Something was different about Kevin; each year seemed worse. There were never any birthday invitations, no sleepovers and teacher conferences felt more like counseling sessions.
On Friday, his teacher informed us that he would be placed in a smaller classroom - a class for slow kids. He was kicking, biting and spitting now. He tried to hit a kid with a stapler this week.
He shouldn't be sitting alongside kids still picking through their ABCs. I asked for one more week, she agreed and I left with my heart in my stomach.
It was time to take him camping. I packed the gear - a hatchet, tent, sleeping bags, a gas can in case stations were too far. I even packed my old .
22 rifle - maybe shooting would make him feel more confident.
As soon as we got into the woods Kevin was a different kid. Jumping off rocks and swinging on trees, whistling and telling jokes. Nothing about this kid was awkward. This kid could make friends.
He loved the rifle and it turns out he's a great shot. We set up camp and prepared a fire. His eyes went wide as he watched the flames turn the heavy wood to ash - his first fire.
"They're going to put you in a special class Kevin."
"What?" he said.
"The teachers have all talked about it."
"Do the kids know?"
"No, but they will if you don't change."
He paused. "Ok Dad. I'll fix it."
I was glad I brought the gun; he was still holding it carefully when the stars came out, but he kept setting it too close to the fire. I warned him, "Kevin, everything burns if it gets hot enough.
You shouldn't leave it there." He moved it. "Today was great Dad."
It had worked.
On Monday I dropped Kevin off at school early. He wrote a letter to the teachers and wanted to read it at their morning meeting in the auditorium. I started to drive home.
In the driveway my throat closed up. I could see through the rear-view that the gun was gone. I tore back to the school, my heart beating out of my chest.
There he was sitting calmly on the front steps.
"Kevin what's going on!?" I yelled.
"Can we go home?" He asked.
"Kevin, where is the gun?" My voice cracked.
"I put it through the handles on the auditorium doors so they won't open up."
"You did what?" I had no idea why he would... and then I remembered looking in the back of the car. I was so worried about the gun I didn't even notice... the gas can was gone too.
"I fixed it. Remember? Everything burns if it gets hot enough. Now nobody knows about the special class. I can just be a normal kid."
I smelled smoke and a few blocks away the sirens had started. I heard screams.
"Dad, we should go now."