Student Voices 19.2

By Sarah Lepage

Illustrator: Brandon Buckner

Illustration: Brandon Buckner

Pro Wings

I grasped my seashell blue Jellies and walked over to my bed. I laid them down on my bedspread as if burying a wounded soldier. Their sides had long ago come undone, their heels were ground down and filled with rocks, and their pearly blue appearance was dulled by many hours of being scuffed on pavement. In vain I tried to save them; tape wouldn’t seem to hold the sides together long enough for me to take three steps and glue was far more trouble than it was worth. It formed a pasty river down my arm and cascaded over to splat against the floor. I knew what I had to do.

Tucking my exhausted Jellies under my arm, I set out to find my mom. I found her minutes later sitting in front of the TV.

“Mommy, can I have some new Jellies?” I asked, offering her the corpses of the ones I owned.

“Didn’t I just buy those damn things?”

“Uhh, I think it was almost two months ago,” I sighed.

“I’m not going to spend any more of my hard-earned money on those cheap things. Tomorrow we’ll go to Volume and get some shoes that will last.”

What?? Volume? Shoes that would last? What was she saying? All I wanted was a shiny new $2.99 pair of pearly blue Jellies.

“Momma, can’t we just get some Jellies?” I cried.

“Girl, I ain’t wastin’ no more of my money on those cheap plastic things, and I think it’s past your bedtime anyway!”

I sulked back to my room, a tear slipping down my cheek as I buried my beloved Jellies underneath the paper in my wastebasket.

That night visions of Volume haunted my dreams. I heard the other children laughing. I saw the ugliest pair of shoes that resembled twin boats more than they did shoes, and I saw my mom buying those very same shoes saying, “Now, these will last ya.”

The next morning Mom dragged my sleep-deprived body out of bed and said that we were going to buy my new shoes.

“Mom, do I have to go to Volume? Wouldn’t it be cheaper if we just went and bought me some new Jellies?” I whined.

“Stop pestering me about those worthless things,” she snapped.

Worthless? That single word stung worse than the slap of a hand. My prized shoes weren’t worthless. How could she talk about them like that, and in front of me?

“I’m not getting any shoes from here,” I announced, as my mother led the way down the aisle crammed with my size shoes.

“You’ll do what you’re told or else!” she snapped back.

I crossed my arms, planted my feet, narrowed my eyes, and shook my head in defiance. “I said I want Jellies!”

She stopped cold, whirled around and grabbed me by the arm. She dragged me within inches of her beet red face and spoke in a hard terrifying voice, “I said you’ll do what you are told! Now go sit down and take off your shoes, ’cause these are the ones that you are getting.” She forced a pair of gray Pro Wings with matching Velcro into my clenched fists.

The next week at school, it was torture, as I knew it would be.

“Hey Sarah, are those new shoes?” Jennifer asked. “I got new shoes too, but mine don’t fly.”

Everyone in the class started laughing, even Michael, the class dork, the boy everyone made fun of.

“Yeah, I bet you’d have no problems making the track team,” he smirked. It wasn’t even funny, yet everyone laughed. I walked home humiliated, with kids flapping their arms in my direction like birds, but Mom was right, those shoes lasted a long time. Too long.

Sarah LePage wrote this narrative as a student at Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore., during the clothing unit described in Linda Christensen’s article “Moving Beyond Judgment” (page 33). She graduated from Oberlin College with a double major in creative writing and art. Brandon Buckner is an eighth-grade student at Sherman Middle School in Madison, Wisc. Rethinking Schools is looking for students who write or create art, illustration, or photography and would like to contribute to this page. Please send submissions to Catherine Capellaro, managing editor, Rethinking Schools, 1001 E. Keefe Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53212.