He came into the Writing Center with his mom.  She was there to get help on a college application essay, which was supposed to improve both of their lives.

While I was advising her on things like grammar and organization and purpose, he squirmed in his seat and made noises…


I tried to ignore it and keep going.

“What if,” I said, “instead of speaking in all these vague generalities about yourself, you mention a specific moment from your life.  Give us an exciting scene.”

“Uh huh,” she said, but her eyes were on him.

“Meep… Mipp… Moop…”

“Stop it,” she whisper-yelled.

Then she turned to me.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “He’s not normally…”

Then he started doing The Squirm Dance.

“Meyaaargh,” he said as his limbs moved wildly.

“Settle down,” she said thru her teeth.  “Set-tul dow-en.”

The other writing instructor couldn’t help but overhear and came over to help.

“Come read a story with me,” she said and led him over to some kids books.

Me and the woman then attempted to put some finishing touches on the essay, but we could still hear little ‘mippits’ and ‘moppit’s’ and ‘muppits’ in the background.

“I…” she said.  “I… just… don’t…”

I didn’t know how to finish a sentence about it either, so I didn’t start one.

Later she was typing up her edits on the computer and the boy was back with her.

“I just have to do one more thing really quick,” she told him.

“Mo Mo Mo.”

She tried to ignore him.

“Mo Mo Mo Mo Mo Mo, Mom, Momma, Mommy.”

“What?” she finally snapped loudly.

The boy stared at her and trembled.


“No,” she said quietly again.


“No, shhh,” she said looking at everyone in the room.

“Mommrryoomaadd, Mommrryoomaadd?”

He kept saying it.  The whole Writing Center heard it each time.  She decided to stop answering him.


She just turned off the computer, gathered her things, yanked him by the sleeve and dragged him out of there.

“Mommrryoomaadd, Mommrryoomaadd, Mommrryoomaadd?”

I could still hear him saying it outside the door.  I could hear him saying it for the rest of the day.  I could hear him saying it for the rest of his life… whether he was with her or not.


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