“Respect!” Friend, May 2000, 21
David’s little sister, Susan, spun around the kitchen on the tips of her toes. “I’m going to marry the prince. The most handsome prince in all the kingdom.”
David shook his head in disgust. Susan pretended all the time. Lately, though, her pretending was worse than ever. So when she won the lead part in the third grade play, he was surprised. Susan had a learning disability; most of the time she read words and letters backward.
Now, every night, while he tried to work on his model airplane, she danced around him, sang around him, and practiced the same speaking part over and over.
“Be quiet,” David said. “Gluing this plane together is hard. I can’t do it if someone is bugging me.”
Susan stopped dancing. “You need to show some respect to the future princess.”
“Respect?” David questioned.
“Yeah. You know—like honoring me.”
A crooked grin crossed his face. “I respect peace and quiet!”
Susan shrugged and danced out of the room. “Suit yourself,” she called.
With a sigh of relief, David began to glue the landing gear onto his plane. “This is going to be my best model yet,” he told himself, dabbing a drop of glue on the wheel axle.
Mom came into the kitchen. “You need to clear the table, David. It’s time to eat.”
“I can’t clear the table now. I have to hold this in place until it dries.”
“David,” Mom said with her hands on her hips, “you need to show me a little more respect. Talking to me like that when I’ve asked you to do something is not showing respect.”
“Sorry.” As David gathered his airplane parts together, he wondered why everyone was talking about respect tonight. Why didn’t anybody respect him and let him finish building his airplane in peace?
The next morning, Mom asked him to wait after school and walk Susan home from play practice. His stomach felt as if he were on one of those up-and-down rides at the amusement park. He didn’t want to wait around after school for Susan. He wanted to get home and work on his airplane.
When the last bell rang for the day, David slowly walked to the school auditorium and slid into one of the backseats. He watched the third graders working on their play. Some of them were good and knew their parts. Others made a lot of mistakes—Susan was one of those. David felt bad for her.
As Susan began to do her part for the fourth time, a teacher slid into one of the seats next to David. “Oh, dear,” the teacher said, as she clasped her hands together and leaned forward. “She would make a perfect princess if only she could remember her lines.”
David slipped down farther in his seat. It hurt to hear someone talking about his little sister. Although her reading problems bothered him, he didn’t want to hear anyone talk negatively about her problem, not even a teacher.
After practice, David headed out of the school fast. Susan ran and skipped all the way to keep up with him. When they were almost home, Susan yanked on his arm. “Why are you going so fast?”
“I want to work on my plane.”
“Did you like my performance as a princess?”
“I … well … it … it needs work.”
Susan kicked at a dandelion in the grass. “I know. It’s just that no one has time to help me. Mom and Dad are busy helping Grandma and Grandpa since they’ve been sick. I don’t want to bother them. I read it over and over, but it just doesn’t come out the way the teacher says it should. Will you help me?”
“I can’t. I have to get my plane done. I want to enter it in the Model Club contest. I have some great ideas on how to paint it.”
Susan walked up the sidewalk to the house. “That’s OK. I’ll just try harder.”
Later that night, as David read the directions for his model plane, he felt as if he had swallowed a huge ball of cotton. The soggy lump was sinking slowly to his stomach and getting stuck along the way. He read the directions again. They were hard for him to understand.
Looking up, he saw Susan sitting at the couch trying to read her part. Her hands were clenched into fists, and her forehead was wrinkled like a raisin. He knew how hard Susan had to work at everything, and he respected her for that. He put his plane down.
Every day that week after school, he helped Susan learn her lines. Sometimes he wanted to quit and work on his plane, but he didn’t.
One week later, he sat next to Mom and Dad in the dark auditorium and watched Susan sing, dance, and say her lines perfectly. He thought she had to be the best princess—and the hardest-working one the third grade ever had!
When the play was over, David hurried to find her. She was still dressed in her princess outfit and was surrounded by the rest of the children in the play. David went up to her and handed her a rose. “You’re the best princess of all,” David said loudly. He wanted everyone to hear him. After all, she was his sister and he respected her.