Isn’t She Sweet?
Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fight-ing with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother’s milk. I say it was huge because Sadie Adams, my mother, has enormous breasts, something I never inherited.
When I was born into a typical family in Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1972, my life was finally mine again. No more obeying orders from masters, no more performing silly tricks, and no more rancid scraps to eat. Within seconds of my birth, I was suckling like no other child in the local maternity ward, in order to grow strong quickly and return to a life cut short by the blade.
A puppy can walk and wander and whine from the minute they leave the amniotic sac. There is a freedom in that, which I learned to appreciate during those first years as a human again. Lying on my back for hours in a crib, wearing a diaper, and drooling made me feel like an idiot. I first tried to walk again at five months old and promptly fell over onto the linoleum floor, wailing from pain and frustration.
I was the youngest of five children born to Sadie and Alfred. Being the last, there was no wonder for them in my first steps or mutterings, and only a sigh of relief when I started to use the toilet by myself.
I don’t know if my parents saw it then, but they cer-tainly noticed later that I was completely different from other children. When I first began talking, I sometimes spoke of places I’d never been, and they would look at me, confused. When I started school, my kindergarten teacher arranged a meeting with them and asked where I’d gotten so much knowledge of history and language. They shrugged and figured I was going to be the genius in the family—so I didn’t let them down.
In all fairness, they needed a genius. As I grew up, I started to notice that life in the Adams household was less typical than it appeared on the outside. My father suffered horribly from the side effects of his tour in the Vietnam War and my mother had never recovered from her child-hood. Their lives had been lived on the edge of poverty and emotional instability. In me and my superhuman intelligence, they saw a way out of their troubles and shame, and so they rarely questioned any of it.
But after a meeting with my first grade teacher, they had to sit me down and ask a few things.
“Saffron, how did you know so much about the second world war?”
“I guess I saw it on the TV,” I answered, trying not to sound coy.
My father frowned. “You couldn’t have seen it on the TV. They don’t say that much on the TV.”
“Must have read it in a book, then.”
“Sweetie, we don’t have any books like that. Did you read it somewhere else?” my mother cooed.
“I must have.”
“Saffron, we know you’re a very clever girl, but do you think there’s a way you could stop showing off in class? Mrs. Zeiber is concerned that you’re making the other children feel bad,” she said.
“Then why don’t they put me in a higher grade?” I didn’t like Mrs. Zeiber, but now I had reason to like her even less. I pictured myself liberating her eyeball from its socket and tossing it onto the merry-go-round in the first grade recess area.
“But we thought you liked being in Mrs. Zeiber’s class.”
“I do, but I’m pretty bored. I’m sick of counting to a hundred,” I whined.
They looked at me, and shrugged at each other. Two weeks later, after winter break, I was enrolled in the district’s gifted program—the ultimate place for showing off knowl-edge that no other first grader could have. I blabbered about everything—the goings-on in the Truman White House, the main tenets of Hinduism, the political complications of Central Africa. My peers envied me, even the teachers envied me. I was like a miracle kid or something, and peo-ple started to talk.
The next year, I realized that life as Saffron Adams would have to be far more inconspicuous. I couldn’t go around claiming to be a genius, and I couldn’t go telling stories from history that I shouldn’t know yet. I guess I realized that the more I said, the more chance I had of ruining everything I was working toward.
It was then, in 1980, the year I turned eight years old, that I forged my plan to return to the Caribbean Sea. Most of the other kids in my class were toying with being rock stars or President of the United States, but I had something much more appealing in mind. Finally done with my one hundred lives as a dog, I would one day reclaim my jewels and gold, hold them close to my heart, and live happily ever after.
So from that day forward, in order to seem my age when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered accordingly.
“I want to be a pirate,” I would say. And they would smile and think, “Isn’t she sweet?”