Copper knew something was amiss, because her friend Ozzie, just wasn’t that polite! He always let her read first, said to keep going because she read so well, didn’t want to interrupt her “creative flow”, and the most foul smelling piece of drivel – “you just make it sound better”! Copper was on to him, and she kept watch.
She noticed that Ozzie watched the teacher the entire time she talked about the chapter, and he never looked at the text. She noticed that when she handed him anything written, he said something creative, slid the piece of paper to the side, and redirected her attention in another direction. Other pieces of information built her suspicions: the confused looks on his face when others read something on the computer screen, the way he immediately jumped past the written story parts of video games, and finally, how his “sick stomach” surfaced at his turn to read aloud in class – every time. She initially thought he wore glasses, but was just too self-conscious to wear them. Then she wondered if he needed glasses, but hadn’t told his parents. Oz was her best-friend and she did not consider him vain. Other girls talked about him with giggles, they batted their eyelashes, and tried hard to obtain his attention – and Copper knew his comedic attitude, accomplished ability in athletics, and his beautiful eyes made him the target. Copper also knew in her heart that something did not add up. She twirled her long coppery hair and made a decision. She would approach the problem like she did everything else – direct.
“So, Oz, is it your vision or what?” she said the very next time they were alone studying, he on the front porch swing, and she in her chair. Her clear green eyes fastened on his and never wavered. There was no judgment, no amusement or ridicule….just level green eyes waiting for an answer, but not prepared for the one they got.
“I….can’t…..read,” Ozzie said with a final whoosh of air escaping from his pent up lungs in relief. His eyes stared at the pillow on the front porch swing, and he waited…and waited…and finally he raised his eyes to her green ones.
“I have dyslexia. It’s incurable. I will never be able to read.” Oz finished and gravely looked at Copper, like a man announcing his impending death – all dread and doom.
“Okay,” Copper said and turned back to her homework.
Oz waited, then shrugged his shoulders and returned to his drawing, relieved his friend didn’t care about his “disability”, a word he hated.
After several weeks of intensive scouring on the web, reading every piece of information she could get her hands on about dyslexia, and finally asking her mother (who used to teach students with learning disabilities), Copper waited with suppressed, but concentrated excitement. She checked the mailbox every day, called the post office every other day (just in case they lost her package), and returned to the tracking information online at the package service website every five minutes. When the website said the scheduled delivery of the package was today, she raced through the hallway of third grade, a ruby blur scouring the school grounds for Oz.
“Oz….Oz!” She yelled out the science room window, and he casually waved her way. She pointed to him, then at herself, then tapped her watch. He held up four fingers and she smiled, waving an okay sign. Now, she smiled, time to set the stage.
“I think your dad is gonna like it, Copper,” Oz said, as Copper adjusted the super small earphones on him. They fit into the ear, and the casual eye could not discern them. . The wire from the earphones traveled over the back of his ear, under his hair, to the back of his neck, into his collar, and out under the hem of the front of his t-shirt. “It looks like a regular pen, but the fact your dad will be able to record conversations, or meetings, and then replay it is ‘spy-tactic!’ No one can even tell,” Oz said with excitement in his voice. Oz assumed the pen was a present to Copper’s dad….and Copper let him continue to believe it.
“Well, the pen has a lot of features. Let me show you this very secret one,” Copper said as she took the pen from Oz’ hand, but left the earphones in place. Copper grabbed a book and ran the head of the pen over the first few words of the book, her green eyes never leaving Oz’ face. It would have been extremely comical, if Copper wasn’t so afraid Oz would be offended. He froze! Oz stared at the book page, statue still! The blood drained from his face and still Copper moved the head of the pen along the words. Oz did not even blink, move, twitch, or breathe. Copper began to think the volume was too low, but when she stopped moving the pen, Oz’ hand closed over hers and moved her hand, which moved the pen. Oz did not stop until the words stopped at the end of the page.
Copper waited. “How…..where….I mean….Copper?” Copper just looked steadily in his green eyes. Finally, Oz took a deep breath, slowly expelled it and said, “So, can I borrow this from your dad every now and then?”
“No,” Copper said quietly. Oz’s face fell, but he covered his disappointment. “It is yours Oz. I only said it was for Dad so you wouldn’t be mad, and you would try it out,” Copper laughed at the joy in Oz’ face!
Later, several days later, Copper saw Oz on his front porch. His red-rimmed, dark circled eyes, pale face, and oily drooping hair told his story….three days straight of reading! “What stopped you, Oz?” Copper asked her best friend, her heart threatening to burst with happiness that he could share in her love of books.
Oz looked so sad, as his blood-shot eyes met hers, and he said solemnly, “The batteries went dead.”
Copper’s throat convulsed at the emotion, “You didn’t look in the package? The box?” she asked.
At Oz’ head shake, she moved her chair forward, touched his hand, and said quietly, “It is rechargeable.”
Oz leapt from the swing, took the porch stairs in one leap, and turned suddenly, halfway down the sidewalk, “Come on Copper – we have to plug it in!” he yelled in excitement.
Copper waited until the tears in her eyes cleared before she zoomed down the ramp, sidewalk, and across the street to Oz’ house. The sun shone on the two friends, as they fervently discussed the devoured books, sometimes agreeing loudly, and sometimes disagreeing even louder – but always as best friends.