Disclaimer: Not mine.
Mark Cohen was only four when he started kindergarten. His parents, and everyone else for that matter, seemed to think he was some sort of prodigy for learning to walk, talk, become potty trained, and learn his colors by age two. At three, he could read and almost print legibly. That's why he got to start school a year early.
He was the shortest one in his class, shorter than a four year old was supposed to be. But he managed academically. His height, or lack there of rather, and black wire-framed glasses set him apart from the rest of his classmates. He was okay being alone though. Besides, while the other little boys and girls found playing Hotwheels and Barbies fun, Mark found entertainment reading One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish over and over again.
Roger Davis was six when he started kindergarten. He did preschool twice. He didn't really like the other children, and he didn't hold back in showing his animosity towards the little boy who took his blue crayon. If Roger wanted the blue crayon, he got the blue crayon no matter what it took. His mom pulled him out before he gave another kid a black eye and started him again the next year after he turned five.
At six, he was a little taller than the other children, especially the scrawny, little blond who was always reading. His clothes always had rips and tears and his facial expression consisted of a scowl and narrowed eyebrows more often than not, making most of the other boys shy away. Roger never liked playing with those stupid cars anyway. Breaking crayons and eating glue was always more fun, even if he got a reprimand at the end of the day.
They were so different yet so alike at the same. Both anti-social for different reasons yet totally content with the lack of peer interaction. They didn't even want to be friends either, but they had no choice when the nice lady they called Miss Nancy took away Mark's book and Roger's crayons and glue. She sat them in the tiny, plastic blue chairs at their table and told them to talk. She walked away, leaving a helpless nerd with a scowling bully.
"I'm Mawk," the scrawny blond offered, figuring it was best to obey his teacher's wishes.
"Mawk?" the bully smirked.
"No, it's ahr," he corrected. Mark had always had some trouble saying his name.
"Mawk," Roger teased.
"Ma-ark," he said slowly, tears collecting in his eyes.
Roger saw the shiny look eyes got before they cried and the way lips always quivered when they wanted to whine on Mark's face. He had never made someone cry with his words before; usually, it took his hands against their back, knocking them off balance. He didn't want to make Mark cry. "Mark," he said. "I'm… sorry." Roger had never said sorry without being told a hundred times before. He had never actually meant it either. Usually it was a muttered apology, spoken because he had to.
Mark rubbed his eyes behind his glasses, wiping away the tears. "It's okay."
"Okay boys and girls!" Miss Nancy shouted from the front of the classroom. "It's craft time."
Fifteen little boys and girls got up from their toys and took a seat at their assigned table. Miss Nancy passed out foam shapes and paper plates and directed the children to glue the shapes onto the plate to make a pretty picture to hang out their refrigerator.
Mark set to work quickly, arranging the foam pieces into the shape of dog on his plate before he pasted them on.
Roger set to work quickly too. He picked up a square and dabbed some of the non-toxic Elmer's glue on the back. Instead of sticking the square on the paper plate as instructed, he stuck it on his cheek.
Mark didn't say anything until Roger stuck his finger in the glue. He then proceeded to lick his finger, a thoughtful expression plastered on his face. "Wager?" Mark asked, his childlike dialect preventing him from saying Roger correctly.
"Whydja eat that? It's not food."
Roger shrugged. "It tastes good. I ate some yesterday when Miss Nancy wasn't looking."
"Can it make you sick?"
Roger shrugged. "I dunno. I ate it a few months ago and puked when I got home."
"Did you get sick yesterday?" Mark inquired.
Roger shook his head and licked a little bit more off his hand.
"Can I try some?" Mark's eyes were hopeful.
Roger looked from the bottle of glue in his hand to Mark's wide eyes. He could feel a dry taste in his mouth and a queasy feeling in my stomach. "No, I don't think you should eat it."
Mark's face fell. "Why not?"
"You might get sick, Mark," Roger reasoned. "I don't want you to be sick. You're my… friend. I don't want to hurt my friends." He offered a smile to the little blond to compensate.
Mark brightened, returning the smile. Roger said they were friends. Mark didn't have any friends. "Okay. But I don't want you to get sick either."
Roger nodded and put the glue down. The next time he picked it up, it was to glue some shapes on his plate. The third time it was to glue a triangle to Mark's forehead, sending both boys into fits of giggles.
Roger didn't expect to have friends in kindergarten. Roger expected everyone to be afraid of him. Roger didn't expect to be friends with anyone, much less the little boy with glasses who liked to read.
Mark didn't think he would ever be friends with someone like Roger. Mark had never known anyone as fearless as Roger who saw no qualms with blatantly disobeying the teacher. Mark had never expected to know a kid that ate glue, much less become friends with one.
But sometimes that's all it takes. A little push from a well-meaning teacher, some teasing, and an art project. And just like that, the intelligent little boy who stayed up way past his bedtime reading The Bernstein Bears became best friends with the rebellious kid who ate glue.