This story is ideally part two of a outlined 25 part series dubbed so creatively as "The Young Daniel Series." This story, which has proven a bit longer than I originally anticipated, covers the discovery of Daniel's genius by his caseworker, Mrs. Johnson. We start out with the boy, traumatized by the death of his parents, who until three days earlier had never set foot on American soil, dealing with and acclimating himself to his new life as a foster child in New York City. This is his struggle to understand what is going on around him, which is difficult considering he doesn't speak English at the time. By the time this vignette ends, Daniel's place in the academic world will be settled, but it is not an easy journey.
The series is designed to take us through Daniel's life in foster care, from age eight until his emancipation at age sixteen. The series will focus more on Daniel's education and personal development through those years. Each story or set of stories in this series are designed to be individualized vignettes. They blend together in that they frequently refer back to items or people first introduced earlier in the timeline. However, I have started writing the series out of sequence, and so for now new characters or items will be introduced when needed and will be edited back out later as appropriate. A meta on Daniel's development (as I see it) and an outline for the series can be found (as soon as its added) at my personal writing journal at LiveJournal, the community username "quaintdiversion".
On another note, only about half the stories in this series will be angsty. Some simply describe his life, the people who care for and about him, and a general picture of how he became who he is. I want to point out how he develops some of his skills and talents, and not always is that from angst and tense situations, as much as I would like to write them! While I certainly don't expect some of the great reviews I've been getting for those types of stories, I do feel that they add to the overall "biography."
Note: All communications with Daniel in Arabic are boldfaced.
Disclaimer: I don't own Daniel, wouldn't mind it if I did. He belongs to someone else, and I'm just borrowing him for a while, free of charge.
Title: Going to School
Series: The Young Daniel Series
Word Count: 7008 and counting (NOT COMPLETE!)
Characters: Daniel (age eight)
"Ego operor non agnosco!" I don't understand! Latin was the only language Daniel knew with the Roman alphabet. That didn't stop him from trying to communicate in whatever way possible. Along the margins of the question packet he also scribbled the same phrase in Greek and Arabic, praying someone would understand him. He just didn't know English well enough to communicate with everyone else, and it scared him. "Δεν καταλαβαίνω" and "انني لا افهم" As he stared at the pages of unintelligible letters, he suddenly felt dumb for the first time in his life. He recognized some of the words, sounding out the Latin or Greek roots, but he neither understood the directions or could translate the meaning into English. So he was left with seemingly random words on the paper and no idea what to do with them. He didn't understand the instructions the proctor had given him, and so at the end of the timed period, the scantron answer sheet was empty; not a single little bubble was filled in with the #2 pencil Daniel gripped tightly in his right hand.
Daniel was walked out of the classroom at the end of the verbal section of the grade placement exam and the secretary pointed at the two opposite ends of the hall. To the left she pointed and loudly announced "lunch," and then to the right "bathroom." Daniel, with enough cursory knowledge of English, headed then for the boys' room. He entered into the handicapped stall on the far end of the large school bathroom, curled up in the corner and cried. He cried because he missed his parents; he cried because he didn't understand what was going on; and he cried because he couldn't tell anyone that he didn't understand. The frustration from the first part of the test had built up to the point it needed to be released. He openly sobbed, without a care about whom might be listening. No one listened though. No one even came near the boys' room for a good half hour.
The secretary came looking for him after waiting in the cafeteria with his lunch. She knocked on the door and called in for him. He sat himself up, holding his breath. When he heard the door close once again, he sighed and let out one last set of tears. He wiped his face with his forearm, swiping his nose on his shoulder and unlocked the stall door. Daniel turned on the faucet and was washing his hands when the secretary called in again, this time seeing him at the sink. She smiled at him, "Come on, its time for the next section." He gave her a confused look, and she physically waved him over to her with a smile. He wiped his hands with a paper towel and offered one to her, allowing her to lead him back to the classroom.
As he was handed the second question packet and answer sheet, Daniel's heart leapt with hope. It was in the universal language of math. He never liked math when his dad attempted to teach him, but at least now he understood what was on the page. The test began easily with simple questions like "2+2" and Daniel raced through them, filling in the blank to each question, ignoring the multiple choices below it. He showed the mathematical processes in the ample white space on the test sheet as the questions became more difficult with square roots and long division. He became stumped as he hit the algebra section, questioning whether kids his age in America were already learning this stuff in school. The query reminded him of times with his dad, spread out on their bellies with an old math book between them, their study time as casual as possible. Melbourne was never really good at math in college, but he knew his arithmetic and was frequently the one responsible for the digsite finances. Claire on the other hand was completely useless with numbers. She couldn't figure out square areas to save her life, and the thought of her handling the family checkbook was laughable. Math may have been a universal language, but it was one in which she was not fluent. Daniel struggled through the rest of the problems as best he could, but his frustration began to swell again and a tear glistened ready to fall.
The proctor didn't notice that Daniel never filled out the answer sheet past his name, with which she had personally helped him. She did explain to him that he needed to fill the correct oval completely without any stray marks on the sheet, the answer choice in the test packet to correspond to which oval he was to fill. She then sat down in at the desk, pulled out several magazines, and contently read up on all the national gossip and celebrity news. She had an egg timer set to go off at the end of the two sections, and until that bell rang, she didn't once look up to see the clear frustration on Daniel's face throughout the examination. As the bell rang, the proctor swiftly jumped out of her seat and snatched the test packet from Daniel, shoving it into a manilla envelope and sealing it with a long lick. She smiled down at him, ruffling his irresistible hair, and patted his back to indicate he could leave.
His caseworker, Mr. George Johansen, sat outside the principal's office waiting for Daniel as the secretary guided Daniel to the office. Before him was the same sad little boy who had only spoken a few broken words to him in the past three weeks since he was removed from the museum that fateful day. The boy was polite enough to say good morning and good day as salutations, but didn't utter another English word. Sometimes Daniel uttered gibberish to him, expecting Mr. Johansen to understand, but Mr. Johansen didn't speak gibberish and was convinced that the boy was retarded. The tests today would prove it, he thought as the boy sat next to him on the bench, pulled up his knees to his chest and tucked his head into a self-embrace. Mr. Johansen felt for Daniel, he really did. He was not certified nor trained to handle children with such severe disabilities as Daniel had shown to him. After today, Daniel would most likely not be his charge anymore. Thank goodness.
Mr. Johansen was pulled into the office as the secretary left after delivering the answer results. She replaced him on the bench, pulling her arm around the boy. Daniel pulled his head up to see what disturbed him and brought him back from Egypt in his head. As frustrated and upset as he was, he welcomed the embrace and let his body fall towards her in a lean. The secretary couldn't help but verbally sigh with a surprise, but she tightened her embrace about the boy's shoulders and patted his head as he tucked himself further into her side.
The conversation that followed was exactly as Mr. Johansen predicted. Upon finding out that Daniel didn't fill in a single bubble, the principal, Mr. Nowanowsky, asked if Daniel had any behavioral issues. "I'm no expert, but I've seen several cases like Daniel's come my way. This should be definitely checked by a doctor, but its my opinion Daniel is autistic," Mr. Johansen said smugly, "He obviously couldn't understand the instructions. The proctor helped him with his name, right?" Sure Daniel didn't fit all the symptoms of Autism, but he had enough. Daniel had little to no communication skills, he was socially withdrawn and had no interests other than looking at books. Mr. Johansen was sure of it. Even if it wasn't Autism, as he was missing the fourth classic symptom, repetitive behavior, Mr. Johansen was clear in his "expert" advice that Daniel was mentally retarded and needed to be separated from normal students. He suggested, and his suggestion was accepted, that Daniel be placed in a special education school that could help teach him enough skills to become independent by eighteen. Mr. Johansen patted himself on the back and with a job well done ended the conference.
It was almost heartbreaking for Mr. Johansen to separate Daniel from the secretary; it was the first time he'd ever seen Daniel warm up to anyone. He nudged Daniel on his shoulder and pulled him gently from the bench by his arm. Daniel complied, though he showed little enthusiasm the entire trip back to the group home. Once there, Daniel returned to his normal routine. He talked to no one, he didn't play with any toys in the play room or outside. He curled up silently with a book if he could find one, and with a notebook if he couldn't. His journal entries the past three weeks were almost identical. I want to go home. I don't understand what's going on. No one can talk to me. I want to go back to Egypt. I miss my parents. Why can't I go back? Why didn't Nick want me? T'ariq would have taken me, he said so. He loves me, unlike Nick. Once one of the social workers at the home took a look at his notebook. She asked about the beautiful artwork, but he didn't respond intelligently. "Please don't read that!" he quietly pleaded in Arabic, but just as the written words on the page were mistaken for artwork, so was his plea as gibberish.