I SEE RED: Chapter Eight



[I see you.]
            “Wanna see my trampoline?” Dallas yells from his bedroom.
            “Sure,” I say, and he leads me outside. A giant dog bounds towards me from an unsuspecting corner of the ridiculously small San Franciscan backyard.
“Who’s this guy?” I ask, as the rambunctious hound licks my face.
            “Ramsay,” Dallas tells me. “Him’s called after the guy who yells and yells so much. My Mom think’s that cooker is so funny, but him says the F-word too many times, and that’s why I only watched the one with kids.”
            “That’s a great name,” I giggle. “Why didn’t you tell me you had a dog?”
            Dallas shrugs, “You didn’t ask.” (I guess that’s true)
            “Can I come onto the trampoline with you?” I request.
            “There’s only a’posed to be one person at a time, but that’s because me and Grey bashed our heads together one time because we jumped too silly,” he explains. With this simple statement, the mood shifts like black clouds over a sunny day. On one hand, I’m thrilled that he’s trusting me with these kinds of admissions, but on the other, the weight of his loss settles heavily in my stomach.
            “What if,” I suggest, “I jump with you, but we jump sensibly?”
            “Silly is more fun,” he replies.
            “What if we give it a try?” I persist.
            Dallas nods his mop of long, curly hair as I escape the licky tongue of Ramsay by climbing onto the trampoline. Dallas starts jumping as I fumble around like a newborn horsesomehow I remember trampolines being easier than this. I definitely didn't wear the right bra for this situation. As we jump, we both start laughing.

[I see red.]
            For your big fat information, I still don’t like Zoe. Listen to me; I’m telling you the real truth here. Her is on my trampoline, and it’s super fun jumping with another person because I don’t have a brother anymore (and my sister is a diaper-face baby who does nothing), and also I don’t get to have any friends at my house. We are jumping a little at first, and then bigger and bigger. Uh oh! The silliest thing is happening! My stinky dog Ramsay just jumped on the trampoline with us!
            “Ahhhhh!” Zoe yells, as Ramsay puts himself on her shoulders and now her is lying on the floor of the trampoline with him licking she’s face. Ramsay has spit for days and days, and now it’s all on Zoe’s face.
“Help!” Zoe yells, but she’s also laughing.
            I am also laughing so much I might pee a bit in my pants. I open the trampoline net and throw one of Ramsay’s toys out the gap (he’s always leaving him’s toys in the trampoline). The silly dog jumps out, and I make the net closed tightly. Zoe is laying on the trampoline with dog spit all over she’s face. I sit down next to her, still laughing at what he did.
            “Ramsay is a bad dog. I forgot to tell you about that part.”
            “He’s not bad,” Zoe says.
            “He’s not good!” I laugh, hitting my hand to my head. Zoe sits up.
            “What if I said there was no such thing as good and bad?” she tells me, and her must be joking because that’s not real.
            “That’s fake,” I tell her, because she needs to know.
            “Hear me out,” Zoe says, “What if there are no good or bad dogsjust normal dogs who do good or bad things?”
            “Like if white was normal color because it’s no color, and red was for bad and green was for goodand a dog was just white, but sometimes it was red and sometimes it was green?” I ask her. Zoe’s face has a big smile, and I wonder why her’s so happy. We’re not even doing gold stars.
            “Yes! Exactly!” she says. I lay on the trampoline with her, but next to the edge with the door part. My dog is barking so loud for four barks.

[I see you.]
            While Dallas is relaxed, I’m going to see how far I can get with testing his academic knowledge in a casual way. Rhyming is a vital skill that children must learn, as a way to increase their ability to read, write and spell. Also, rhyme teaches children to manipulate language and express themselves in more ways than just poetry. Since Dallas loves music, I’m having a hard time with the idea that he can’t identify rhymemainly because most lyrics are built on rhyme.
We’ll work more on the finer details later, but right now, I just want to know what he can do.

[I see red.]
            “Dog. Dog, log. Dog, log, bog,” Zoe says, and I don’t know why. “Can you add more?”
            “Dog, log, bog, big,” I say, looking at the clouds.
            “Ooh! Close!” she says, “Big, bog. Hear the difference? “Ig,” “Og” Like thisdOg, lOg…”
            “Bog!” I yell, “Tog, zog, fog!”
            Zoe is smiling again and says, “Yes! That’s called rhyming. This rhymes: tog, zog, fog, blog, frog!”
            “Blog, frog, dog!” I yell, and I laugh because this is a funny game and I want to play again. I’m also looking at the clouds, and one is shaped like a bunny. Bunny, funny, runny.
            “Do bunny and funny rhyme?” I ask.
“Sure do!” Zoe tells me, “What about this? Bunny, funny, lumpy, honey? Do they rhyme?”
“Do it again,” I say because I am not sure and also forgot what her said.
“Bunny, funny, lumpy, honey,” Zoe tells again.
“Lumpy is the odd one,” I say, “Lumpy, bumpy.”
“Want to give me a challenge?” she asks.
“Hmmm… Bag!” I yell.
“Bag, tag, sag, rag, flag,” Zoe says, and she’s definitely very good at this game. “Here’s a challenge for you: cat.”
“Cat, f...fat! Yeah, fat is a word! A mean word, but it’s a word. Cat, fat, flat, yat, gat. Are them words?” I ask because I’m not sure, and being not sure makes me nervous.
“Doesn’t matter. We can make up tons of words for this gamelike daf, baf, maf,” she goes on and on.
“Maf is a word. Like when you get numbers and do plusses and take aways,” I remind Zoe because she must’ve forgotten.
“Almost! Watch my tonguemath,” Zoe says, poking her tongue out her mouth. “Math is numbers. Maffffis a made up word. Practice with mefff, now thhh.”
I bite my lip when I say f and I get to poke my tongue out when I say th. This game is so fun because my brain is getting so big with information, and I also get to poke out my tongue at Zoe, who I don’t like yet.

[I see you.]
Mental notes:
1.     Dallas can rhyme words.  
2.     His auditory processing is fine; he just needs to have things explained to him sensitively. I can see that embarrassment has played a significant role in keeping his academic learning at arm’s length. He doesn’t know why his ability to learn was stunted, but he does know that he’s not as “smart” as the other kids.
3.     Dallas is able to catch up on missed concepts with relative ease. He’s also showing signs of readiness for new challenges.
4.     Because of his home situation, Dallas lacks in cultural capital. (That is, access to non-financial social assets that promote him beyond his economic means. Yes, the family “lives rich,” but they’re drowning in debt. Dallas has never been to a museum, he’s been to very few restaurants, and hasn’t attended extra-curricular activities.)

            We lay on the trampoline for a while, together but apart. I notice he’s close to the door of the trampoline safety net, and I wonder if that’s because he thinks I’ll hold him again. Today I feel like I’m spending time with an entirely different childa clear departure from the boy who threatened to jump off a roof just four days earlier. Finally, I’m starting to relax.
            “Do you think this cloud looks like a bunny?” I remark.
            “I was thinking that already!” Dallas stammers excitedly.
We first met during the summer, where we spent two weeks alone. With his family, he was a monster, but with me, he was great. He was this beautiful child, so free and for the most part, easy. Sure he had meltdowns and strong opinions on things, but he was accessible. Everything changed when we went back to schoolhe completely shut downthere’s been a steady decline ever since. Today has been the first time he’s been able to have a back-and-forth conversation with me in three weeks. Something about school doesn’t bode well with this kid.
I look at my watch12:30 pm.
“It’s time for lunch,” I announce.
“We already eated lunch!” Dallas remarks with a puzzled inflection.
“Humans need to eat every few hours,” I reason.
“We can eat more nuggets,” Dallas shrugs.
I dismount the trampoline, into the slobbery embrace of Ramsay, who has been waiting for the equivalent of a dog month for us to return. He furiously wags his tail, and it hits me right in the back. He’s a sweet, sweet dog in need of some serious training. Dallas leads us into the kitchen and climbs up on the counters again. I hate that he subsists on chicken nuggets, but I’m also aware that changing too many things at once is a recipe for disaster. We’ve already made so many advances todaythese chicken nuggets are the least of my concern. Dallas repeats his earlier process, making himself exactly six nuggets. I take a kale salad out of my backpack and set it on the counter. He stares at my food with the same disdain as I stare at his, despite the fact that I ate nuggets just a few hours earlier. Clearly, I was only eating those delicious nuggets for his benefit… it’s called building rapport, people. They weren’t delicious at all...
I see a kiddy painter easel in the living room, with a large pad of paper attached. I grab a marker and write Daily Schedule at the top.
“Do you know what times on the clock mean?” I ask, casually.
“There’s numbers, and they mean things happen at them times,” he says with nugget breading flying out of his mouth.
“Exactly! So, we’re going to make a poster about what we do every day. That way, if we forget, we can look at the poster. Does that sound OK?” I suggest.
Dallas shrugs, “OK.”
I grab the pen, and we get to work.

[I see red.]
            Zoe and me made a poster. It is about times and clocks and things that we do at those o’clocks, also what the clock looks like when things happen. She’s good at drawing clocks. Here is how it looks like:
Daily Schedule
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Zoe arrives
Dallas and Zoe eat breakfast   
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Number activities   
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Play time  
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Snack time
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Letter activities
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Outside play time
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Wash hands
Make lunch  
Description: .JPG
Eat lunch
Description: 30.JPG
Story time  
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Project time
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Jacob and Aurora come

Zoe leaves

            I look at the clock on the wall and it looks like the long hand is on the five and the short hand is a teensy bit after the one. I never knowed how to tell time, and I still don’t know how to actually do that, but I matched it with the shape on the schedule.
            “If we look at the schedule, which activity would match one o’clock?” Zoe asks.
            “We already eated lunch!” I laugh.
            “Wow! We are really ahead of our schedule today, Dallas. When we work harder, faster and smarter we get free time. What should we do until story time at 1:30 pm?” Zoe says, and I think hard.
            “Well, actually I don’t like stories. Only information books,” I remind her, because she forgotted.
            “We can do information books, that’s no problem at all,” Zoe tells.
            “Let’s play with Ramsay again,” I decide.
            “First, we’ll set an alarm for 25 minutes. When it’s almost storyuh, information book time I’ll give you a reminder. When it beeps, we go inside. Deal?” she says.
            “Deal!” I agree, “Let’s find that stinky dog.”

[I see you.]
            We walk outside, and Ramsay launches himself onto me again. This dog needs some boundariesI really wish he had owners who gave a shit. I’m pretty sure he was an impulse buy before they had the baby. That happens so oftenpeople acquire a dog, then when a baby comes along, they completely drop the ball with the dog. Without training the dog is out of control. Subsequently, nobody likes being around him. Then the dog gets a bad rap for what humans neglectedand so goes the story.
            “Does Ramsay know any tricks?” I ask, doubtfully.
            “Him isn’t smart. He’s a bad dog, ‘member?” Dallas replies.
            “I thought dogs were white... red was bad, and green was good?” I recall Dallas’s own words.  “Ramsay is white. Sometimes he does red things; sometimes he does green things.”
            Dallas hits his forehead with his palm, “I forgotted. Everyone says he’s a bad dog because him is too silly,” he pauses and grabs the dog’s face. “Ramsayyou are not good or bad. You just a doggy.”
Ramsay dances around and whacks me once again with his crazy tail.
            “I was thinking about our schedulethe one with the clocks,” I interject.
            “I know what’s a schedule,” Dallas replies with a sharp tongue.
            “I was wondering what you’d like your project to be?” I ask.
            Dallas thinks for a minute, “What means a project?”
            “Well, it’s something you work on for a while. It’s something you carefully plan, it’s something that means you do your best work and don’t give up.”
            Dallas thinks a little more, as he grabs a dog toy and throws it to his giant, lanky, licky pet. Ramsay bolts towards the toy, rolls in the dirt, completely forgets about the toy, starts digging a hole, then runs back to Dallas. He stands there panting excitedly in his sweet, goofy, doggy way. He lets out a single, seemingly unnecessary bark.
            “I wanna make Ramsay be green,” Dallas concludes. “I want my project being about telling him how to have good manners and be kind to people.”
            I smile from ear-to-ear. I couldn’t have planned this any better if I’d tried, and I thank my lucky stars I came here today with low/no expectations.

            I smile, “Together we’ll make him the greenest dog that ever lived.”