E/O Challenge Word: Raw

Additional Challenge: How about use the word in a 100, 200, 500, or 1000 word story?! Your choice.

Spoilers/Warnings: None

Disclaimer: Not mine

Word Count: 500

I can't read... ~ David Bowie

Sam never got used to this feeling; this strange mix of panic and horror, of helplessness and desperation as he stared at a word that he didn't know.

Like now...

Sam swallowed as the teacher – and most of the third grade class – stared at him expectantly; waiting impatiently for him to read the word boldly printed on the board; the white chalk in stark contrast to the green slate.

Just three letters, but it was one of Sam's worst nightmares.

Because this was one of those instances where the word was legitimate whether it was spelled forward or backward.

So, was the word on the board "raw" or "war"?

It was impossible for Sam to say.

And that was terrifying.

Because usually Sam could tell if he was seeing a word backwards simply because he knew most English words didn't follow the bizarre spelling patterns that he usually saw when he looked at them. He had learned to decode words – slowly, painfully – based on different rules than other kids; rules he had learned through trial and error...and with Dean's help.

But now...

Sam nervously fidgeted with the edge of his book; the book he had opened simply to keep up appearances; to blend in with the rest of the class.

Because truthfully, Sam couldn't read the words on the pages any easier than he could read the word on the board.

Sam stared at the three letters mocking him from the front of the classroom.

"Sam..." the teacher called, tilting her head in confusion at the long pause her student was taking before answering her question. "What's this word?" she repeated, wondering if Sam looked like a proverbial deer in headlights because he had forgotten what was asked of him.

Sam swallowed against the anxiety that had risen from his chest and was now lodged in his throat; wondering if he would be excused from answering the question if he threw up on his desk.

He probably would.

Maybe it was worth a shot; trading one embarrassment for another.

Sam swallowed once more.

"Just sound it out..." the teacher encouraged, making a mental note to review Sam's folder after school; because while she didn't remember reading anything that would indicate he had a learning problem, he clearly did.

She had noticed similar reactions to being asked to read aloud when Sam had first transferred into the school last week but had assumed it was just a new student being shy and self-conscious.

But now...

Sam shifted anxiously in his desk, wishing he could sound out the word like his teacher had suggested...but not knowing whether the word – the word everyone else in the class could read without trouble or second thought – started with "r" or "w".

It made a big difference.

Was it "raw" or "war"?

It was impossible to say.

Sam's heart hammered in his chest as he felt tears sting his eyes. He swallowed again and glanced at the teacher pleadingly.

Because he didn't know; he didn't know.