David at Age Twelve

maxbaby1c“How many cats would you have if you could afford it?” Rochelle had brought her twelve year old nephew to my house. He loved animals and asked me this question after playing with my two cats. Rochelle had called at 6:45 a.m. to say she wouldn’t be able to come for her weekly interview because her sister, David’s mother, was in the hospital. I called back later and suggested she just bring David with her and we would all just go out to breakfast.

David’s mother is a stripper and frequently brings men home. David’s father has been in prison the past nine years. David and his mother have moved frequently, and he was held back a year in school. He seemed polite, nice and intelligent. Rochelle tells me he is beaten at home when he can’t do his homework or when he gets bad grades. His focus seems to be on his pet rat. He loves that rat and told me all about it. I told him they are great pets and that I had two when I was a child and even had one when I was in my twenties. He would like a dog but they can’t afford it. I told him his rat was perfect.

I asked Rochelle if we should take David to school but Rochelle told me the school he went to was a secret. He had changed schools about six months earlier, and his mother told him not to tell anyone where he went. Rochelle has no idea why this happened, and her sister wouldn’t tell her.

At age twelve, with a difficult life, David still seems like a very nice and friendly boy. It is hard not to wonder how long this will last in his environment. It is very unlikely things will get better at home. Twelve is a rough age for a lot of children, but it is rougher for a boy whose father is in prison and whose mother strips for a living and beats him for bad schoolwork. At least he does have his pet rat to talk to and play with at home.

We went to breakfast and I asked David what subject he liked in school. “Hands on science,” he said. Then his mother called and said she was being released from the hospital. He looked relieved. As we went our separate ways I told him it was nice to have met him. “Nice to meet you too,” he said. “I really liked playing with your cats.”

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