Slightly Skewed


A case of the quirks

Winky Durdell couldn’t cut a break.

Winky practically invented Attention Deficit Disorder before it had a name, when everyone just thought he was spastic. His classroom desk actually vibrated with his pent-up energy, and when recess finally came he sped around the playground like The Flash on steroids. You’d be standing with a friend, practicing dirty words in a whisper so the nearby playground monitor didn’t hear you and narc to your parents, when a strong breeze would suddenly kick up and you’d just manage to catch a glimpse of Winky’s crew cut and plaid shirt as he flew past in a blur.

He was every teacher’s nightmare, and somewhat of a pain to his friends because just being around him could exhaust you. His real name was Charles or Clarence or something else with a C, but we all called him Winky, even the teachers, due to his nervous right-eye tic. His awkward stage lasted throughout his entire childhood, so he started out as Flappy because of those unfortunate ears, then went through a brief Booger phase, but when Winky surfaced it stuck like glue.

Those who weren’t well-acquainted with him would talk to him in-between his bouts of tearing around, and he’d make some awkward comment and throw one of those winks their way, and they would think it meant he was having fun at their expense. That led to Winky getting popped in the stomach a lot by bigger boys, and even some girls, who forgot they were supposed to be demure, dainty Catholic students with fine Christian upbringings and really walloped him.

Those not-infrequent punches left Winky (Carlton? Cosgrove?) with sensitive digestion – always dry wheat toast and soft-boiled eggs at lunchtime – and led him to tape up his right eyelid to stop the winking. But Winky’s parents bought the cheap off-brand tape which stuck for about 12 minutes – five minutes in humid weather – before the adhesive let go and Winky’s eye began winking again. Then he’d make one of his typical Winky comments, which could usually be construed two ways, one of them never good, and his eye would wink and he’d get clobbered. It happened once when he was talking to our fifth-grade teacher, Sr. Mary Macarena, and she busted him good across the knuckles with the nuns’ standard-issue wooden clicker, then made him stand in the corner during the afternoon Fun with Fractions session.

As I said, Winky (Clyde, Christopher?) was on a tear one day, and the unsticky tape had already fallen off his hinky eye when he paused to give his ADD a breather and ended up in front of Brad the Mauler. Brad had muscles everywhere, and was rumored to be 10 feet tall, and if he didn’t like you it was simply common sense to take out a life insurance policy. Brad definitely didn’t like Winky, whom he called lots of other names, many of which, coming from my sheltered Catholic existence, I didn’t understand, not even after looking them up in the dictionary. Poor Winky tried desperately to control his tic in front of Brad, even pinching his eyelid between his fingers, but nature took its course and he made a dumb Winky comment to the Mauler. Long story short, for the next week even soft-boiled eggs were too much for his stomach to handle.

I mention all of this because we all went to school with some version of Winky, the quirky, misunderstood kid who usually ends up being a successful adult, or in my case a writer. While I wasn’t afflicted with ADD, I ate enough sugar then to give the entire Duggar family (87 Kids and Counting!) Restless Everything Syndrome. And I still have more than enough challenging idiosyncrasies to keep my brown-eyed girl running for large glasses of wine during our evenings at home.

So my advice to you kids is, cut the quirky kid some slack. He’s really trying hard – flappy ears, boogery nose, winky eyes, and al – to fit in. And it’s not as if you don’t have quirks of your own that you just seem to hide better. Brad the Mauler had this weird thing where he – wait, hold the phone. If I’m going to rat him out I’d better update my life insurance policy.

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A case of the quirks