Jerry Spalling hated his whole life except for hockey. He grew up on the west side of Port Jackson, New York, more commonly known as the poor end. His father had gone to jail for embezellment and his mother would rather drink and party then settle down with a job. Not to mention the fact that Jerry flunked half of his classes the first term of his freshman in high school. There was only one thing Jerry was good at and that was hockey.
He loved the aggression of the game. It let him get out his frustrations about his mother and father and his horrible grades. He was on the Port Jackson Rats but if he didn't boost his grades it would be good-bye to hockey.
Mrs. Moore was Jerry's least favorite teacher in the whole school. She was only 5"1, not even tall enough to reach Jerry's chin but she was like a hurricane. If you crossed her path you'd surly be blown away. Jerry seemed to always be crossing her path.
"Today, we will be reading the Tell Tale Heart, which is a very famous story by Edgar Allen Poe," she began.
Her frump of silvery-white hair shined under the florescent pink lights of the classroom. When she wrote little pieces of yellow chalk flew around the room. The board screeched as she wrote out the words, Edgar Allen Poe. She repeated his name and went onto tell about his career. Her sharp annunciation reminded Jerry of staccato notes.
"Mr. Spalling, will be reading for us today. Mr. Spalling?" Mrs. Moore said.
Jerry stuttered and slurred most of the words but Mrs. Moore made him read a full two pages. Around him all his peers were snickering and whispering, "Stupid Jerry can never read anything." That was the truth. Jerry could barely read. Whenever he looked at a page full of words they seemed all jumbled together and made everything appear to be a black and white blur. All the B's looked like D's and the M's looked like N's.
"Hey, Jerry why don't you learn how to read?" a classmate jeered as soon class was over.
As Jerry was leaving a girl came up to him and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hi, you must be Jerry. I'm Gwendolyn Peters, I just moved in next door to you."
Gwendolyn had blond hair that looked so silky Jerry wanted to reach out right there and touch it. Her eyes were crystal pools of blue and accented by cobalt blue eye shadow, which had been generously smeared on her eyelids. Her nose was thin and looked like a little ski jump.
"Not to bad," Jerry thought to himself. "Not bad at all."
"I felt bad that all those kids were picking on you back there," she told me.
"Oh yeah? How can you feel sorry if you don't even know me?"
"Well, it has to be pretty lousy when the whole class is calling you stupid just because you mixed up a few words," she replied.
"It isn't that bad," Jerry lied.
"Aw, come on it has to hurt a little. Do you know how to read, Jerry?"
"Leave me alone. I'm just stupid, that's all," Jerry shot back and stormed off.
"Who does this Gwendolyn girl think she is making me feel even stupider then I am? What kind of person would asks another person if they could read or not? After all everyone can read. Everyone except for me," Jerry thought as he slunk to math.
The next day Mrs. Moore suggested that Jerry get a student tutor to help him with his schoolwork. She told him that his schoolwork had improved a little bit since last semester and that he had a just passing grade of a D, but he had a lot more potential than just a D average.
"I've looked up your address and I suggest that you ask Gwendolyn Peters for a tutor session. She lives right next door to you. I know she's a new student but it will be healthy for both of you to get to know each other," Mrs. Moore said with tight lips.
Jerry made an appointment with Gwendolyn the next day after school to have instruction in English. After all Jerry couldn't loose anything. "You never know, I might even boost my grade," he thought optimistically.
Gwendolyn got Jerry settled right away at the kitchen table and handed him a picture book.
"A picture book? What kind of ignorant fool do you think I am?" Jerry asked.
"Look, Jerry I know this seems stupid but just try it," Gwendolyn begged.
"Okay," Jerry grunted. "It was a cold bark night."
"Dark," Gwendolyn corrected.
"Whatever. Everyone was asleep in their debs except for a little mouse mamed, George," Jerry continued.
"That's beds and named. You can stop reading now, I want to see something." She scribbled out a few words on a legal pad. "Okay now read these."
"barn, nike, and ERON," Jerry read out loud. The first two words were all in lower case letters and the last one capitalized.
"Wrong. You read those all wrong," Gwendolyn said shaking her head.
"You're just making me feel stupider, Gwen."
"Sorry. I didn't know what your problem was at first but now I do. There's a name for this disease where you read letters backwards and all mixed up. I think it's called dyslexia or something like that."
"So now you're saying I have a disease?" Jerry questioned.
"Well, it certainly makes sense. You can read some words find but words that have letter that are similar to each other like d and b you can't read. Maybe you should talk to the guidance counselor or something. There's probably ways he could test you for it."
"But then everybody will just make more fun of me. I'll look even more stupid. Gwen, you heard what they call me. Stupid Jerry. That's all I am too them."
"But, Jerry you are smart! You just have a little problem reading. Everyone has some flaws. You play hockey great and you're nicer to me then any of the other boys at school!" Gwendolyn shouted.
"If I don't boost my grade to at least a C- I can't be on the team. Then I won't have anything," Jerry mumbled.
"If they knew you had that problem, they'd probably let you stay on the hockey team. Just go to Mr. Brockson and tell him what I told you about I'll the letters being mixed up. He'll help you, Jerry. He won't call you stupid," Gwen assured him.
The next day Jerry scheduled an appointment to see Mr. Brockson, the guidance counselor. Mr. Brockson gave him a test similar to the one Gwen had given him the day before. Mr. Brockson was almost sure that Gwen was right and that he did have dyslexia. He explained that Jerry's brain interprets the letters wrong and flip-flops them around. He said it wasn't Jerry's fault and he wasn't stupid because of it no matter what the other kids said.
"There's ways we can help you, Jerry. You just have to stick to it," Mr. Brockson explained.
"Can I stay on the hockey team?"
"I don't see why not as long as you diligently keep up with your studies."
Gwendolyn continued to help Jerry learn how to read right. One day she gave him a hardcover book with a neat black and gold design on the cover.
"There's no words," Jerry complained flipping through the book.
"That's right. This is a book to write your own stories and to keep your own thoughts. You don't have to show the book to anyone if you don't want to," Gwen explained.
Jerry began writing a story that night and didn't stop until he finished it at two o'clock in the morning. That is why you are sitting here right now and reading his very story.
About the Author: Heather Greene is thirteen and in the seventh grade at Wilbraham Middle School. She is the editor of Kid Ink magazine. Her review of Good Will Hunting also appears in this issue