D.B. in the car. Eleven years old. D.B. dropped-off at the school's front entrance. D.B. still sleepy in the gloomy morning light. Minnesota snow; piles cleared by janitors. Sidewalks and doorways still slick with slush as hundreds of students stomp the grayish muck.
"Have fun at your party, Honey" -- cheerful Mom to little D.B. Of course, he's forgotten all about any party as Mom hands him the basket of cards. (Cards D.B. has signed.) Seventeen of them. BE MINE. LOVE. I'M HAPPY. SWEETHEART. At the party, D.B. is to place a card into an individual basket for each girl. Boys don't put cards into the baskets of other boys.
D.B. is unlikely to read the cards placed in his. But there will be cake!
As Mom's car pulls slowly back into traffic, D.B. clomps toward the front door, slush flying -- basket in hand.
How to know this very moment would forever disturb?
How to know it would change a life?
The noise is from behind. CRIPPLE. GIMP. GET-UP. CAN'T YOU STAND UP?
R_, the girl with a tortured walk, (disability never to be known or understood by D.B.) is down in the slush-glop. She has fallen. R_ is crying. D.B. can see, around her eyes, through coke bottle glasses, the whitish, frozen tears. And there's a crowd; all boys (hyena laughs) kicking the filthy snow onto the girl's red coat. A coat for Valentine's Day? R__'s basket has been kicked from her grasp. The boys are stomping it to shreds, cards are sopping wet, the basket itself now a shapeless wicker form; destroyed. Laughter from the boys pealing through icy air -- the sounds barely muffled by mountains of fresh snow.
Where are the teachers? Why is R__, with the horrific challenge, being taunted? Help her D.B.! She needs you! HELP HER! HELP HER! Suddenly... convulsively... D.B. is also leaking tears. Maybe R__ is calling to him. Help! The surreality of the moment; gloved hands on his ears, D.B. sees his own basket on the ground. Has he dropped it? Has someone knocked it down in the shuffle to the door? The slush and streams of melting ice make rivulets around the edges of the basket. Red coloring leaking into the glop. D.B.'s own cards are wet. HELP HER!
The terrible moment: unrelenting. The awful epithets. The cruel boys. R_ sobbing, unable to make it to her feet.
—D.B. has felt sad for R_ before; not understanding her ordeal.
—D.B. is in the snow too, gathering his own cards. —D.B. is walking toward the door. —D.B. is in the hall. —D.B. is at his locker. —D.B. feels a blast of heat; lockers slamming, teachers smiling. —D.B. no longer crying.
—D.B. walking to class. —D.B. carrying his basket
The day is 'ON.' The bell is ringing. —D.B. takes a seat -- eyes of a cadaver.