The First Stone
By Ron Kaiser
There are some people for whom procreation should be a felony. The mythical Martina Abbot, for instance. Mythical because she’s so little involved in her son Mark’s life, she might as well be a goddamned legend. You know the type. People like that roam the swamps until they find one another, then writhe between their sordid sheets like roaches beneath a rotten log. The bell rings and I’m out the door, into the sea of bobbing red and blue and yellow backpacks. At the end of the hall I see it: the bald spot about which I’ve heard so much. It’s smack in the middle of the wire-brush hair bush that just disappeared into the conference room at the end of the hall.
I don’t know beneath what manhole cover Martina Abbot gave birth, perhaps in a land of blind doctors. Her little boy arrived in our school system with no documentation of his obvious condition, and therefore no services to help him cope. For ten years she’s guarded the secret of her polluted womb. She has refuted the recommendations of three school psychologists, all affirming the obvious truth: her son has fetal-alcohol syndrome.
In my haste I bump a clueless young girl I haven’t had in class, whose name I forget. To her credit she manages not to drop the horrid thing staked down to the black wax tray: a tiny blue shark, whose estranged eyes remind me of Mark’s. I shake the image from my eyes, focus again on this creature Martina, who’s blown off five meetings so far. She’s as elusive as the yeti and twice as ugly, from what I hear. 10-year-old Mark will be sitting next to her, smiling the un-understanding smile of an infant, awash in the unfathomable. The tell-tale sign of his condition: those eyes, wide-set and perpetually wet.
I’m armed for this meeting. I have copies of all three school psychologist’s diagnoses, as well as a list of fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms straight from Wikipedia. Her son’s got all the tell-tale signs, and I’m going to point them out right in front of this so-called mother and the principal. There will be no denying her double crime: poisoning her son and denying him the antidote.
My hand hovers over the doorknob: I hear Miss Hawk’s irate screech. Good. There’s no one I’d rather have on my side of the conference table. Miss Hawk has made more kids cry than a department store Santa Claus.
As I open the door Miss Hawk’s screech crescendos. I blink at the overzealously lit faces, all intent on Martina Abbot and her son seated at the center of circled desks. In the raw fluorescent light Miss Hawk’s face looks blanched. Her dangling earrings tremble as she seethes, leaning across the table at Martina, the back of whose head bobs as she absorbs Miss Hawk’s violent tirade. Martina’s black hair stands out as if electrified by the bald patch at the center.
The door slams shut and Miss Hawk sits back, crosses her arms and is finished, right in time for me. The fluorescent light buzzes and heads turn to follow me around the circle as I nod to Miss Hawk, one soldier to another. On the desk behind me I bang my stack of papers like a load of stones. I sit, reach back for the first document and look up to meet the gaze of the woman I’ve come to damn, prepared for anything, save the tell-tale sign: her eyes, wide-set and wet.
Causes Ron Kaiser Supports