Excerpt: 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

It was impossible that I made too little of it, since this one developmental stage that our son seemed to have skipped was tyrannizing my life. You will recall that it was only thanks to the new educational ethos of pathological neutrality (there's-no-such-thing-as-worse-or-better-but-only-different) as well as paralytic fear of suit (in horror of which Americans are increasingly reluctant to do anything from giving drowning victims mouth-to-mouth to firing slack-jawed incompetents from their employ) that Kevin wasn't turned away from that pricey Nyack kindergarten until he, well, got his shit together. All the same, the teacher was not about to change a five-year-old boy, claiming that she'd be laying herself open to charges of sexual abuse. (In fact, when I quietly informed Carol Fabricant of Kevin's little eccentricity, she looked at me askance and announced witheringly that this kind of nonconforming behavior was sometimes a cry for help. She didn't spell it out, but for the next week I lived in fear of a knock on the door and a flashing blue light in our windows.) So no sooner had I dropped him off at Love-'n'-Learn at 9 A.M. and driven back home than I was obliged to return around 11:30 A.M. with my now rather careworn diaper bag.

If he was dry, I'd engage in a bit of pretextual hair tousling and ask to see what he was drawing, though with enough of his "artwork" stuck on the fridge, I'd already have a pretty good idea. (While the other children had graduated to fat-headed stick figures and landscapes with a little strip of blue sky at the top, Kevin was still scrawling formless, jagged scrabble in black and purple crayon.) Yet all too often a midday reprieve meant return to a ringing phone: Miss Fabricant, informing me that Kevin was now drenched and the other kids were complaining because he smelled. Would I please—? I could hardly say no. Thus after picking him up at 2 P.M., I'd have made four trips to Love-'n'-Learn in a day. So much for having plenty of time to myself once Kevin started school, as well as for the fantasy I had improbably kept alive that I might soon be able to resume the directorship of AWAP.

Were Kevin a pliant, eager boy who happened to have this one unpleasant problem, she might have felt sorry for him. But Miss Fabricant's relationship with our son was not thriving for other reasons.

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