Authors: Gail Giles
My name is Biddy.
Some call me other names.
Granny call me Retard.
Quincy call me White Trash sometimes and Fool most of the time.
Most kids call me Speddie. That’s short for Special Education.
I can’t write or read. A little bit, but not good enough to matter.
There’s a lots of stuff I don’t know. If I could write, I could make a long list. List might reach all the way through Texas to someplace like Chicago. I don’t know where Chicago is. That’s another thing for the list.
But there’s some things I do know. And once I know a thing, I hold it tight and don’t let it stray off.
Granny shouldn’t call me Retard. I know that. It ain’t nice. It hurts my feelings.
I know it’s a wrong thing to hurt somebody’s feelings. I know that I ain’t White Trash. Trash is something you throw away. You don’t throw nobody away. That’s wrong. Even if my mama done it to me.
Most folk call me Quincy. I ain’t pretty but I got me a pretty name. My whole name be Sequencia.
The one thing all us Speddies can tell you is what kind of retard we are. Ms. Evans get wadded in a knot if anybody say retarded. We be “differently abled.” We be “mentally challenged,” she say. I got challenged when my mama’s boyfriend hit my head with a brick.
I was six and I remember being smarter. My mama and her boyfriend was fighting, and I turnt the TV up so I could hear my show. The door was helt open to let air in with an ole brick that had cement stuck on it. Mama’s boyfriend pick up that brick and hit me. Kinda over my eye and the side of my head.
They’s still a big ole dent in my head, and one of my eyes is push down. My face look like somebody put both hands on it and push up on one side and pull down on the other.
I got took away from my mama, and the doctor say that I got brain damage from that brick. I don’t know. My mama was a crack ho, so I wasn’t gonna be too smart no how.
People think when you in Special Ed that you s’posed to be sitting ’round drooling so they can pick you right out the crowd. That just shows they be dumber than they think we are. There’s folks in Special Ed get driver’s licenses. They go to school, hand you change at the store, take your order at the drive-through, and sack your groceries. We talk just like other folk. We — well, not me, but most — look just like other folk. We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.
I don’t know my mama’s name. Granny says she don’t want to hear that no-count name in her ears, much less let it walk on her tongue. All she’ll say is that my mama showed up one day, dirty and stinking and toting me. She told Granny she wanted to spend the night. When Granny woke up the next morning, Mama flown the coop. And I was roosting.
She said she knew something was wrong when I was a year old. I hadn’t turned over by myself. A visiting nurse took me to a hospital. Doctor said I had moderate retardation. Two big words, but I know them. I thought they was my last name. “This is Biddy,” Granny would say. “She’s moderate retardation.”
The doctor said that not enough oxygen got to my brain when I was being borned. And that’s why I’m slow. And that means I couldn’t give it to my baby. That’s why Granny could give her away. If she been a stupid child, I maybe could have kept her.
I guess I love Granny. She took me in and fed me. She tells me about it all the time. But she calls me mean names. Maybe I know why my mama left Granny’s place. What I can’t get hold of is why, knowing what she did, my mama didn’t take me with her.
Graduation is coming up. Part of me is glad. I won’t have to get on the school bus no more. I won’t have to walk past boys that laugh that dirty laugh. Throw candy wrappers at me. But I been scaredy feeling. Granny said I can’t live with her after graduation. She said the state don’t send no more checks now. I’m past eighteen and graduating. Said I been roosting too long in her nest.
Where would I be if I wasn’t at Granny’s? I don’t know how to be nowhere else. My stomach hurt for a whole bunch of days worrying about it.
Well, if I ain’t lower than a snake’s butt. I was feeling fine ’bout graduation coming up. Thinking to myself, Won’t that show my ole mama? Here I am, with a dented head and still manage to graduate. Then Ms. Evans call me and that fool Biddy in her office.
“I’ve got terrific news for you,” Ms. Evans say, all smiling and proud.
Then she slap me upside the head with news almost hard as that brick. She tole me that since I’m eighteen and graduating, I cain’t stay with my foster fambly no more. Then she say that everything was fine. Since me and another girl was wards of the state, we would be took care of. I was going to live with the other girl and have a job. I had me a bad feeling then. Why ole fat Biddy in the office too?
“You and Biddy are going to be roommates,” Ms. Evans say, like she’d just hand me chocolate cake with a money filling.
I look over at Biddy and she smiling so big I can practally see the inside her toes, but I cain’t believe what I’m hearin’.
Biddy in my Living Skills class. That stupid cow cain’t read or write. I can. I’m in Special Education like her, but I take regular reading and math classes.
One day in Living Skills, I tole Ms. Evans that in my reading class we had to keep us a journal. Write in it every day. I have myself a hard time writing, and it tire me out sumpin’ awful. Ms. Evans say she can fix me right up. She go to the closet and brung out this little tape recorder and a pile of tapes.
“Ask your teacher if it’s OK if you use this. Instead of writing, you can keep an oral journal.”