chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

fragments…Howard ~ 9

Before he became a middle school teacher, Howard had for a while been a lab assistant for Dr. Carting. Mouse Boy, his friends had called him. Four rows, ten cages per row, one mouse per cage. He had liked the mice, their twitching pink noses and bright whiskers, but the work became tiresome and he suspected he carried around a faint aroma of mouse. So when Dr. Carting said her boyfriend needed a clerk to help him finish his book on the anthropology of circumpolar peoples, Howard took the job.

He proof-read the index and checked the spelling of the unpronounceable names, making innumerable trips to the copier and the library. He studied the soapstone carvings that sat on the shelf above Dr. Alexdrovich’s desk, comparing the information on the tiny labels on their bases to the captions under the photographs in the book. It was tedious, but at least no one called him Mouse Boy, and when the book was published, Howard’s name appeared in the acknowledgments.

After his stint with Dr. A., he went back to school to get his teaching credential. He thought he’d probably teach high school, but soon realized that middle school was where he belonged. He thought of Mr. Turner, who had been such a powerful influence on him when he was in junior high. Don Turner had helped Howard see round his pudginess and glasses to the boy who could wrestle and understand trigonometry. He had urged him to read Shakespeare and Vonnegut, Kesey and Harper Lee. He had guided him through the terrible letter of condolence to Portland’s parents. Mr. Turner had been something solid and parent-like when his own parents seemed not to notice Howard, seemed preoccupied with the twins.

Even now Howard could feel the agony of being 13. Sometimes when he looked at himself in the mirror in the morning, he was surprised to see the face of a grown man looking back at him…

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