drtackett By drtackett, 5th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

A personal experience that taught me that you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover.


Come to the screen door through the garage.

I made a left off Palmer and pulled into the long drive. The garage door hung open like the big mouth ready to swallow you whole. Yet, it was oddly inviting. A large tricycle, garbage cans—lids in place—and a van were tucked neatly in their own space. Thick brush and tall trees lined the right side of the blacktop driveway. I can’t say what kind of trees they were but they were skinny and tall and many. I counted ten—there could have been more. On the left, an impeccably manicured lawn with a frontage of three hundred feet, minimum. A culvert separated Palmer Road from the narrow yard. Sumac and other brush grew wild along its edge, but even that mess had been trimmed and shaped. My guess was that staff were responsible for the splendid upkeep—there is rarely money in the budget for lawn service when you work for people with disabilities.

I checked my look in the rearview mirror. Meh. Presentable enough. I got out, locked the doors, and meandered up the drive and into the garage. I followed the path between the van and trash cans, coming to a stop at the door. The red tricycle, with its handlebar mirrors and circus-clown horn, donned a license plate with the name Bobby. On the back of the high-back seat was a Get Off My Ass bumper sticker. I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help it.

Composure regained, I brought my hand up to knock. Gut-wrenching screams stopped my hand in mid-motion.

Well, this can’t be good.

I started to leave, to bolt to my car and not look back, but just then the door opened.

“Hi. You must be Deborah?” Kurt asked. He had petite features and close-set eyes. My first impression? I could bench press him, which was a relief. To know that whomever was screaming, this unremarkable man could handle. Half-embarrassed, I smiled.

“Yes. Deb or Debbie, please. Kurt is it?”

He nodded. “Come in.”

I walked down a short hall, passing an office, a small lavatory, and a laundry room. The hall opened to a large kitchen. The first thing I noticed about the home was that there was no odor. That was a plus. It meant Kurt made sure that staff did their jobs and took care of the residents. Someone screamed again. Actually, it was more like a growl. Kurt was unmoved.

“Make yourself at home. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared down the short hall, leaving a scented trail of Hugo Boss behind him. He was a good looking man. Thirties, with a sense of style. My guess? Gay. His loose hips and soft voice gave it away. I pulled out a chair and sat down.The mixture of old coffee and Kurt’s cologne gave the house a homey feel. Strange. Perhaps it was nostalgia? My father wore the same cologne and always had a cup of coffee in his hand.

I glanced around the kitchen. My eyes stopped at the refrigerator. Magnets upon magnets held in place many forms and documents: weekly menus, an outing calendar, weight charts, a birthday card from someone’s mom. Just beyond the refrigerator, to my right, a wide archway led to the great room. The furniture did not match the kitchen’s decor. This End Up—the most uncomfortable furniture ever made aside from a church pew—dotted the large room, bare walls, no knick-knacks. No shelves. Not good. I had worked in adult foster care long enough to know that either the provider was very cheap or the consumers who live here were very rough on furniture.

As I critiqued the home, I heard a shuffling sound from beyond the opposite wall. I assumed there was a hallway that led to more rooms. Perhaps bedrooms? A quick scream. A growl. More shuffling. Heavy breathing. Quick, on the verge of hyperventilation. And then, he showed himself. He poked his blonde head around the corner and peered at me, head cocked like a bird searching for breakfast. His breathing relaxing a bit, he shuffled toward me and reached out his hand.


A small hand reached out, grabbed the young man’s hand, and yanked him back.
“Go!” The young man growled and shuffled off-balance to the great room. He sat down on the floor with a THUD! and the heavy breathing began again.

“Hi,” the dark haired man said. He made two fists and motioned one over the other, like a grinder. “Cawkie.” He waddled over to the cupboard and grabbed two coffee cups. He reminded me of Fred Flintstone walking on his tiptoes. He turned and made a beeline to the coffee pot. His calloused hand had just touched the handle when Kurt showed himself.


Bobby jumped, then turned and looked at Kurt.

Kurt raised his hands about chest high and wiggled his fingers. “Wait.” Then he put his right thumb, index finger up, to his left palm and gave a few quarter turns—signing “later.”

“This is Debbie,” Kurt said very loudly. “Can you say hi to Da-bee.” He spoke slowly, pronouncing every syllable.

“Yeah, yeah. Hi. Cawkie.” Bobby’s feet moved in one position at all times. He looked like a child who had to use the bathroom; this motion kept him balanced.

“No coffee. Wait.” Kurt made a few more signs and Bobby waddled off to his room.

“He’s legally deaf but knows some sign language. He won’t wear his hearing aid.”

The young man in the great room burst out in a growl. “That’s Clifton. If you smoke, make sure you hide your cigarettes. He’ll eat them, pack and all.” He paused, then explained further. “They abused him while he was in the institution. They used to flick cigarettes at him. He started eating them. Now he’s addicted. His toys were shoestrings.”

Kurt sat down with me, occasionally checking on Clifton who was still sitting on the floor but by now had found a sneaker and was twirling the shoe string into a knot. By then, Bobby had joined us at the table and was coloring in his coloring book. As I got up to leave the interview, Bobby ripped out a page that he had been coloring and handed it to me.

He pointed at me. “Here. You.”

“For me?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

I took it and half-assed glanced at it, thanking him as I did so. Kurt, who had been explaining my duties as a direct care staff if I were to be hired, stopped in mid-sentence.

“He likes you. That’s rare. That means I like you, too.” He glanced over my application that he still held in his hand. “And you’re more than qualified—six years in the field, your first aid and CPR cards are up-to-date, CLS trained. Can you start Monday?”

“Sure can.”

I sat in my car for a moment, happy that I had gone through with the interview. I almost walked away from a great opportunity before giving it a chance. I do that sometimes. I make baseless judgements without giving something a chance. I’m like a child who doesn’t like sledding because it’s too cold, or a song because I don’t know the words, or anything that is outside of my comfort zone. Yes, I am that person—or was. I unfolded the colored picture and looked at it again. Among the haphazard blue and red colors that covered half of Big Bird’s body and some of his face was a printed signature at the bottom: BobT. At the top of the page was an unexpected salutation: To debba.

I folded the paper neatly and smiled.


Memoir Writing, Memoires, Memoirs, Personal Development, Personal Experience, Personal Experiences, Personal Growth, Personal Story, Short Essay, Short Short Story, Short Stories, Short Story, Short-Story

Meet the author

author avatar drtackett
Currently, I am a Journalist and Screen Study student at U of M, with a concentration in film and screenwriting. My writing will focus on short stories, poems, and some articles.

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