Arlene is on the SCENE

Arlene On the Scene Excerpt

It was in fourth grade that I first arrived on the scene wearing my custom-made, bright purple leg braces decorated with floating butterflies.

Kids, teachers, even the janitors sure took long stares at me with these new things on my legs. Maybe the purple was just too much. Suddenly everyone could tell just by looking at me that I was different. It felt weird. I mean, imagine wearing a sign on your back that says, “I have trouble reading,” or “I never learned how to ride a bike.” It’s like part of you is just out there, for everyone to see.

Before the school year started, I wondered what kids would think of me when I showed up for fourth grade. Would they just figure I broke both my legs? Would they realize I was still the same old Arlene? Would they like the butterfly decorations I picked out?

I wasn’t positive about the answers to these questions, so I had to do something to make sure I could pick up where I left off before I got these braces. Near the end of the summer, I made plans—Big Plans. I was going to pop back onto the scene, like with a big “Ta-da!” And I would speed ahead with my Big Plans so fast that the sign on my back saying “Girl with the Leg Braces” would just fly off, disappearing into the wind forever.

Then my braces wouldn’t be such a big deal, and I wouldn’t be so different, like my mom was. She uses a wheelchair to get around. Everyone always makes a big fuss about her wheelchair. One time last year, in the auditorium, when Mom tried to sit in the aisle near the stage for a school play, some lady told her that she’d have to move because she was blocking the exit route. If there was a fire, the lady said, it would be too hard to get around her. So Mom had to sit way in the back, where she couldn’t even see anything.

I didn’t really get it. If a fire was burning down the school, wouldn’t Mom be trying to get out too? She wouldn’t just be sitting there, singing “La la la” and blocking the aisle.

No way did I want that kind of attention on my leg braces. I’m a kid, not a fire hazard!

No, this year I was going to jump in and do something really impressive, something to stop anyone from thinking that I was any different from last year. I had thought a lot about what this awesome, impressive thing could be. Captain of the soccer team?  Nope, can’t run fast enough. Dancing? No chance. Even with these braces wrapped around my calves and ankles, I’m still too wobbly. Ms. Smarty Pants? Well, I do pretty good in school, but not that good!

Then it hit me. I’m really good at talking with all kinds of people, and I’m always involved with school stuff, like the Book Fair and Playground Clean-Up Day. Chatting with people, showing up at events, working on projects—sure, I could be a politician!


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