Go easy on children who……

by Rod Smith

It’s a Saturday morning. 

I’m 11. 

As I have done for years, I am riding my bike on the gravel entrance to E. W. G. Smith, General Dealer, my dad’s Blackburn Road grocery shop.

A car eases alongside me and the driver leans out of the open car window and asks me directions to Parkhill Soccer Club. I know where it is but …. but… but everything I know sticks in my head. Words fail. My arms twitch. My neck stretches. Nothing. Not a sound will come out of me but for gasps and whelps. Then, I am choking on partial words which turn to monosyllabic squeaks and squawks which shotgun out of me. 

I turn my bike to look elsewhere and point down the road. 

The driver mimics my sounds, movements, laughs and points at me. He fake-chokes. He spits, jerks his head, playing to his audience, a car full of laughing adults. They move their arms, spit, copy my rapid repetitions and the driver shifts gears and the car tires rip the gravel and my mockers are gone.

I went inside the house and inside myself. I am debilitated, for days I want to hide in shame. 

I enter days of dark silence, moodiness, and humiliation. 

I can’t shake this stutter or the shame. 

The memory of trying to give directions to a place I knew so well repeatedly plays in my head and humiliation washes over me and I am convinced the men and women in the car are sure they met an idiot.

Go easy on children who stutter, please.

Right there, this is where it happened (1965)

[The KZN Mercury / Thursday February 9, 2023]

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