My name is Conrad, but everyone calls me “A Challenge.” That’s what I heard them say to Miss Thoreau when she came to pick me up.
“Good luck with him, Miss Thoreau. He is a challenge. Here is his psychiatric history, complete with profile and diagnosis.”
I was hoping she wouldn’t read the papers in the file. When anyone does, then they start to talk to me like I was a stuffed animal.
Still, she hugged me when we got to the new institute. I am tired of institutes and I just want a home.
Then I said something I shouldn’t have. I knew it as soon as the words came out of my lips and I saw a flash of anger on her face.
She said, “Don’t make fun of adults. It isn’t kind to make fun of anyone.”
And then she said, “Everyone has something that is different about them. Everybody has challenges. The best thing that we can do is to support each other, ok? And you can also do this. You can learn kindness, and you can find it inside of you.”
No one ever told me that before. No one ever told me that I could help them, too.
The girl came–Katrina. Miss Thoreau says she is my sister. She doesn’t look like my sister.
She is funny, and she laughed at my joke about the sea monster that ate too much sea weed.
I wonder if sometime I might feel like she’s not the girl, but that she is my sister. I wonder what family feels like. I wonder if A Challenge can have a family.
Miss Thoreau said, “Come on, Conrad! Let’s go have grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.”
I watched them run into the Institute. I always like to stay behind and come later. But when I saw them, part of me wanted to run right in with them and laugh.
Katrina sat with me while I did my homework.
She said, “You tell the best jokes, Conrad! I’m going to enjoy having you for a brother!”
She even laughed at my joke about the troll who got stuck in the hole!
I never liked to do homework before because it was always in a room by myself, and no flowers on the table. No girl to laugh at my jokes. No grilled cheese for when I was done.
I like homework at this place. A kitchen table is a nice place for homework.
The boy came. His name is Dalton. And they say that he is my brother.
He is funny.
He told me a story about a famous musician, and he said, “Here’s the moral of the story, kid. Don’t ever give up.”
I think it will be fun to have Dalton for a friend. And maybe he is my brother!
The big joke would be on me. What if it were true? What if this were my home? What if Katrina was my sister? What if Dalton was my brother? What if Miss Thoreau was my mom?
Maybe if all that was true then I wouldn’t be a challenge. Maybe then I could be just a kid!