An essay by Sy Butler, remembering a traumatic and tragic episode from elementary school.
The school bell sounded, causing the players to complain, “Man, why does recess always end right when the game is just getting good?”
We all trudged up the hill towards the back of the school, shoulders sagging, many bending over until their backs were near horizontal in an effort to make the climb easier after a heated match of soccer. The flights of stairs seemed twice as steep and three times as numerous, since all of us were so tired. Still feeling the excitement of the soccer game, I bounded up the stairs. By the time my friends and I reached the top we were all panting, and Marcus had a bead of sweat dripping down his temple.
“Sy?” A commanding voice sounded from a nearby open door. I recognized it as the voice of my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Abels.
I poked my head through the door.
“Sy, your mom is here,” she said, and seeing my confused expression added, “She’s waiting outside in a car. She’s taking you home.”
For a split second I questioned the reason as to why this was happening, because I didn’t feel sick and could think of no other reason for being pulled from school unexpectedly, but then I realized I was going home, and forgot all else. I rushed to my desk to pack the things I needed, ripped my backpack off the hook in the hallway and raced through the halls. Within twenty seconds I burst out the front doors of Longfellow Elementary, once again out of breath.
I jumped into the van and said, “Let’s go, already, Mom,” and seeing my mom just sit there added, “C’mon!”
She still did not put the car into drive, but instead turned to face me with an expression on her face that immediately made me forget how excited I had just been to leave school early.
“Sy, Ethan’s dad,” she cleared her throat. “Ethan’s dad has died.”
I sat there, speechless, unsure of what to do after hearing that one of my best friends’ dad died. I started to say something, but stopped. I didn’t know what to say. I knew it was a terrible thing, but I didn’t think it was reason enough for my mom to take me home. My parents weren’t close to him, and I certainly wasn’t. I turned towards my mom and opened my mouth to ask her about it, but she spoke first.
“But before Ethan’s father died, he…Ethan’s mom and Seth and Eleanor and Mira and Ethan were all…they all died, Sy.”
I looked back up at my mom. “But that doesn’t make any sense, how did they–”
“Ethan’s dad killed them, Sy. He killed them all,” She paused to look at me, to make sure I understood. “I’m sorry, Sy. I just wanted to be the one to–”
“Mom.” I sniffed and looked pointedly away, at my lap, out the window, at anything except her. “Mom, let’s go home.”