First Day Blues

by: KK Duke

This story will take place when KK is five. (August, 1980)

Uncle Jesse could tell that KK was nervous. Her hand was cold and clammy and she tended to hide behind his pant leg. She tried to be brave, but he knew that it would be hard when they would part. Luke, Bo and Daisy were there to lend her support but even them found it hard to be there. Aaron and Karen, KK’s triplet sisters seem to have no problem adjusting to leaving their mother for the first day of school. KK had a chance to meet the teacher who was a nice lady named Ms. Kingman, but still that hadn’t made her very comfortable. Uncle Jesse could see Aaron whisper something into Karen’s ear. Soon Karen left Aaron’s and came over to KK. Almost a head taller than her older sister, Karen told KK to take her hand and that they would go to class together. KK gave the look of dread to Uncle Jesse and then to her cousins, but they had to let her go at one time or another. After a bit of prodding, KK went with Karen into the classroom. Both Uncle Jesse and Ms. Zang, Aaron and Karen’s mother, decided that it would be best to split Aaron and Karen up and have KK with Karen. Aaron and KK did not have the best relationship, so to make it easier on KK and the teachers involved, K and Karen were together. Soon the bell rang and all the kids went into their respective classroom and began their first day of school. Karen had strict orders from her mother to stay by KK’s side. Ms. Zang didn’t quite understand what KK was so afraid of, but she gather that she wasn’t gonna have an easy time adjusting to being away from her family.

Ms. Kingman had the children sit in a circle on the floor. A young boy by the name of Matt Matthews set next to KK. “Hi, I’m Matt.”

KK was unsure what she was suppose to do until Karen said, “Hi, I’m Karen and this is my sister KK. She’s a bit shy, but hopefully she’ll warm up to you.” Surprisingly, KK said hi to him. Karen was shocked because she never said anything to anyone she didn’t know. Karen smiled her approval at her.

Ms. Kingman wanted each person to introduce themselves and talk about their family. Ms. Kingman had understood the situation with KK but she hoped that the more she pushed her to talk in the beginning the more she would get comfortable talking to other classmates. When it was KK turn to talk, she could feel the eyes on her and freaked out. Karen didn’t know if she should talk out of turn or watch her sister run for the hills. Suddenly, a boy’s voice started talking.

“Hi, I’m Matt. I know that this is KK and that’s her sister Karen,” he said trying to calm K down. “I know that KK’s a bit shy, but if you give her a chance to get to know y’all she’ll come around.”

“KK,” Ms. Kingman said, “Why don’t you talk about your family?”

KK looked at Karen and then at Matt for some type of sign. She wasn’t sure what sign she was looking for, but something. “Go on, K,” Matt said. “We’re all nervous as you are.” Matt grabbed her hand and squeezed as a sign of encouragement.[1]

In a quiet voice, barley audible KK began, “My name is KK Duke. I’m only five, but in the first grade. I live with my Uncle Jesse and three cousins Luke, Bo, and Daisy.”

A moment past and KK thought she had to say more when Ms. Kingman said, “Thank you,” and asked another student to speak about their family.

After the introductions were finished, Ms. Kingman talked about the upcoming school year and what would be expected out of them. By the time she was speaking it was time for recess.

“What’s recess?” KK asked her sister.

“Its time where we go outside and play.”

“Play?”

“Yeah, on that stuff out there,” Karen said pointing to the swings and slides and other playground equipment.

Matt walked over to where Karen and KK were getting ready. “If you want, my friend Jim and I will sit by you.”

“I guess,” KK said.

As the children filed out, Ms. Kingman stopped KK. “Can I talk to you for a moment, KK?”

“I’m not in trouble, am I?”

“No, I just want to talk to you for a moment.”

“I’ll meet you by the swings, over there,” Karen pointed and was off.

“How is today going?” Ms. Kingman asked.

“Fine.”

“Do you know what assigned seating is?”

“No.”

“Well its where you’ll sit for the school year. I was wondering if you would like to sit with anyone particular?”

“Well, yes. Karen and Matt and his friend Jim.”

“Do you feel comfortable with them?”

“I guess, Matt’s been nice.”

“Okay, now go off and play.”

KK was about to get on a swing when a big kid bullied her off the swing. Being a Duke, fighting was a first option. She tried to swing her fist but was caught by her sister Karen before making that mistake.

“Listen KK, they’re much bigger than you. Besides, you’re Uncle and my mother will have a fit if you get into any trouble or hurt, especially on the first day of school,” Karen commented.

KK was totally disgusted. Dukes just didn’t back down, but then again there was an always an appropriate time to fight and I guess right now wasn’t the best time.

“Those kids are sixth graders. They think they rule the school. These particular kids love to bully the small kids. Unfortunately, K, you’re considered small,” Matt said seeing what had happened.

“Gee, thanks for the reminder.”

“You say you’re a Duke? I take it your Uncle is Jesse.”

“Yeah. How do you know him?” KK asked.

“Everyone knows the Duke family and the General Lee.”

Before KK had a chance to ask any more questions it was time for the class to come in.

Ms. Kingman began class again by assigning seats to children. As promised, Ms. Kingman put Karen and KK with Matt and Jim. Karen seemed to have an instant chemistry with Jim just like Matt and KK did. After assigning the kids seats, Ms. Kingman began their first lesson. She wanted each student to write something about their family and its members. Suddenly KK became anxious. She could barley spell her name correctly let alone try to write something intelligent about her family. She looked over to what Karen was writing but could had a hard time trying to figure out what she wrote. She didn’t know what to do and for the first time there wasn’t Luke or Uncle Jesse to help her out this.

Ms. Kingman watched as KK struggled. She could tell that KK didn’t have a clue as to what to do. She figured that she understood the assignment but putting words on paper might be a struggle. Ms. Kingman asked to see KK out in the hall.

“KK, are you having a problem with the assignment?” She asked in a caring voice.

“Yes.”

“What problem are you having?”

“Know what I want to say, can’t write it though.”

“Have you practice writing at all?”

“Not really. I can only print my name.”

“Okay, what about this. Go home tonight and have some one write down what you want to say. Have them leave enough space so that you can copy down what they write.”

KK and Ms. Kingman both returned from the hall and it was about time to go for the day. KK felt that she would never get through this school year and couldn’t wait to leave the room.

When KK returned to the room Karen knew something was up. She knew by the look that KK was about ready to cry and only hoped that she could hold it in until the bell rang.

Luke was standing right there for KK and KK practically leapt into his arms and bursted into tears. This was not the way that anyone wanted KK’s first day to turn out. Luke tried to figure out what was wrong but KK was inconsolable and wouldn’t let go of Luke.

After a few minutes KK still would tell him what the problem was. Even Ms. Kingman was a bit confused believing that everything had gone fine and wasn’t expecting such an emotional outburst. The only thing Luke could do was wait for KK to calm down and tell him what was wrong.

It would be another 10 minutes before KK would feel safe enough to lift her head from Luke’s shoulder.

“Hey, what was that all about?” Luke asked.

“I hate school,” a very upset and angry KK said.

“Why do you hate school?” Luke said with a smile.

“Because,” was all KK would say.

Aaron and Karen were also waiting for a ride home from Luke. Karen said, “Maybe I can explain,” and got a dirty look from her sister KK.

“Than you explain why, K” Karen said.

After a few moments Karen spoke. “She doesn’t like the fact that she’s away from her security, meaning her family. At recess today, some sixth graders pushed her off a swing. She wanted to pound them just like any Duke would but I stopped her considering they were much bigger and probably would have hurt her. And even if she wouldn’t have gotten hurt, she and I would be in deep trouble. Her for getting into the fight and me for allowing her to. And then the assignment at the end of class.”

Luke returned his attention to KK who was still in his arms, “What happen at the end of class.”

KK wouldn’t answer him and laid her head on his shoulder. Luke figured that she was lost in her own thoughts. Something that she did when she didn’t want to answer the question or didn’t know how to answer it.

Ms. Kingman spoke. “I had assigned the children a writing activity but KK could not do it because she cannot write yet.”

“Is that the problem, K?” Luke whispered in her ear.

KK, who was facing away from Luke, turned towards him and nodded her head. “I’m dumb,” she said to him.

“K, you’re not dumb. Just a bit behind everyone else. Most of these kids have a year of school their belt, where you, Karen and Aaron are just starting. Besides you’ve just turned five where these kids are six or seven.”

“Karen no problem.”

“K, I don’t know how to write and spell either. I just pretended to know what I was doing.”

“The only reason why I assigned the activity was to see where everyone was at KK,” Ms. Kingman said.

“Look at me K,” Luke commanded of her. She lifted her head up to look at him. “This is why you go to school. To learn how to read and write and what science is and how to compute math. You’re not going to know how to do everything after the first day of class.”

“You’ll get the hang of it, KK,” Ms. Kingman said. “Do what I suggested and soon enough you’ll get it.”

“What did you suggest to her?” Luke asked

“That a family member writes down what she says about her family and then she can copy it.”

“Well do that. Come on Karen and Aaron, your mother and Uncle Jesse will wonder where we’re at,” Luke said and they left the classroom.

Luke CBed Uncle Jesse and told him that they would be late and that he would explain as to why when he got home.

The three girls sat in the backseat with KK behind the passenger seat, Karen in the middle and Aaron behind Luke. KK just stared out the window ignoring what was going on in the car. Aaron was bragging about how her day went with her teacher Mr. Hiller. She showed Karen and bragged a bit about how he complimented her on her writing style.

Luke slowed the General down to a crawl when KK got fed up with Aaron and said, “You have to be the best at everything, don’t ya Aaron.” Then KK crawled out of the little window and went sliding down the hill to the road below.

“Damn it,” Luke said as he put the General in park and got of it. “Wait here and Karen call Uncle Jesse and let him know what happened,” he said and than went down the hill following the path KK took.

Fortunately for Luke it wasn’t hard for him to find KK. She had scraped herself pretty bad sliding down the hill, going over some sharp rocks.

“Leave me alone,” she cried to Luke. Luke stopped where he was at hoping that KK would move farther away.
“K, what’s wrong?”

“Why do you care, everyone knows that I’m dumb, she started to walk backwards, away from Luke.

“K, you’re not dumb,” Luke said following her.

“Look at Aaron; she already has a writing style,” KK said stopping.

“Yes, so what?”

“I should be able to write. Even Karen has some type of idea of what to do.”

“K, you’re hurt pretty badly. Let’s go home and we can talk about this.

“Mr. Duke, this is Karen,” Karen said over the CB hoping that they were listening.

“Hey Karen, this is Bo. Where are you guys?”

“It’s a long story, but were at Junction 18 and 23 and Luke had to go and chase KK.”

“What?” Bo said in the CB.

“Here, give me that,” Karen could hear Uncle Jesse saying.

“Okay, Karen what happened.”

“K had a pretty rough day to make a long story short. She feels that she’s dumb and Aaron didn’t help much bragging about her day.”

“Hey,” Aaron said feeling hurt.

“Well, you didn’t.”

“All right you two. We’ll be on our way soon.”

“Mr. Duke, KK and Luke followed down the embankment on 18.”

“Thanks Karen.

“Come on KK,” Luke said, trying to coax her to him.

“No. I don’t want to go back to school.”
“K, I can’t promise that. You have to go to school,” Luke said.

KK was so confused that she didn’t know what to do. She just stood in the middle of County Road 18 and cried, but watched Luke to see if he would come closer.

A few moments later Luke could hear the engine of Uncle Jesse’s pick up. Uncle Jesse stopped it out of site and he and Bo slowly walked up to where they were standing. Luke told them, by hand signaling them to stop where they were at.

“KK,” he tried to get her attention but it was to no avail. She was hurting so much inside that she hid within herself. Luke needed to grab her back from the void and the only way he knew how was to sing to her. Uncle Jesse whispered in Bo’s ear that he was going back to the pick-up to grab the first aid kit, realizing that bleeding scraps needed to bandage up.

“Bo,” Luke called at him. “You ready to sing?”

“What?”

“You know the song, “I’ll Fly Away”?”

“Yeah”

Start singing it. It’s one of K’s favorite. It’s her safety net. Once she hears it she’ll come back. Bo and Luke started to sing it. And true to Luke’s word something seemed to change in K’s demeanor. Luke stretched his arms out to her, showing to K that he meant no harm.

“That’s it K, come to me,” he whispered to himself inbetween rests in the music.

Soon KK was in reach and Luke grabbed her in a big bear hug.

“I hurt,” K said as Luke cradled her in his arms.

“I know sweetheart,” he told her as he took her to Uncle Jesse pick-up to be bandaged up.

“Bo, take the General and drop off Aaron and Karen. Uncle Jesse and I will take KK home. I’ll wait for you to get back before I explain what happened today,” Luke said as he looked down at a sleeping KK.

When Bo entered the General, he asked Aaron and Karen, “Are you girls ready to get home?”

“Is KK all right?” Karen asked with concern.

“Yeah she will be,” Bo said. And with that nothing else was said on the ride home between Aaron and Karen.

Aaron and Karen said thanks to Bo for the ride home. Neither one worried about how they would get to school tomorrow at this point. Karen was none too please about her sister’s behavior.

Ms. Zang opened the door and couldn’t wait to greet her two daughters.

“Aaron, did you have to rub it in?”

“Give it up Karen. KK just needs to have tough skin,” they argued as they walked in the door.

“Hi Mom,” they said in unison.

“K needs to have tough skin. Think about it, Aaron. You and I have left mom’s side plenty of times before today. I don’t think KK ever has.”

“Kids, what happened?” Ms. Zang asked.

“Aaron’s big mouth, as usual,” Karen said.

“Whatever.”

“Okay you two. Karen start at the beginning,” Ms. Zang said.

“You know, Aaron,” Karen said ignoring her mom, “That’s real great that you’re so smart. That you can put sentences together and that the teacher likes you. But please don’t add salt to the wound when you’re in front of KK. She already knows that she’s different and that school will be a struggle. Don’t tell her how easy it is for you.”

“Karen, if you like KK so much why don’t you just go and live with her? Then you can be stupid as much as she is.”

“Aaron Marie Zang, you never call your sister stupid. She has a disability that she can’t help,” Ms. Zang screamed at her daughter. “Now, both of you sit down and talk civilized to me.” Both Aaron and Karen sat on opposite sides of the table never taking their eyes off of each others.

“Karen, you begin…”

“Ow….” KK screamed as Luke put medication on her scrapes to prevent infections.

“I know sweetheart it hurts, we’re almost done,” Luke tried to comfort her but it wasn’t really working well.

The engine of the General could be heard. KK squirmed out of Luke grasp and ran outside.

“I swear that kid is a stick of butter. Always able to squirm out of any grasp,” Luke said.

“Let her go Luke. We’ve got most of them cleaned up and bandaged.”

KK saw the Bo climbing out of the General and ran to him. Seeing this, Bo got down on one knee, grabbed her in a bear hug and picked her up. “What’s wrong sweetheart?” he asked KK.

“They hurt me.”

“The medication hurts, not Luke or Uncle Jesse.”

“Yeah but still!”

“I know, but they’re trying to keep your boo-boos from getting worse than they are.”

“It still hurts.”

“Yeah I know. You want to tell me what happened today?” Bo said loud enough so that Luke and Uncle Jesse who had chased after KK could hear.

“I hate school.”

“Why?”

“Because everyone knows what they’re doing but me.”

“Why do you believe that?”

“Because everyone but me did it”

“Did what?”

“Did…” a frustrated KK tried to think of the word. “I don’t know remember. See, I am stupid.”

“KK,” Bo said walking away from Luke and Uncle Jesse, “Let me tell you about my first days of school. Bo explained to KK that he didn’t have a clue of what the teacher told him and that he felt the same way that she did right now. “See in time, I got it and you will too. Just got to give it a chance.”

Luke wanted to follow Bo, but Uncle Jesse stopped him. “Let Bo handle this. Remember he struggled in school, especially in the first days. He was truly behind his peers. Let him put the perspective that she’s not the only one that has struggle with school and she won’t be the last. Let’s go back inside and get lunch ready.

Bo and KK sat down on the other side of the barn where nobody could see them from the farmhouse. “Have you ever had a strong dislike for a person so much that you wanted to wish they weren’t blood kin?” KK asked Bo after Bo finished his story.

“No.”

“I think I have.”

“What do you mean, K?”

“Since we realized that we were sisters, Aaron always has to be better in everything that we do. There’s never a time that I’m better or even Karen. I like Karen, but Aaron…”

“Is that what happened today on the way home?” Bo asked.

KK didn’t want to talk about that but realized that Bo may understand. “Why is she so much better than me?”

“Aaron is more talented in some things. But watch out because you’ll be better and so will Karen. Don’t let her bragging get to you.”

KK got up and crawled on Bo’s lap and got her self comfortable. “I love you,” she said to him and gave him the biggest hug she was capable of.

“I love you, too,” he said and returned the hug back to him.

A few moments later Bo spoke. “You going to school tomorrow?”

“I guess I’m gonna have to get use to this idea, ain’t I”

“Yeah. I didn’t like school either, but I made it through. Believe me, if I made it, you can too.”
A little while later, Bo carried KK into the house and she announced that everything was okay now and that she would go back to school. Both Luke and Uncle Jesse wanted to know what Bo had said to convince KK that school would be okay but knew better of it.

School would eventually become easier for KK. She would still struggle with English, but it was supposed to come to her eventually, wasn’t it? That’s what Mr. Kilgore and K’s teacher, Ms. Kingman had said. But it was almost November and KK was becoming more and more frustrated with the lack of progress. Maybe it wasn’t all KK’s fault as many surmise. (Y’all come back and read my next story in the series).

———–
[1] Remember this happened in 1980 and in a small town. Things like this a kid could get away with and nothing would be thought of it. Today is another story – Sad how times have changed, ain’t it?

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