Dé Domhnaigh, Iúil 06, 2008

Tales From North Platte

Jade Keith is my six-year-old second cousin, the daughter of my cousin Richard and his wife Wendy. She has asthma and allergies that she inherited from my uncle Tim and needs breathing treatments every couple of hours. She is smarter than her age and knows it, reading books aloud, pointing out logical absurdities in movies just like I enjoyed doing at her age and do still, and showing off her handful of Spanish to whoever will hear. She is the primary watchdog for her infant twin brothers while the parents are out smoking.

Wendy is my age, 27. She looks a solid eight years older thanks to powder-parties in the Arizona desert. She has vague notions of going to college for something. I told her about my plans for grad school and my vague notions of being a professor. When I told her all that was required she said "so you're some kind of genius right?" She asked me to draw up an IQ test so she could see if night classes would be worth the trouble. I quickly explained that there's some precision to it, logical riddles and spatial testing and all that, nothing one could make up on the spot.

Aside from this request, Wendy gives every indication of being perfectly bright herself, able to read shades and vocal tone and understand the mood of the room and even get my jokes. She is ignorant to the world outside of the trailer park simply because it doesn't exist to her. I wonder how much she was like her daughter at her age. When I was six years old my family recognized my wits and even though they weren't college educated and not rich they still knew well enough to "encourage" me to take up an instrument, write a poem,go out for band, geography bee, get used to showing off my mental processes in public. I never have, but I can at least tolerate the public, more or less, tolerate having something like a name in a way that would be unthinkable if I wasn't a publicly smart kid.

And what about Jade? She lords over children four years older than her with her wits and the ability to say "silly" with all the honeyed venom that makes adults fall in love with young girls. Beyond that she has nothing but some public school in North Vegas that isn't even trying to notice the superlative poor kids and a family that knows nothing of the white-collar spelling bee and recital circuit.

She'll finish high school easily enough and be thrilled to death with it. She'll take She may or may not spend a year or two in junior college before shacking up with some galoot and moving to a trailer park three towns away from the folks, using her mental power to rationalize his thuggery and drunkenness, staying up late to drink every night with him in the neighbors in the hope that some dear girlfriend will show up and maybe they might get a few minutes to talk alone, acquiring a taste for upper-middle brow films and books before finally becoming addicted to General Hospital out of boredom, waiting for her children to grow up and call her for bail, knowing that it's simply a part of life.

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