My name is Benny. I am mentally retarded. All my life I’ve been told that I’m special, but what they really mean to say is that I’m different. Different is okay, because everyone is different. Some people try really hard to be like other people. I don’t know why.
Today I got awarded the “Employee of the Week” at the Shop ‘n Save. I got it on account of my friendly smile, quick bagging, and for keeping my mouth shut more than usual. “As hard as it may be for you to understand, Benny, sometimes people just don’t want to hear what you have to say.” “But why, mom?” “I don’t know, angel. They’re busy, I guess.” But that’s not the whole truth. Sometimes they may be busy, but lots of times they just don’t want to talk to a retarded boy at the grocery.
Mom always says I have a way of looking at things square on the nose. I don’t really know what that means exactly, but I think it has something to do with being honest. It’s good to tell the truth, but sometimes I wish I could lie. Little things like when my supervisor asks me what I think of his new tie, or when the minister asks me if I’d like to go on the youth retreat. Those are times when I wish I could lie.
My favorite place to be is in the park because there is lots of grass and birds and bugs. Whenever I need the world to make sense again, I go to the park and sit. Mom calls me her nature boy, because I can sit in the woods for hours. I especially like to listen to the water in a stream. It sounds like when I pee, but it’s more patient. Also I like to watch the animals play. It’s like they don’t even know I’m there, which makes me feel good.
Yesterday I went to the park and saw a little bird with a broken wing. It kept trying to fly but couldn’t get off the ground and you could tell he looked real confused. He tried to fix his feathers with his little beak. But all he could do was hop hop on the grass and move over to the side of the tree to get out of the other birds’ way. I knew just how he felt.
Animals make the best friends. They don’t talk back, even though they understand what you say to them. Like my cat Pouncer. Every day before I get on my bike to go to work, I pet him and tell him when I’ll be home. Then when I get home, there he is waiting for me by the steps. He is so smart. One time, mom and I went on vacation to the beach in Atlantic City. I was worried that he’d run away, or that he’d forget me. So I told him about our trip to Atlantic City and I could tell he wasn’t excited about it. But I told him how many days we’d be gone and that he’d have to count thirteen moons before we’d be back. And wouldn’t you know, when we came home there he was, sitting in the driveway, waiting. That night I couldn’t stop hugging Pouncer, even when he growled. He missed me too, I could tell.
If I had to say what my favorite animal was, I’d have to say dolphins. I know they don’t live in the park, but sometimes mom and I go to the zoo. They live in a giant aquarium. The thing I love best about dolphins is they’re always smiling. Maybe they don’t always feel happy but they keep smiling anyway, which is hard to do. Mostly I lose my smile when I get mad.
When I feel good though, like the times when I’m all alone in the park, it feels like I’m going to explode from all the happiness inside me. When the sun shines hot on my skin, and the grass twists between my toes, then I feel just like a million bucks.