“That’s three!” shouted Noah from across the muddy field. Lem shuffled as he held his pants up and joined his comrades, defeated. At Noah’s time at kick, he quickly hit a home run with his bare foot, crossed the bases, scored a run. Being the only player on his team, he stepped up to kick again, scored another home run. Tommy McCloud buried his face in his cap and Lem watched in a sort of humiliation that probably would haunt him long into adulthood. Noah ran up the score to blowout status, point after point until the eight-year-olds cried defeat and ran back to the schoolhouse, heads slung in defeat. The sun set that day as Noah stood alone, victorious, arm slung up in triumph.
He proceeded to flunk the entire grade three curriculum.
Noah said that after proving to himself that not only was he a genius, but a gifted athlete as well, he lost interest in school. One day, when Mr. Carleton Senior came to pick up Noah, he found an empty desk.
“Plump Ms. Pepper,” he said, picking up on the inexplicable name that had become synonymous with the thin woman, “Where is Noah?”
“That boy left right in the middle of math today,” said Ms. Pepper. “Said he felt his talents were being stifled.”
“Noah said that? Noah doesn’t have talents.”
“That’s not the worst part,” said Ms. Pepper. “I found this in his desk.”
Plump Ms. Pepper pulled out a canvas. On it was a crude illustration of Noah, flying through the clouds, propelled by a rainbow, accompanied by smiling doves and the caption “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF”.
Mr. Carleton Senior stuck out his tongue and shuddered.
Noah decided to show me this painting. He made me wait at the dinner table as he climbed up the ladder to the attic and brought the painting down. Now, there’s “believing in yourself” and then there’s schmaltzy garbage. I mean, he had flung sparkles on it and everything.
Kurt was already downstairs by the time Noah finished telling the story (again) about Lem and his father and kickball, so I excused myself to go talk to him.