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    CarlHoliday
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Flight of the Dodo - 1. Chapter 1

This chapter begins with a honorific scene of parental physical abuse. It sets the emotional and physical abusive relationship between mother and child in the story.

For as long as I can remember somewhat clearly, I saw my life as a story. I first recognized my role in my story in 1955 when I was four-years-old. I was the protagonist. Syl was always the antagonist in my story. Syl never seemed to be happy as my mother. Maybe it was because she was shorter than my father, E3, so slender she could be called skinny, had breasts so small as to be nearly insignificant, had a very prominent nose, and an obvious overbite. I don’t think I ever called her Mommy, Momma, Mom, or Mother. She was always Syl, which is short for her real name, Sylvia.

Early on I learned that Syl could be a very dangerous person, which was difficult for me to understand because I saw other mommies and they weren’t cruel to their children by hitting them with shoes, slippers, or a piece of cedar kindling. Plus, I never heard one of them call their children dodos. That was one of Syl’s favorite admonishments. Whenever I did something wrong, Syl would always say, “Ed, you’re such a stupid, ignorant dodo.” Then she would usually hit me with her slipper or shoe. If I was in the kitchen and I did something wrong, Syl usually grabbed the piece of cedar kindling from the top of the refrigerator and hit me with it. Not necessarily on my butt. For Syl, any part of my body was fair game, especially anywhere on my head. I had bruises in places where other kids only get them by supposedly falling down stairs, which was Syl’s usual explanation for my bruises.

My earliest memory of my relationship with Syl occurred in September of 1955. I was home alone with Syl. That was before Erika, Emmett, and E4 were born. I was in the living room at our house up on Magnolia. Our house had a peekaboo view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. I was playing with my Lincoln Logs and Syl was watching something on TV. I was trying to build a house, but I hadn’t brought all the pieces out of my room to do that, so I stood up to go to my bedroom to get more pieces.

“Sit down, you stupid dodo. You’re in the way of my program,” Syl said.

“But I need more pieces,” I said looking at Syl.

Syl took off her slipper, stood up, quickly took the four steps between me and her, and she tried to hit me on the side of my head with the slipper, but I put up my hand and she hit my fingers. It hurt so much I cried and then Syl hit me on the other side of my head on my ear.

“Shut up, you fucking brat!” Syl yelled and hit me again on the side I had protected earlier.

Then Syl picked me up and carried me to my bedroom. She threw me into my bedroom onto the hardwood floor and slammed the door.

“Stay in there until you think you can mind me you stupid, ignorant dodo,” Syl yelled through the closed door.

My left arm was bent funny-like under me and the pain was incredible. I was able to roll over and I saw something sticking out of my arm. Also, I was bleeding there. I’ll never forget that day. Syl was so cruel to me back then. I couldn’t stop crying and Syl finally came back. I could see she was very mad and was probably going to hit me again because she had the piece of cedar kindling, but I tried to hold out my left arm to show her it was wrong.

“Shit!” Syl said.

Syl had to take me to the hospital. She said I had climbed up on the kitchen counter and dove off like I was diving into water. I think the doctors believed her even though I had bruises all over my head from her hitting me with the slipper. What could I say to change their minds? I was just a little kid back then. Nobody would have believed me. I had to have an operation and had to stay in the hospital for a long time. My arm was in a cast for months, but that didn’t stop Syl from hitting me whenever she was mad at me.

————

Sometime while I was attending Meadow Point Elementary School—that was after E3 became a partner at the law firm and we moved to Olympic Manor in the Seattle suburb of North Park—I got it in my head that my IQ was 73. The school district sent psychologists out to the elementary schools to give IQ tests to six-year-old students and the seven-year-olds who weren’t tested in the previous year. Around about sometime early in summer vacation, a bunch of kids were comparing their IQs and me, being the goof I was back then, said my IQ was 73 and everybody laughed. Nothing came of it other than all the kids in the neighborhood started calling me 73 and from then on it was my nickname.

I think it was around April, 1961, when I was in fourth grade. Syl took me to the Foundry Ridge Library on our semimonthly visit to return books and check out new ones. While she sat in the magazine section looking through whatever magazines they had, I went to the card catalog and looked for books about Intelligence Quotients, that is IQ spelled out. I found several and saw all their Dewey Decimal numbers were 153.9. Unfortunately, there was only one book on the shelf. I took it down and started looking through it. There was a chart that showed IQs between 70 to 79 were something called borderline. If my IQ really was 73, I was near the bottom of borderline, but what was beyond the border was beyond my understanding. Something strange occurred in my head. It was as if something clicked. It was more a feeling than a sound, but when I considered that Syl kept calling me a stupid, ignorant dodo, then maybe my IQ must be 73. From that point on I never applied myself to learn anything in school. What was the point? I was a dummy and would be one for the rest of my life. When I had homework, I would sit in my bedroom staring at a blank wall and think of nothing. Eventually, I was able to turn off my mind for hours at a time.

I put the book back on the shelf and went looking for my favorite book. I liked the illustrated version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because there was a picture of a dodo. One day during library time at school I took a chance and looked up the dodo in the World Book Encyclopedia. The dodo lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The dodo must have been a very stupid bird because it forgot how to fly. Over time it grew into a big fat bird that wandered all over the island because there were no big mammals that would eat it. When Portuguese explorers found the island, they discovered the dodo was very delicious and that was its undoing. In no time at all the dodo went extinct because it was good to eat and too stupid to fly away. And, that really doesn’t make any sense to me because, if the dodo was so delicious, why wasn’t it put into farms like turkeys are? We eat turkeys all the time, but they don’t go extinct so why did the dodo go away? Sometimes I think people can be really stupid.

————

My story became very interesting in September, 1962, when I started sixth grade at Captain David Nyberg—he was a WWII Navy ace from North Park flying off carriers in the Pacific Ocean, which is between the continents of North and South America and Asia and Australia and part of Antarctica, also the island nation of New Zealand is in the Pacific Ocean—Junior High School over on Whitney Boulevard at the southern end of Foundry Ridge. I was the protagonist and sneaky Larry Mark was the antagonist. He was leader of the Licton Gardens Gang—Licton Gardens was an economically depressed area of North Park where most of the wage employees of North Park Foundry and Greenwood Springs Lumber and Paper Mill lived—a loose bunch of juvenile delinquents who terrorized all the losers at the school. That was back in the early days as I was beginning to stretch out vertically. I had always been the tallest boy in school, but at eleven I suddenly started adding inches everywhere. It didn’t help that I was quite Nordic in appearance, too. Like E3, I had blond hair, blue eyes, and, for whatever reason, acne never bothered me, though E3 had one little scar on his left cheek by his nose. Larry Mark was a short, wiry kid with freckles, bright orange hair, and a snotty nose that kept him sniffling and snorting much to the annoyance of the teachers. He went out of his way to trip me in the halls between classes or on a few occasions have his sometime protector Arne Thorkelson—a big, stupid lump of a kid almost as tall as I was, but with a lot more muscles—throw me up against the lockers. I never figured out why being thrown up against the lockers was supposed to make me feel inferior. I suppose that was because my IQ was only 73 and I was in that borderline category. That probably prevented me from figuring out things like that. Luckily, that only occurred four times because the last time Arne was caught by Mr. Summers, the day custodian, and taken to the office. He was sent home for three days to think about his future at Captain David Nyberg Junior High School. It probably didn’t help that he had a note that had to be signed by both of his parents acknowledging their understanding of the severity of their son’s infraction. Interestingly, no matter how many times Larry Mark told Arne to attack me he never attempted to throw me up against the lockers again, which was good because E3 kept asking me why I had sore shoulders and I was running out of excuses.

That didn’t mean Larry Mark stopped his aggravating behavior like continually trying to trip me. Plus, he had the assistance of the other members of the Licton Park Gang, though they didn’t seem to have the same interest in tormenting me like their leader. Maybe they were scared of what might occur if they were caught by a teacher or a member of the staff like Mr. Summers. A three-day suspension with a note your parents had to sign seemed to have more weight in some families than Larry Mark’s insistence for their collective bullying.

Thirty-five days into the start of my third and last year of junior high, E3 had to leave his office a little early one day. Syl had called him because I had been taken to North Park General Hospital by an ambulance. She had to give up watching her TV programs and come down to the hospital to sign the release papers for my treatment. Although Syl called me an uncoordinated fool, a dope, and a stupid, ignorant dodo for falling, it wasn’t my fault because Larry Mark tripped me at the top of the only set of stairs in the school. Why there were four steps down into cafeteria might have been an architectural mystery, but for Larry Mark they were only a tool to attack me. They were textured concrete painted institutional green with steel treads on the edges to prevent chipping. As a result of my fall, I fractured my left kneecap on one of those steel strips and right wrist on the floor at the base of the steps. I was already in surgery to repair my kneecap when E3 got to the hospital, so I didn’t see him until I was put in a room. Unfortunately for Larry Mark, a teacher saw him trip me and he was sent home permanently. Never again would that boy antagonize me. I expected the other members of the Licton Park Gang to hassle me, but I guess they figured I wasn’t worth being expelled from school and probably not getting to attend North Park High School, either, which happened to Larry Mark. I found out at the beginning of my freshman year in high school that Larry Mark had been sent to Wyoming to live with his grandparents. I can’t remember the name of the kid who told me about Larry Mark’s predicament in Wyoming, but if I remember correctly, he was living in a little town in the middle of nowhere and had to ride a yellow school bus for an hour to the next bigger town that had schools. From the maps I had seen in atlases at school, I knew there is a lot of empty space in Wyoming. I never found out why that state didn’t have more cities and towns. In fact, Wyoming was a lot like Montana, Nevada, and Alaska. All those states have wide swathes of empty space. That was hard for me to get my mind around because it never made any sense that people would go out of their way not to live in those states.

As a result of being put in the hospital, E3 had E2, my grandfather, order me a National Geographic Atlas of the World. I lost myself in that book during the three weeks I spent at home recuperating from my operation. It was during that time when I suspected something was seriously wrong in my brain, but I didn’t say anything to Syl, who would’ve said I was a stupid, ignorant dodo for thinking such a thing, or any of my teachers. Luckily, I didn’t have any friends at school to let in on what I felt was going wrong up in my head. Unfortunately, I withdrew into myself and some teachers noticed I was having trouble scholastically. To me it was obvious I was having trouble. An IQ of 73 doesn’t give you a lot of room to improve yourself.

I still don’t know why I became so enamored with the République de Côte d’Ivoire, but that was all I could think about. I asked E3 if he knew where I could take French classes because that was the official language of the République de Côte d’Ivoire. I remember him asking me what that was. I told him that English speakers called it the Ivory Coast. He asked me why I was interested in that small country in Africa and I said it was possible I was actually from there. I said it was possible I had been switched at birth for a baby who was now living there with his supposed parents. I remember him saying that it was stupid for me to think such a thing because the people in the Ivory Coast were Africans and definitely not white Americans.

“Are you sure my skin isn’t dark like Africans?” I remember asking.

“Edvard (he always said my full name and put extra stress on the ‘v’ every time he was pissed at me), your skin is white, you’re over six feet tall, you have blond hair, and have a fair complexion because you’re mostly of Norwegian heritage. You definitely are not a Negro.”

“No, no, I’m not a Negro. I’m an African. Maybe your eyes can’t see that I’m actually African. I look in the mirror in the bathroom and I see that I’m an African. So why can’t you?”

“Edvard, go to your room, we’ll talk about this later.”

“But—”

“Edvard! Go!” E3 yelled.

I was still using crutches then so it took me a while to get away from him, especially considering I had a broken wrist on the hand that I think was supposed to support my left leg or maybe it wasn’t. It was obvious he was mad, but on my way to my bedroom I knocked on my sister, Erika’s, door. After she opened it, she said, “What do you want?”

“Do I look like an African to you?” I asked.

“No! What gave you that idea?”

“Are you wearing your contacts? Maybe they are colored and you can’t see that I’m actually an African.”

“Eddie, I don’t have contacts. I don’t even wear glasses. What is this?”

“I think I was switched at birth because I’m fairly certain I’m a from the République de Côte d’Ivoire in Africa and that would make me an African.”

“You’re just being stupid again, so stop saying you’re from Africa,” she said before shutting her door.

I didn’t dare ask Syl because she would’ve just call me a stupid, ignorant dodo. That was the first time I believed that something seriously wrong in my head was making me think crazy thoughts. I remember wondering why it was occurring then because I thought it would start at a time I was much older like my Gramma Phyllis who was living in a nursing home in Port Angeles at that time and thought she was on a steamship going to Japan. Toward the end of her life, she became very angry because the steamship was sailing by Japan, but wouldn’t go into a port. What I had to worry about was getting through North Park High School without teachers and other kids figuring out not only was I unathletic because I grew so fast I was seriously uncoordinated and was dumb because of my low IQ, but I was actually crazy in the head.

————

The North Park High School complex was near the north shore of Lake Melchior. The lake got its name because there had been a church camp on its western shore at the end of a spur from the mainline of the North Park & Lake Union Railroad. That was back before the area was platted for homes. There was a park and swimming beach between the southern boundary of the school and the lake. A six-foot chain link fence separated the school property from the park. To the west of the school across Bender Avenue North was the Wood Patch where all the kids who smoked cigarettes went at lunch time. Trails that went into the woods led to small open areas where those kids gathered. There was an ever-constant rumor running through school that kids smoked pot and had sex there. I never believed that was true because only hippies smoked pot and kids weren’t allowed to have sex until they were married.

The main building of North Park was a clinker brick and, not counting the basement, was three stories high. The honors program, the science classrooms, and the school administrative offices were on the first floor. I didn’t have to worry about the honors program because I was doomed to fail nearly all subjects before I even started. The second floor was for some sophomores who were taking advanced mathematics, one of the four foreign languages (French, German, Latin, and Spanish), and the classes for juniors and seniors who were not in the honors program. All freshmen and the rest of the sophomores were on the third floor. For some reason I never figured out, when the school was built back in the 1920s, they put a small observatory on the roof, but when I was there, it was no longer being used.

There were no freshmen in the honors program, except for John Peter Alexander Carlsen who was actually only eleven years old. Yes, he was smart. Plus, he was fluent in Danish, German, French, Polish, Russian, Japanese, and didn’t speak American English with any sort of accent, though he tended to use words normal kids would have to look up in a dictionary. Most kids didn’t even try to talk to him, ever. We had the same lunch period and since I wasn’t welcome at any table because I wasn’t in a clique, I started sitting across from him at his table. It wasn’t actually his table. The kids that sat there were the outcasts, like Johnny and me. Yes, he let me call him that. I thought that we might become friends, but his father, who worked at the Royal Danish Consulate in Seattle, was transferred to the Royal Danish Consulate in Vancouver, Canada, in January of our freshman year. One Friday he was at the lunch table and wasn’t the following Monday. I went down to the office after about a week to see if he was alright and the attendance secretary let me know what happened. I kind of moped around for a couple weeks until E3 asked me what was going on in my life and I told him about Johnny. He said, “In the years ahead, you’ll make friends and lose friends. It is just a fact of life.”

In my first year at North Park High School, I was on the third floor for most of my classes, except for P.E., which was held in the gym and outside where the baseball diamond, football field, track, and a big area for the field events were located, and woodshop, which was in the shop building. After about two months in woodshop, I almost cut off my left thumb with a saw and was then put in study hall for that period. I was never allowed in any shop class ever again. Being up on the third floor was very scary to me at first, since I had been tripped on those steps at Captain David Nyberg. It took me awhile to get used to going up them, but going down I stayed against the bannister so I’d have something to grab in case I was tripped. Luckily, all through my three years at North Park I was never tripped.

In my senior year, the school district transferred me to the recently built Louis Bergman—he was the founder of the Greenwood Springs Lumber Mill and was co-founder of the North Park & Lake Union Railroad, which was the primary impetus of industrial development throughout central North Park—Alternative High School because of my poor scholastic performance at North Park. As part of the transfer, I was referred to the school district’s mental health office and a psychologist came to Louis Bergman to interview me in an empty classroom on the second floor. I thought the interview was going okay until I was asked about my ethnic heritage considering my name was Edvard Oscar Pedersen.

“Actually, I’m from the République de Côte d’Ivoire,” I said.

“Where?”

“Oh, you probably know it by its English name, the Ivory Coast.”

“Then why do you have a Norwegian name?”

“I was switched at birth. That is why I’m an African.”

“Why do you think you’re a Negro?”

“No, no, I’m not a Negro. I’m an African. I was switched at birth at North Park General Hospital. Right now, there is a blond-haired boy of Norwegian heritage living in the République de Côte d’Ivoire who probably wonders how he turned up there. If I could get his address, I’d write him a letter and explain the situation.”

“When you look in a mirror what do you see?”

“Myself.”

“Do you see yourself as an African boy?”

“Of course, it is plain as day.”

“What is the name of your best friend?”

“I don’t have any friends. No one likes me because I’m from Africa. I was the only African kid at North Park and, now, I’m the only African kid here at Louis Bergman.”

“Have you talked to other students about this?”

“Why should I? They would only laugh at me. Everyone laughs at me every time I try to talk to them because I’m a dummy.”

“Edvard, I’m going to refer you to a psychiatrist. That is, if I get your parents’ permission.”

“I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”

“You can go back to class.”

“I need a hall pass or I’ll get suspended again.”

“I don’t see anything in your record that you’ve been suspended in all your time at North Park High or here at your new school.”

“Eleven times, all told, because nearly every time I go to the restroom someone locks the door and I can’t get out until someone gets the custodian, who has the key to unlock the door.”

“Okay, Edvard, here is your pass.”

“Thank you for interviewing me. I know it can be hard to interview someone who only speaks French.”

“Edvard, tell me that you’re joking.”

“Why would I joke about something like that. I’m seventeen years old, I was switched at birth, I only speak French because I lived in the République de Côte d’Ivoire as a child and my skin is quite dark because none of my ancestors that I know of had sex with the French administrators of my country. Why can’t everyone see that? It is plain as the poor, dear child slaves who have to harvest cacao in my country.”

 

Copyright © 2021 CarlHoliday; All Rights Reserved.
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Wow, what an interesting chapter to start the story with. I look forward to reading more.

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6 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

Wow, what an interesting chapter to start the story with. I look forward to reading more.

Thank you for your comment. I'll endeavor to keep your interest throughout the posting of this story.

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I am at a loss as to how to react to the story after reading the conversation between Edvard and the psychologist. Wow! I am also totally intrigued by Edvard and his family! I have no clue where this story is headed, but I am along for the ride. I can't wait for more! Thanks. 

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59 minutes ago, JeffreyL said:

I am at a loss as to how to react to the story after reading the conversation between Edvard and the psychologist. Wow! I am also totally intrigued by Edvard and his family! I have no clue where this story is headed, but I am along for the ride. I can't wait for more! Thanks. 

Thank you for your comment. I hope you enjoy the ride, but I must warn you it'll be bumpy in a few places.

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