Can I Unhear That?


I have a student in my Speech class who is from a foreign country. English is not his first language, and he does not like to talk, does not like to make eye contact. Which is kind of problematic for a speech class…
Every day I call roll and have each student respond by answering the “question of the day.”
“Mark” hates it. It’s like pulling teeth. The kid just wants to be left alone.
But he’s my project this semester. I’ve wearing him down with my obnoxiousness persistence.

Last week the question was, “What’s one thing you plan on doing this weekend?”
“Mark, what about you?”
“Come on. You gotta say something.”
“I do not plan ahead, so I cannot say that which I do not know.”
“Okay, tell me one thing you did last weekend.”
“I do not know.”
“Just onnnnne little thing. You can do it!”
“We celebrate Chinese New Year.”
“Really? Awesome! So did you have a big dinner?”
“What did you eat?”
Class goes silent.
Nobody moves.
“Dog!”  I repeat in the same tone reserved for “Cheese burgers!” or “Funnel cakes with extra powdered sugar!” 
“Well…awesome!” In my head I’m giving myself all sorts of high fives for keeping an interested face (you totally earned a chocolate shake after school), for maintaining enthusiasm, and for not whipping out my phone and calling PETA.
“Oh, wait,” says Mark. “Dog. You hear dog. No.” He shakes his head. “I mean duck.”
And 30 people in one tiny classroom release one audible sigh.
And share one big laugh.

This story presented with apologies to the puppies who died in my head.