Chapter no 115 – ‌‌‌‌Ducks‌


The day before the last day of school, Mr. Tushman called me into his office to tell me they had found out the names of the seventh graders from the nature retreat. He read off a bunch of names that didn’t mean anything to me, and then he said the last name: “Edward Johnson.”

I nodded.

“You recognize the name?” he said. “They called him Eddie.”

“Right. Well, they found this in Edward’s locker.” He handed me what was left of my hearing aid headband. The right piece was completely gone and the left one was mangled. The band that connected the two, the Lobot part, was bent down the middle.

“His school wants to know if you want to press charges,” said Mr.


I looked at my hearing aid.

“No, I don’t think so.” I shrugged. “I’m being fitted for new ones anyway.”

“Hmm. Why don’t you talk about it with your parents tonight? I’ll call your mom tomorrow to talk about it with her, too.”

“Would they go to jail?” I asked.

“No, not jail. But they’d probably go to juvie court. And maybe they’ll learn a lesson that way.”

“Trust me: that Eddie kid is not learning any lessons,” I joked. He sat down behind his desk.

“Auggie, why don’t you sit down a second?” he said.

I sat down. All the things on his desk were the same as when I first walked into his office last summer: the same mirrored cube, the same little globe floating in the air. That felt like ages ago.

“Hard to believe this year’s almost over, huh?” he said, almost like he was reading my mind.


“Has it been a good year for you, Auggie? Has it been okay?”

“Yeah, it’s been good.” I nodded.

“I know academically it’s been a great year for you. You’re one of our top students. Congrats on the High Honor Roll.”

“Thanks. Yeah, that’s cool.”

“But I know it’s had its share of ups and downs,” he said, raising his eyebrows. “Certainly, that night at the nature reserve was one of the low points.”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “But it was also kind of good, too.” “In what way?”

“Well, you know, how people stood up for me and stuff?” “That was pretty wonderful,” he said, smiling.


“I know in school things got a little hairy with Julian at times.” I have to admit: he surprised me with that one.

“You know about that stuff?” I asked him.

“Middle-school directors have a way of knowing about a lot of stuff.”

“Do you have, like, secret security cameras in the hallways?” I joked.

“And microphones everywhere,” he laughed. “No, seriously?”

He laughed again. “No, not seriously.” “Oh!”

“But teachers know more than kids think, Auggie. I wish you and Jack had come to me about the mean notes that were left in your lockers.”

“How do you know about that?” I said.

“I’m telling you: middle-school directors know all.”

“It wasn’t that big a deal,” I answered. “And we wrote notes, too.”

He smiled. “I don’t know if it’s public yet,” he said, “though it will be soon anyway, but Julian Albans is not coming back to Beecher Prep next year.”

“What!” I said. I honestly couldn’t hide how surprised I was.

“His parents don’t think Beecher Prep is a good fit for him,” Mr.

Tushman continued, raising his shoulders. “Wow, that’s big news,” I said.

“Yeah, I thought you should know.”

Then suddenly I noticed that the pumpkin portrait that used to be behind his desk was gone and my drawing, my Self-Portrait as an Animal that I drew for the New Year Art Show, was now framed and

hanging behind his desk.

“Hey, that’s mine!” I pointed.

Mr. Tushman turned around like he didn’t know what I was talking about. “Oh, that’s right!” he said, tapping his forehead. “I’ve been meaning to show this to you for months now.”

“My self-portrait as a duck.” I nodded.

“I love this piece, Auggie,” he said. “When your art teacher showed it to me, I asked her if I could keep it for my wall. I hope that’s okay with you.”

“Oh, yeah! Sure. What happened to the pumpkin portrait?” “Right behind you.”

“Oh, yeah. Nice.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you since I hung this up …,” he said, looking at it. “Why did you choose to represent yourself as a duck?”

“What do you mean?” I answered. “That was the assignment.”

“Yes, but why a duck?” he said. “Is it safe to assume that it was because of the story of the … um, the duckling that turns into a swan?”

“No,” I laughed, shaking my head. “It’s because I think I look like a duck.”

“Oh!” said Mr. Tushman, his eyes opening wide. He started laughing. “Really? Huh. Here I was looking for symbolism and metaphors and, um … sometimes a duck is just a duck!”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said, not quite getting why he thought that was so funny. He laughed to himself for a good thirty seconds.

“Anyway, Auggie, thanks for chatting with me,” he said, finally. “I just want you to know it’s truly a pleasure having you here at Beecher Prep, and I’m really looking forward to next year.” He reached across the desk and we shook hands. “See you tomorrow at graduation.”

“See you tomorrow, Mr. Tushman.”

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