The meeting between Dr. Morris and Eliza's father that Dr. Morris can't quite remember occurs on Parents' Night one month after Ms. Lodowski goes from Kathy Myers to John Nervish, skipping Eliza. Saul Naumann only learns of his daughter's exclusion through one of his congregants who, after Shabbat services, announces loudly enough for the people on the other side of the cookie table to overhear that her son has been identified as Talented and Gifted. Saul realizes that the boy is in Eliza's class. Eliza hasn't tendered Saul the congratulatory note Aaron delivered at her age, the one that made Saul feel like a sweepstakes winner.
Saul's is one of many hands Dr. Morris shakes that Parents' Night. Dr. Morris's office contains a desk with a framed picture of his daughter, two squeaky chairs, and a window that looks out onto the school playground. On a small bookshelf, binders of county educational code bookend with instructional paperbacks devoted to several categories of child including "special needs," "precocious," "problem," and "hyperactive." Dr. Morris keeps mimeographed pages from these books on hand to distribute to the parentally challenged.
"Hello, Mr. Naumann. It's a pleasure to see you here tonight." Dr. Morris remembers the son--smart, awkward, too quiet for his own good. While he knows the daughter's face, he can't attach words to the picture. He scans her file, hoping for help and finding nothing. "Eliza is a lovely child."
"Thank you. We think she's pretty special. Which is why I was a little surprised when I learned that she hadn't been TAG-tested with the rest of her class."
Morris manages a polite smile. Every year there is at least one like Mr. Naumann.
"Well, Mr. Naumann, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Only a portion of the second grade is tested, the fraction of the class Ms. Lodowski feels may benefit from an accelerated curriculum."
"The smarter ones."
"There are a lot of different kinds of smarts, Mr. Naumann, a lot of ways for a child to be special."
Dr. Morris addresses that last part to the picture on his desk. It's too bad Saul can't see this picture from where he's standing. If he could see it, he might conclude that this is a somewhat sensitive topic for Dr. Morris. The only people who generally get to see Rebecca Morris's picture are the students Dr. Morris catches using the word "retard." He escorts these students to his office, where they are shown the picture and ordered to repeat the word, this time to his daughter's face.
"Of course there are a lot of ways to be special," Saul continues, no way to know that he really shouldn't. "But my older son was placed in the TAG program, and I just thought that--"
Dr. Morris's face has grown red. "Instead of focusing on what you think you lack, Mr. Naumann, why don't you appreciate what you have? Eliza is a caring, loving child."
"Of course she is. That's not the issue."
Dr. Morris pictures Rebecca walking unsteadily to the van that comes for her each morning, the beatific smile that fills her face at the sight of any animal, and her pleasure at a yellow apple cut into bite-size pieces. He wants Mr. Naumann to get the hell out of his office.
Excerpted from Bee Season by Myla Goldberg Copyright © 2001 by Myla Goldberg. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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