Their laughter didnít ring in his ears, it echoed. Every sound they made tumbled
through him over and over again. He wanted to run away as fast as he could, but just
stood there with that silly grin still frozen on his face. It seemed to be the one part of him
that still didnít realize what was going on.
He had thought they would love it. That when he took his special pet out of its box
they would stare with awe and wonder. Their mouths gaping and eyes wide; they would
exclaim their praises and he would let them all wash over him, a soothing river of
compliments and tender affection like none he had seen or felt before. He had looked
forward to this day for two weeks, when it would be his turn for show and tell. He would
bring Doug and for once they would all love him.
That was not what happened. He pulled Doug out of his box and instead of the
sounds of admiration he had expected; he heard laughter, and a voice. ďA rock? Your
great and wonderful pet is a rock?Ē Unable to do anything else, Bradley began to cry.
Beads of condensation began to stand out on his forehead and more poured down his back
in cold waterfalls. He wished he could drown in them. His teacher tried to calm him down,
but it was too late. The damage was done.
He finally found the strength to move, and ran. He didnít know how to get home,
but felt he could never enter that room again. He came upon the playground and sat in a
swing, the sobs still catching in his throat even though no more tears could come.
Why couldnít they see that Doug wasnít just a rock? They didnít know that when
his daddy was sitting on his favorite couch, slurring and cussing, Doug protected him.
When his mother locked him in his room to keep him away from the fighting, trying to
save him from the wounds that were sure to come anyway, he talked to Doug and he
wasnít at home any more, his real life was nothing but a bad dream. None of them knew,
they could never know. He wished they could only see things the way he saw them; but
they couldnít see, and the laughter echoed.
Why? He never hurt anyone. Never really even considered it. Bradley was never
one of those children who pulled the wings off of flies or threw rocks at stray animals. He
loved everyone, even those who sometimes hurt him the most. Was he being punished?
Did God simply hate him? Was he being a bad person in some way he didnít realize?
He would remember this day for the rest of his life, it came back to haunt him in
his nightmares and daydreams. He thought of it the moment before he pulled the trigger
on his life, and those who laughed so hard that day never knew, they never understood,
they never saw, and their laughter echoed.