Chapter 11:     School

Socializing would be a problem for Adam if we always kept him in 
our little society of family and academic researchers.  He had 
Melly as a best friend, but he also had to deal with the rest of 
the world at some time.  So we took him into Monroe when we went 
shopping, where at first he would cause a commotion by just 
walking down the street.  Eventually the locals became accustomed 
to him, but there were always some out-of-towners around and Adam 
had been made famous by newspapers and television documentaries, 
so they continued to make a fuss. 

We had tried to put him into a kindergarten when he was 5, but the 
school wouldn't accept him.  I went to see the principal and 
talked to her, finding that many parents would be nervous about a 
"savage bigfoot" loose in the same room with their children.  I 
explained that Adam was as human as anyone and that this was 
technically racism, but it did no good.

We couldn't get Adam into the 1st grade either, which was a double 
disappointment because Melly was to start in September and they 
had planned to go to school together.   Melly thought that was 
unfair and wanted to sneak him into her class anyway.  She'd take 
care of him, teach him to read and they'd both be school teachers 
like ol' Uncle Art someday.

Besides Melly, Adam did have some other friends his age, children 
of our scientific colleagues who had visited us in their studies 
of Adam and brought their own children along to interact with him, 
just for fun.  Sometimes we would visit them in Seattle.  But 
except for Melly, no local children had much to do with him.  
Having no near neighbors was probably the main reason for that, 
but still we wanted him to be accepted by the community.

When he was younger people often had the impression that Adam was 
a big buffoon, a stupid half-human, an idiot at best, because he 
seemed slow and clumsy in his movements as a baby.  This 
impression was caused by the fact that Adam was so large for his 
age that one assumed he was older.  At the age of 5 he was the size 
of a 12 year-old, but his language and social abilities were still 
at the level of his actual 5 years.

When Adam was old enough to comprehend this attitude around him, 
he became very self-conscious about it and made an effort to act 
as old as he could, often with comical results, which only added 
to his embarrassment.  It was an unnatural effort for him because 
he was one of those people who would mature later rather than 
early (much like myself).

But size speaks for itself and he found that as he reached adult 
status--in physical size at least--people would consider him 
mature and wise if he would just be sophisticated enough not to 
say anything stupid to shatter the illusion.  He learned that if 
one only said something when he had something to say people would 
believe that he was sage indeed.  Also that if he would select 
words of very specific meaning from his ever-growing vocabulary 
he could fool people into believing that he was a bloody genius.

So we had to live with a pedant for a while who often spoke as if 
he were reciting poetry or mathematical formulae: "Pater, it 
behooves me that you might indeed peregrinate the NaCL into my 
vicinity, should you be so altruistic."  Fortunately that passed, 
as do all plagues, once Adam exonerated himself from the 
reputation of being a "stupid ape".

But that was later.  We didn't get him enrolled in school until he 
was seven years old, when a new principal overtook the elementary 
school.  Until then I had educated him myself, reading aloud all 
the books that were required in the Snohomish County school 
district and a lot more advanced material as well.  

As said, he could memorize words beautifully, but he had just as 
much trouble understanding those words as any of us did at first.  
So we discussed things a lot: literature, history, religion.  Some 
of our colleagues also took him under their academic wings as 
well, so that by the time he did get to school he was actually too 
advanced for his class in terms of academic knowledge.

However, it was the social aspect of school we considered most 
important for Adam to experience.  How to be with other kids was 
the thing we couldn't teach him.  

I got to know the new school principal quite well, Ed Symes, 
eventually we became good friends.  Ed was very interested in 
Adam and he and I hit it off right away, so he and his wife came 
out to visit us privately.   

Ed was impressed by Adam's intelligence and manners, as well as 
his remarkable memory for the spoken word--for example being able 
to repeat intact a long involved speech in French after hearing it 
only once (of which Adam understood not a word).  

So Ed and I designed a special education for Adam.  It was already 
clear that Adam might never be able to read or write, since he was 
still totally dyslexic at the age of 7 years, so we arranged for 
his homework to be entirely oral.  Elaine and I would help him at 
home with the reading and as long as Adam listened in class he 
could do pretty well.

We had actually been training Adam to live without reading all 
along.  He could recognize logos and pictures so he knew what he 
was buying in a grocery store, for example.  We had a digital 
message recorder at home, like a telephone answering machine, so 
that we could leave Adam spoken notes when we needed to and vice 
versa.  Remember that, by the way: it becomes important later on.

It was decided that Adam was too advanced for the 1st grade and 
since he was already a foot taller than any other pupil, he would 
start in the 2nd grade.  This was a joy for both Adam and Melly, 
because she was in that same class by then.  

"Goody," she said, "I'll take care of you when you get there!"  
Adam was glad to have a friend paving the way for him.

Elaine wanted to go with Adam for his first day at school and so 
did I, but we backed off.  I suppose every parent has experienced 
that.  We drove him to school and we picked him up, but he went 
off to his first day of school all by himself.  Well not quite, 
Melly was waiting for him when he arrived. 

There had been no hysteria, no problem--the other children had 
been expecting him, waiting eagerly to meet a "real live 
sasquatch".  Most of the other children had heard about Adam and 
even seen him on TV, so he was a bit of a star.  Plus, Melly had 
told everyone about her Big Twin Brother, introducing him to the 
children she knew from the year before, taking care of him, as 
she had said she would.

Actually, when Adam was completely dressed he didn't look so 
different from normal children.  His "fur" was covered up except 
for the backs of his oversized hands and very thick neck.  His 
low-browed  sasquatch hairline was hidden under the shaggy mop 
of hair he let hang almost over his eyes anyway.  We couldn't 
do anything to disguise the size of his feet, for which we had 
to have some absurdly large shoes especially made.

He was big for the 2nd grade, of course, but hardly King Kong 
at 5'8" tall, slightly taller than the teacher, Mrs. Shaugn.  
Nor was he yet as burly and muscular as he would later become, 
although he did weigh 210 pounds at that time.

But for all his size and fame, Adam was quite timid and shy. He could have arrived like a conquering hero, but instead he was humble, thankful for a friendly word, eager to please. After all, he was quite aware that there had been legal protests against allowing him into a public school at all, so he was rather unsure of his position or his rights. So he was over-sensitive when one classmate DID complain about Adam being in her class: Lissandra Cunnings, a strikingly pretty caramel-skinned girl with startling silver-gray eyes. Paradoxically, she was almost as racially exotic as Adam in an otherwise generally all-white school: a blend of blond mother and Brazilian father. Lissandra was to become a persistent tribulation to Adam henceforth. She asked the teacher, right in front of Adam, "Why do we have to have that animal in our class?" Mrs. Shaugn, who knew Adam and was glad to have him in the class, told her, "Adam is not an animal, Lissandra, he is a person like any of us." "No it's not a person, it's a Bigfoot--a monkey, I heard Peter Sinsley's dad say so. And it's so BIG! What if it bites?" Mrs. Shaugn gave Lissandra a firm-but-fair look, "Well, Peter's father happens to be wrong in this case," then turned to Adam, who was looking down at the floor in abject embarrassment, "Adam, please tell Lissandra that you don't bite." Adam, normally quite verbal, felt tongue-tied before Lissandra's disdain and could only mumble. "Better tell her, Adam, or she'll be afraid of you." Adam looked sideways over at the very pretty girl with the very unpleasant expression. It was he who was afraid. "I...I've never bitten anyone..." He shrugged, as if apologizing for his weirdness. Lissandra was not impressed, she already knew that Adam could speak since everyone had seen him do so on TV and sneered in distaste. "It can't be a person, not with all that yucky HAIR all over it! And it's probably got fleas!" A few of the other children giggled at that. Adam was totally mortified by then and tried to deny the accusation, "No! I... I.." Melly stepped in, nostrils flaring, ready to do battle, having had enough of that girl's abuse of Adam. "No, he doesn't have fleas, Lissandra Cummings," she proclaimed, "and he's obviously a much nicer person than YOU are anyway!"
But almost all of the other kids in the class were friendly and really quite interested in getting to know Adam. He was special, he was famous and he was their classmate. The boys wanted to know how far he could hit a baseball. The girls wanted to fluff his fur. Of course, anyone who is different in a public school can expect some teasing and Adam got his share. Funny or derogatory names for a sasquatch abounded and most of them Adam took with good humor. "Squatch", for example, he used himself to describe sasquatches in general--it was Melly's innocent word and it was nice and short. Variations of "Bigfoot" led to BigFart, BigFruit, PigFoot, or Lissandra's Freakfoot. Media-inspired names, like King Kong, The Incredible Hulk, or the Wookie were also common. The ones that did hurt his feelings were those that animalized him, Monkeyboy, Sub-Human Trogdolyte, Neanderthal, or the old standards, Monster and Freak. That's when he started calling hecklers "Hairless Miniature Chihuahua People". That had been the punch line of one of his few victories against Lissandra Cunnings. She had called him "shaggy dog boy," and he had come up with the Chihuahua response. Lissandra had actually laughed and said, "That's good Freakfoot, maybe you DO have some spunk!" In general however, Adam became comfortably popular in school, with students and teachers alike, since he behaved and was quiet in class. Part of his quietness was because he couldn't read like the others. He kept trying to learn, but the trick eluded him, and that made him feel inferior, even though his retention of the spoken word put him far ahead of the other students in terms of actual learning. Almost too far, he would have been considered a Bookworm...if he could only read. But if he was a genius at words, he was a dunce at mathematics. He learned to recognize the ten ciphers, but he was never sure if a 7 and a 5 was 75 or 57 and he could manage additions and subtractions on his fingers, but the concept of 5 divided by 7 was too abstract for him. His Multiplication Tables, on the other hand, were down cold. And he could recite all sorts of geometric formulas--as long as they were in words and phrases--but had little or no comprehension of what they meant. After the initial shyness which all new kids in school usually go through, Adam was playing in the schoolyard at recess and eating lunch with his own group of friends, just like anyone else. Melly was there, but she was a girl and he actually needed to have some guy-time. She was a smart enough Little Twin Sister to sense that and stood back to let him be a guy. She didn't even hold hands with him in school, only on the way home. However, Adam had also inherited an enemy: Peter Sinsley, son of Felix Sinsley, my very own enemy, was also in the same school. Peter was two years ahead of Adam so they didn't have the same classes, but during recess Peter would lead the other boys into taunting "the Wookie". The elder Sinsley had evidently been coaching his son about what a scandal it was to have a stupid sasquatch running loose in a public school. Peter was an athlete--besides school baseball and football he had been learning Karate since he was 5 years old. He was confident, aggressive, a leader-of-the-pack type, so he had followers. His "gang" liked to rule the schoolyard, it was their turf, they were The Power and Peter was The Man. Peter was also quite tall for his age, thus at age 9 Peter was almost as tall as Adam at age 7 and he was probably overconfident of his chances of taking Adam in a real fight, since he knew karate. Peter also had a mean streak for Adam, with which he infected his gang. Not that they were ruthlessly cruel or rough, but the fourth grade is hardly a time of introspective conscience for young boys and mostly they simply liked showing off that they were not afraid of a bigfoot. Whenever Melly heard about anyone picking on Adam she became furious, she would tell the teacher, but Adam was locked into the guy-rules of school: snitches are the lowest. He could handle it himself, he told her. And she had to admit that he could, if he just would. But Adam didn't know how to handle it, he had never experienced such negative behavior consistently directed against him. Peter had several times hit him with rocks and made Adam very angry, but we had warned Adam very specifically against hurting anyone with his strength--even by accident--so he was overcautious. Adam began to come home from school depressed. We heard about one incident in the school playground: Peter was with his usual "gang" of three other boys and he tossed a rock at Adam, hitting him on the cheek, drawing blood. "Ow! Hey, stop that, Peter," Adam had told him. "I don't want to stop, freako, I like it." Peter had another rock ready in his hand. "Don't call me freak." "Freako, freakie, freakaroonie, nya nya nya!" Peter cast the other stone. Adam deftly snatched that one out of the air. "You better stop!" "Or what, freak?" Peter taunted. "Or I'll...I'll tell." "Nya nya dee da, you'll tell! You'll run and snitch? Oh, what a chickenshit!" Peter nudged his comrades to join in the taunting, although they were still not so sure about picking on a big hairy sasquatch--who was not only much taller than them, but outweighed them each by at least 70 pounds of very solid muscle. "Hey, don't worry about this wimp," Peter explained to them, "he can't do nothing to us. My dad says if this monster ever hurts anyone he'll personally come and shoot it like a dog!" "You better shut up, Peter!" Adam was getting angry now. "My dad really wishes that he'd shot you along with your hairy-ape mother." Adam started moving toward Peter and the group of boys, fists clenched. They scampered away, yelling. And Peter was yelling the loudest: "Help! The Bigfoot's gone crazy! Shoot it, someone, shoot it!" Adam stopped his charge, looking around nervously. Peter also stopped to taunt him with a finger and a smug grin. "You don't dare touch us, you Monster!" The other boys called out "yeah, Monster" as well, but they hardly looked so smug. They looked more as if they had been badly scared and now they needed to seem brave. When Melly heard about this she was ready to tell the teacher, but Adam told her not to. "I can handle them myself," he said. But actually, he was stuck between the guy-rule of "no snitching" and the Adam-rule of "no sasquatchian violence".

Chapter 12

Adam out of Eden