The Healing Horse, Ch. 24, Scene 3: The Questions

image of brightly colored pieces of candyIn this part of the story, thirteen-year-old Karen undergoes a humiliating series of questions in front of her mother and a room full of adults. These are not questions people ask normal teenagers.

(Image courtesy of Peterphotoman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scene 3: The Questions

Karen knew what the questions would be. The eval team was interested in psychology and education, not in medicine. They would go on all afternoon. The eval team would ask about her daily life. They would want to know everything from how she tied her shoes to what kind of socializing she did. The questions had not bothered her when she was a tiny child. They asked the same questions every year. These were not questions that adults asked normal thirteen-year-olds.

Without warning, a man stood up in the back of the room, and shouted,“Excuse me, Mrs. Pinzetti, but I have an important question related to my primate research. I work for the county zoo, and I’mm studying color preferences for foods among primates. Karen, when you eat colored candy, which colors do you eat first, second and third?”

Karen said, “I don’t pay any attention to the color.”

The man glowered at her, and then sat down.

One of the other experts interjected,“What is the color of the sky, Karen?”

“Baby blue, the last time I checked, ma’am. That’s also my favorite color of cotton candy,” Karen snapped back.

The specialist sniffed and gulped water from her paper cup before sitting back down.

Mrs. Pinzetti coughed and said,“Please, everyone! I am conducting the evaluation. If you have additional questions to ask Karen, please wait until the end. As for you, Karen, I’m not going to tolerate any attention-getting behaviors. You will cooperate with me, or you will be in big trouble. Do you understand?”

Karen knew what she meant by attention-getting behaviors. She meant anything Karen did or said that contradicted the rule of the experts.

Mrs. Pinzetti immediately ordered Karen to answer a series of questions, her voice cracking with the usual dry cough.

“Why don’t you like math?”

“Who is President of the United States?”

“Phoenix is the capital of what state?”

“If today is hump day, then yesterday was? And tomorrow will be?”

“What is today’s date and what year are we in?”

“How come you wear pink jumpers?”

“What brand of shampoo do you use?”

“Who is Judy Garland?”

“How does the rain fall from the sky?”

“How do you make a Raggedy-Ann doll?”

Between giving short answers, Kitten watched as Mama’s frown darkened and darkened. Mrs. Pinzetti scooted her chair closer to Karen and raised her voice.

“Now, Sugar, I want you to answer the following questions. However, I want you to write the answers down on paper. I don’t want you to say another word. So, listen very carefully.”

“Excuse me, but—“ Karen began to ask.

“No! Not another word, Karen. Connect the lines on this paper, now! Don’t show them to me. Just keep them to yourself.”

Silently, Karen drew a line that connected a series of dots on the paper. It made the outline of a bear.

Mrs. Pinzetti snatched the paper from her and leaned closer.

“Here’s another one. Add up this set of numbers!” she shouted.

The paper had a column of single-digit numbers. Karen added them and wrote the sum at the bottom. Again, Mrs. Pinzetti snatched the paper from her and replaced it with a jigsaw puzzle.

“Now, put the pieces of this puzzle together. You have only one minute. Begin, now!” she shouted even louder.

Karen felt Mrs. Pinzetti’s breath on her face. Mrs. Pinzetti looked over her head at the rows of experts, a triumphant smile on her face, as she demonstrated her authority over everyone in the room. Inside herself, Karen felt a flame ignite. She looked at Mama and gave her “their look.” Mama frowned and then nodded encouragement.

Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.

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