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Davy, Who Couldn't Finish Anything

A unique boy and his best friend try to answer the big question

And he was in the principal’s office.

Strange offices principals had there – strikingly orange furniture with mostly sky blue accents. Even the carpet. As if the interior designer fashioned Gulf Livery into an architectural style, turned up the Mid Century to eleven.

“How did you become a pri-”

Davy trailed off, in his abbreviated language. Really, the worst part about his affliction was that the guillotine always cut off the critical part of his sentences, that bit where he could add some inflection. Turn a statement into a question. 

“How does anyone become anything Davy? I went to school for it, just like how you used to.”

The principal had been fluent in Davy’s abbreviations for quite some time, the type of fluency that only two friends can adopt after years of building their own private dialect. Davy’s Principal dialect was now six years old, half his own age. Meanwhile the principal – an entirely average middle-aged man – was his best friend. Being his only friend was the crowning qualification.

Davy had parents who assumed responsibility for him when they couldn’t pawn him off to the principal. He lived with them, and they were mostly invisible. Preoccupied with other things most of the time. Maybe they were annoyed at the excess obligation, the repetition.

Davy, as you can gather by now had trouble finishing tasks. He attempted to do things, scrunched his brow as hard as he could, but he usually just couldn’t. The gravest diagnoses asserted that he couldn’t finish anything.

His childhood toys were a broken barracks of half assemblies and frozen attempts. He could never finish any walk to school (nor to anywhere). In the classroom, all assignments and exams and entire grade levels were unceasingly left unceased.  

Cups, each and every half consumed. Bathing effectively took some wit, as did crafting grocery lists, which he learned to always make superfluously long. This ensured that he could gather enough stuff for his mother to craft fine meals for him to not finish.

He could never even tie his shoes! Or learn how to in the first place! The stylish new Velcro types became a necessary substitute. Davy, naturally, couldn’t quite secure the top strap, but the other two held him in just fine.

Complete sentences were few and far between, as his voice was usually bitten by some rogue shark somewhere in the middle. Uninterrupted paragraphs were a bucket list ambition. Luckily, his natural body processes seemed to be continuing on just fine, a biologically healthy boy. His parents cynically wondered how long that streak would last.

The principal took Davy to school and back home each day. After his attempt at sixth grade mirrored his fifth and fourth grade non-accomplishments, the principal arranged for Davy to simply spend his days in that vibrantly colored office in lieu of any classroom and in lieu of any work.

This irritated the other kids at school ferociously, especially the ones who had bullied Davy incessantly ever since the day he hogged the monkey bars for an entire recess.

Davy embarked on that old hanging journey determined to reach the other side, which, of course, he never could. Still, he hung on there with the superhuman grip strength of the average nine-year-old, swaying gently with the wind, waiting for some heavenly force to propel him to the other side. Meanwhile, the other kids yelled in violent protest that his turn was up, that they had already finished their juice boxes, that he was being “UNFAIR!” And most unfair would be the way those kids tormented Davy from then on.

In his peer’s eyes, Davy had been granted the ultimate wish – to forgo the tireless work of the young student for the unfathomable freedom of year-round summer. They figured the gods would only grant this cotton candy destiny to a most exceptional kid, or dear lord, at least a normal one. Davy was certainly not the latter. And so Davy’s indefinite detention became more and more definite as the principal realized the difficulties he would face out in the primal schoolyard.

He spent every minute of every school day in that office. Eject. Rewind. Repeat.

One day, the principal had an idea…

“Davy, I have an idea…”

“What is i-“

“I’ve been reading some things lately, about your condition. People are really interested in it, you know…”

“Like I’m the town’s clow-“

“Oh don’t say that! Don’t say that. It’s not like that at all.It’s these medical journals, apparently,some very smart people up at the college have been digging into the science, and they have some interesting ideas about what could be causing it...”

“Well when can they fix it, when can I be like-”

“I don’t know, Davy. It doesn’t say that in the papers. Maybe they don’t even know yet.”

Davy slouched on the carrot colored couch, feet on the ground, chin tucked tightly down, protesting the topic of conversation. He was usually in fine spirits, happy to be through with the times tables and cursive charts and poor performances. He got this way really only when the topic of his condition – his inability – was broached.

He didn’t like talking about it even more than he didn’t like having it, because when he didn’t talk about it, and when he didn’t have to live beside his peers, he didn’t know any better. In his mind, puzzles ended with a few holes in them. Velcro straps flapped around. His name only had three letters.

It wasn’t weird. It was weird that everyone thought it was weird! It was actually worse than weird. It was terrible.

“But I think that you should talk to one of these scientists.” The principal continued, hoping to ignite a faint spark of comfort. “I think that they could have some helpful things to tell you, help you understand how to better cope with-“

The principal paused as he saw that Davy was now wearing his hands as earmuffs, determined to drown out his only friend’s suggestions. His eyes were clenched forcefully closed, chin now attempting to burrow through his sternum. The principal noted how Davy’s angry body position uncannily mirrored perfect earthquake drill technique.  

He reluctantly dropped Davy off at home. Eject.

The principal picked him back up the next morning, per usual. They drove to the school. And past it. Davy looked out the window and saw the familiar flag pole in front begin to fall out of his purview. He acknowledged the strangeness of this phenomenon, that the principal had never driven past the school like this before. But Davy was still in a sour mood from yesterday’s interaction, and he wasn’t about to see that finished.

“We’re going to the college today.”

Davy remained gazing out the window, unresponsive in a way that wasn’t typical. The principal overanalyzed his body language, wondered what he was staring at, thinking. He then pondered what his punishment could be for taking Davy on this unestablished field trip. Would he be fired for shirking his principal duties? Would the kid’s parents wonder where he was if their trip ran late? File kidnapping charges? Revel in unburdened relief?

He figured he should probably focus on the road. He had already committed.

“We’re going to the college today and, and I know, I know that you don’t want to. I know that you don’t want to talk about this stuff at all really. Or even hear about it.”

Davy’s continued lack of feedback again sent the principal’s mind racing. His mouth continued, now more so talking to himself than his passenger.

“I just have a feeling about this.”

They drove on, two eyes pointed attentively at the road ahead, two objectionably out the side window.

The principal parked at the college, exited the car and started walking toward the Completion Studies Center, while Davy followed begrudgingly behind.

Inside the center’s doors, everything was blindingly white. Their noses were soaked with the scent of stale scrubs. The head scientist of the lab came out to meet them. It seemed that the principal had made some sort of appointment and that the scientist was eager to meet Davy – the first identified carrier of this disease.

The scientist and principal exchanged momentary small talk that neither desired yet neither ducked. Davy wondered why people who were free to indulge in full and complex sentences wasted so much time with these hollow ones.   

“But anyway, the reason for my bringing Davy here was to speak with you guys, ask if you have any new, you know – new things that you’ve learned that can apply to his situation? Help him out to make some progress with the symptoms..."

The principal delivered these lines intermittently looking at the scientist and then scanning back to Davy, analyzing his body language with each passing word. Davy was stoic, staring at the ground somewhere behind the scientist’s feet.

The scientist responded in typical doctoral vernacular, “Well, as you probably know by now, there are a few other documented cases of the condition in other humans. You, Davy, are actually the first patient I’ve met in real life, so today is an equally exciting moment for me as it surely is for you.

Davy, somehow able to conceal this budding excitement, continued staring at the same point on the floor. The scientist began guiding the threesome towards two double doors deeper in the facility, each with a large window at head height.

“But alongside this dearth of human examples, we’ve actually found a fantastic array of other organisms that seem to display characteristics of this same disease.

The principal cringed a bit when he heard the scientist use the D-word, immediately checking back on Davy’s response to it. The word carried no specific sting to Davy on this day, despite the fact that it usually did. He was already richly irritated at the whole operation. What was a word?

“And our studies on these other creatures, various insects and arachnids, have recently lead to some breakthrough discoveries.” The scientist choreographed this optimistic line to drop exactly as the sight through the two large windows came into view. 

The principal’s ears perked and eyes swelled as he heard those words and saw the bright images floating inside the large doors. There were a dozen workers on each wall of the room, each with their own fully equipped station. On the one wall, the workers were interacting with various types of creepy-crawlies – timing their activities, jotting down notes, scrutinizing them intently. On the other wall, other workers sat in front of computers, running the numbers, extrapolating results.   

Even Davy looked up from the ground when he got to the door. Inside, some wasps flew around remarkably orderly. A spider politely crawled through some controlled apparatus. Davy noted that these scientists should become dog trainers – they’d make a killing! But he kept the thought private in his head.

The principal, still staring through the window at the festivities inside, asked the scientist what breakthroughs his team had come across. The scientist wasn’t set on giving the principal a clear answer.

“Well, perhaps ‘breakthrough’ is a bit of a misnomer,” the scientist relayed obliquely.

The principal looked at the scientist unemotionally. This was the first time he looked away from the window. Davy’s gaze returned to the ground, now having to look nearly straight down to see it.

“Alright, well whatever you want to call it. Breakthrough, discovery, I don’t care.”

“The phenomena we are tracking have only been mapped in an extremely small sample size. Even stating our findings out loud may betray the sanctity of the scientific method,” the scientist dutifully warned the principal.

“So – I don’t understand. Just, what is it… just tell us.

The principal’s voice gained a sliver of frustration.

“Have you guys figured out anything that can help Davy, or – or not? I mean, I’m just going off what you’ve been telling me. Am I making parts of this up, am I going crazy?” the principal asked as he lightly tapped his temple.

The scientist, a taller man, stared into the principal’s shoulder, eventually landing his own hand on it in a display of condescension he did not entirely plan.

“Look, Mr Principal, perhaps it’s best-

The disgruntled principal now fed the scientist’s voice to the sharks, interrupting him with clamors for answers and complaints about being patronized. The scientist raised his voice, but only one or two levels.  

“Perhaps it’s best… that I speak to the boy alone.”

The principal took half a step back, mainly to release the grip on his shoulder. The scientist opened the door to the experiment room, and he and Davy stepped inside.

The principal looked on intently through the windows as the other two dove into conversation. He couldn’t hear anything, their backs halfway turned to him. The scientist used hand motions demonstrably, excessively. Davy mostly seemed to be paying attention.

The principal slipped into his own mental commentary.

“I just hope that this guy actually has a solution, or whatever he wants to call it – that he actually has something. That could really just wreck Davy, driving all the way out here, optimistic with all the hope I had been showering him with, and coming back empty-handed.”

Davy, obviously, had no illusions of hope for this field trip. During the drive up, he wondered if he would have rather spent the day as bully bait on the playground.

I always wanted what was best for him. I still do. When those other teachers, “teachers” would throw him aside, deride him as a lost cause, send him back to his parents and wipe their hands – I was there.

That’s why we had to come here today. Because I had a feeling. I had a feeling, and I couldn’t stand around, like everybody else would… letting it float by.”

Eyes still fixated on the seemingly one-sided conversation inside the next room, the principal even treated himself to a brief self-aggrandizing moment of wondering where Davy would be without him. Shamefully wiping that thought from this brain, his focus quickly shifted to the vertical line between the two double doors.

“I just want Davy to be able to lead a different life. One with the gratifications that the rest of us get… the finished projects.”

The principal muttered this closing argument half aloud, trying to overwrite his previous ostentation.  

Eventually, Davy emerged from the other room. The scientist stayed back inside, delighted to forgo any closing small talk. Davy was in a noticeably better mood – a cherry contrast to his previous 24 hours spent in the dumps.

The principal gently looked at Davy as the two of them walked side by side to the car, but he hesitated to say anything. A few moments later, seat belts buckled, Davy started to talk.

“The scientist started out by showing me all of these other organisms that have my condi-

“…There were big farms of ants in there, living in half-built hil-

“…Sad bee hives so flimsy that they spilled all of the hon-

“…Spiders whose webs were just a couple of lin-

The principal fixated on every word, equally enthusiastic for their friendship being restored and for the big mystery reveal. He periodically remembered to focus on the road.

“The people that we were in the room with were doing a ton of tes-

“…Trying to figure out if there was any patte-

The impatience started building inside the principal. “Yes, I know Davy. The scientist already told me all of that, that they were messing with the bugs, looking for patterns.”

“Well they found a patte-

Davy paused, and the principal urged him to spill the beans, to say what the discovery was.

“Did they figure out a way to help you?! What was it?!”

Davy remained silent, straining unemotionally to get the final few sentences out.

The principal forgot about the road entirely, determined to stare directly at Davy for as long as it took. He circled his right wrist and hand in tight loops in front of Davy’s face, urging him to say whatever it was that they had figured out.

Davy stayed unmoved.

The principal then subconsciously realized that they were nearing the point in any story where Davy naturally started to lock up. Reaching the punchline was, per usual, a feature stripped from Davy’s storytelling abilities.

Meanwhile, consciously, the principal needed the answer.

“Well what was the discovery Davy?! What did he say?!”

Davy now gave up on his forced attempts to finish the story.

“Davy, come on! You were so close!” The principal pushed out, letting his frustrations show in a way that he usually masked.

“I’m not asking you to sing the star-spangled banner! Just tell me what the scientist said! What did he say to you?!”

Davy’s silence again turned to protest. To him, the story had been finished. Any details that he left out at the end of stories – ones he was unable to say – faded from consciousness, crumbled to insignificance.

The principal beat on, intent to push just a bit harder today than he ever had before.

“I drove you all this way out to the college, I ­– I really stuck my neck out there for this… for your own good.

Davy returned to his familiar spot, again looking objectionably out the side window, thrown by his friend’s irritation.

“Just tell me what the damn man SAID TO YOU!”

The tones vibrated inside the car in piercing echo. The principal felt the waves of his own pride, his own folly. He glanced at himself in the rearview mirror. How he could be so primal?

He had already begun profusely apologizing when Davy finished the punchline.

“The insects don’t die.” He calmly relayed, in perhaps the only unclipped sentence he had ever produced in front of the principal.

The principal continued attempting another running apology, not yet comprehending what Davy had actually said.

Davy, realizing this, overwrote the principal’s cascading attempts at regret and confession with another perfect delivery.

“The insects – in the experiments. They don’t die.”

The principal fell silent.

They eventually made it back to the vibrant office, and Davy assumed his regular spot on the orange sofa. They had made good time; there was still an hour left before the school would be dismissed.

The principal knew better than to dig for further explanation on the scientific discovery. For one, it’s weightiness seemed insurmountable. And he was still deeply ashamed at how he had behaved. He reservedly accepted those stunning words without pressing on.

Davy was acting normal again. Back in the safe confines of the office, the two resumed typical topics of conversation, and this return to normalcy eased them both.

The final bell then rang, and the principal dropped Davy off at home.

Alone to contemplate the implications of his prognosis, Davy cooled into deep, genuine contentment. He was now completely satisfied to live his life of limitations – never again seeing it as restraining.

Sure, he profoundly feared living on without his only friend, assuming that a day would come where the principal would die. But Davy considered himself lucky, in this respect, to have only one friend – only one person that mattered to him.

To the regular human, singular immortality probably seemed the gravest fate of all – condemned to endlessly watch everyone and everything that mattered fade away until loneliness was the only thing left.

Davy felt fortunate to only have to watch one episode of that sad show. And besides, he and loneliness were already dashing acquaintances. He didn’t find the particulars of his immortality to be so bad. Maybe even, in a couple thousand years or so, he’d make friends with one of the others who had his disease, walk on the beach together. Watch the bees.

But on a deeper level, Davy found comfort in this confirmation that he wasn’t ever supposed to be like his peers. There was nothing peculiar with his contrasts to the mortal man, just as there was nothing peculiar with the contrasts of drifting comets to the mortal man. Two lifeforms of unlike particles. Two raindrops falling – one bound for soil, the other always landing back at sea. He no longer saw himself as a flawed human.

He was free now to be what he always was. A pure alien.

 

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