returned to her desk, where she began a science lesson.
At the end of the day, Mrs. Hicks gave a note to Tad, asking him to give it to his parents when he got home.
Getting off the bus at the end of the driveway, he walked with his father to the cabin before handing him the note.
“Uh-oh, Tad,” Neil said. “Did you get into trouble?”
Tad shook his head and Neil read the note. “Well, he said,” when he had finished, “for some reason Mrs. Hicks wants to see me or Rachel at the end of school tomorrow. Do you know why?”
Again Tad shook his head.
The next day went fairly smoothly. Tad finished reading Charlotte’s Webb and continued on in the math book. As usual, at recess he sat observing the other children. He thought Wyatt was a little aggressive in the game he was playing. Sally and Molly played jacks together. Tad was, however, nervous about why Mrs. Hicks wanted to see Neil. Had he done something wrong?
At the end of the day, when the children went to their busses, Mrs. Hicks asked him to wait in the classroom. As soon as the children were gone, Neil walked in and introduced himself. Mrs. Hicks suggested that Tad go to the library for a few minutes, which he was eager to do because he had finished his book.
When he was gone, Mrs. Hicks began by saying, “I’ve been a bit bemused by Tad. I don’t quite know what to make of him. In these few days I’ve learned that he is an advanced reader, that he is advanced in arithmetic, he knows a lot about science, yet he seems interested in everything we talk about. He’s begun to make contributions in class and, frankly, the other children are a little in awe of him. I know we still have some work to do in the social area, but other than that, I don’t know how to teach him. As I watched him yesterday figuring out complicated multiplication, I realized that I don’t have to teach him anything. He’s completely self-motivated and clearly teaches himself whatever he wants to know. So, I asked to see you to find out if you have any suggestions.”
Neil, who had sat nodding during her report, said, “I think you’re right. He teaches himself. I imagine he might spend as much time in the library as he will here in the classroom. We only sent him because the law says he has to go to school, but we did know he needed to learn to interact with other children and adults. I’m afraid that, up till now, he’s had a very sheltered life.”
“Well,” Mrs. Hicks replied, “I’ll certainly do all I can to provide him with what he needs to continue learning, but you understand, I only have a limited amount of time to spread out to all my students, so, if it’s all right with you, Tad will be on his own much of the time.”
“One thing you could try after he gets more comfortable with the other students,” said Neil, “is to ask him to teach a lesson or two, perhaps in science. That would both motivate him to learn and begin to understand how to talk with a group.”
Mrs. Hicks thought about the idea and agreed. Then they went to find Tad, who was in the library happily reading The Trumpet of the Swan. Going to the desk, he checked out the book as well as one on astronomy.
On the way home, Tad asked, “So what did Mrs. Hicks want?”
“She just wanted to report on your excellent progress. Rachel and I are proud of you, Tad. Just keep on doing what you’re doing.”
Tad lay in bed that night, once again hearing the many night sounds and identifying them as he listened. Happily, he wrapped his fingers around his penis and rubbed it for a bit, something he had enjoyed for as long as he could remember. At last he fell asleep with his penis still in his hand and a smile on his face.