by: KK Duke
This story will take place when KK is five. (Late, 1980)
Note: There are parts in this story that could be seen as emotional abuse. If you are offended please realize that this is fiction and the person being abuse comes out fine. I do apologize, but my creative side got the best of me and I couldn’t let the character leave without a final stand, although I promise the person that got the wrath will have a final say to the abuser. (I know it sounds confusing but you’ll see what I mean near the end of the story.)
The back door slammed closed. It was late October, 1980, and five-year old KK Duke made her announcement that she was home from school. She ignored her Uncle Jesse in the kitchen and went towards her room. Bo and Luke, who were in the living room, she ignored as well and slammed her bedroom door shut after she entered it.
“What in the world was that all about?” Bo asked, knowing that no one had any answers.
“Now boys, let her have a few minutes to cool down,” Uncle Jesse ordered.
“But,” Luke started.
“No buts about it,” Uncle Jesse interrupted. “When she wants to talk, she’ll talk. I know you have her best interest at heart but she’ll let us know when she’s ready.”
“I hope it ain’t about Aaron again,” Bo said.
“No, I doubt it. Karen kinda of put her in her place according to what Ms. Zang said,” Luke stated.
“Boys, I think this is something bigger than sibling rivalry. I think this has to be something with school. The last few days she has been upset for awhile after she has returned home from school,” Uncle Jesse said.
Bo, Luke and Uncle Jesse waited for a few moments for KK to come out but she didn’t. They went back to what they were doing, but wondered what was giving KK such a problem.
What they didn’t know was that KK was struggling with the rigors of school. She hated almost every minute of it. She wondered if Bo hated it so much how did he get through. KK didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about school. It had only been the second month of classes but she already felt that she was losing ground and was far behind her classmates.
Ms. Kingman was always nice to the children when the adults were around but in the classroom was another story. KK wondered if she was out to get her. KK knew that it didn’t make any sense but then again, nothing actually made sense in Hazzard. She was only five, but already knew that rule.
Soon dinner was ready and Uncle Jesse knocked on the bedroom door to tell KK to come to the dinner. When he knocked there wasn’t any answer so he knocked again. “K, come on now, it’s time to eat dinner.” Still there wasn’t any response.
“Yes, Uncle Jesse,” Luke said from the kitchen.
“See if you can get her out of there. She ain’t responding. I reckon she might be asleep or something.”
“Sure, no problem.”
Quietly Luke opened the door to find KK sprawled on Daisy’s bed, books opened all over the bed and KK sound asleep. Not that Luke meant to pry but he noticed something at the bottom of her backpack. It was a letter meant for Uncle Jesse from KK’s teacher Ms. Kingman.
Dear Mr. Duke:
I am writing to each student’s parent or guardian discussing what progress they have made in the last two months.
KK excels in math and science and is ahead of her peers.
Unfortunately, she is far behind other students in the class regarding her English skills. She has not made any effort in trying to learn how to read or write.
Please call me to set up a conference with me to discuss this situation.
Luke couldn’t believe what he was reading. KK always wanted to know the why answers to everything. Not wanting to learn was not the way KK acted. Luke stepped out of the room with note in hand, intending to speak with Uncle Jesse right away.
“Can’t it wait Luke?”
“No it can’t.”
“Okay, then Daisy, Bo, please finish getting dinner ready.”
“Sure, no problem,” they both said.
Luke and Uncle Jesse went out to the porch. Luke wasn’t sure how to begin so he showed Uncle Jesse the note. After Uncle Jesse read it he looked up at Luke and said, “Well, what do you think?”
“To be honest with you Uncle Jesse, that’s not the KK I know.”
“I would have to agree with you. KK always wants to learn. What do you think is the cause of a note like this?”
“I was hoping you could shed some light to me. I knew she was going to struggle, but…”
“I wonder if KK is more than Ms. Kingman can handle.”
“What do you mean more than she can handle?”
“KK’s needs maybe more than anyone of us can handle.”
Luke did not know if he like the sound of where the conversation was going, “What are you getting at? Throwing her to a boarding school?”
“What?” Uncle Jesse was surprised at what Luke had said. “What makes you think I want to get rid of her?”
“Well, you said she may be more than anyone can handle?”
“What I mean was that she may need more individual attention. Maybe it is best to pull her out and put her in a kindergarten class or special education class.”
“That’s one way to kill self-esteem.”
“Luke, I know, her self-esteem is probably at an all-time low right now, but why have her struggle for the rest of her life. Pull her out and find a school where her individual needs can be meet.”
“What do you mean no, Luke?”
“I meant what I said. I know that kid. It’s not like she hasn’t tried.”
“Luke, that’s not what I’m saying…”
Luke interrupted Uncle Jesse, “You can’t do that to her.” Luke hadn’t meant to get upset with his Uncle but it was like he was giving up on her. He took a few breaths to calm down and then said, “Let’s get KK’s version of the story before we do anything drastic.”
“Okay. Let’s go talk to her right now.”
“Dinner is about ready,” Daisy said when she saw Uncle Jesse and Luke return from outside. Both she and Bo had heard the entire conversation and didn’t know what to do.
“We may be a few minutes, so please keep it warm,” Uncle Jesse said as the two went into KK’s room.
“Poor kid. I know I struggled but probably not as much as she has,” Bo commented to Daisy.
“Yeah, I can remember you coming home in tears. At least you can express your emotions unlike KK. For her, it builds and builds until she burst. If anyone can help, it would probably be you, Bo.” Daisy said.
“Me? Why me?”
“Because you are the only one that understands anything about struggling in school. Luke had the smarts and I had the looks. Then you came along and was treated like a bratty baby brother.”
Luke like shook KK awake. She was startled by all the activity but soon realized it was Luke and Uncle Jesse.
Sitting up, “I take it you found the note,” KK said dejected.
“Do you know what you’re teacher wrote?” Uncle Jesse asked.
“No, not word for word but I’ve got a hint. Math and Science great, English flunking.”
“What’s going on?” Luke asked out of concern.
“I don’t get it. I don’t understand what letters are. I look at a book and to me it looks like a bunch of pictures. I couldn’t tell you what an “a” is from a “b.” It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“I read to you every night.” Luke said.
“So?” KK asked.
“Nothing makes any sense?”
“Nothing. I’ve tried telling Ms. Kingman but she keeps telling me in time it will become easier. When does it become easier, Luke?” KK asked with tears coming out of her eyes. Luke picked her up and hugged her. “It will eventually, but first we have to figure out the way you learn information.”
“Hey you two dinner is probably ready,” Uncle Jesse said a few moments later.
“I’m not hungry,” KK said.
“K, you’ve got to eat something,” Luke commented.
“I’m sad. I feel like a failure, probably because I am one.”
“KK, why do you put yourself down?”
“Why, everyone else does.”
“Who’s everyone else?” Uncle Jesse asked.
“I’ve tried telling Ms. Kingman that I don’t understand reading or writing. You know what she told me once?”
“No, what?” Luke calmly asked trying to calm KK down, but it was no use.
“She told me once, when it seemed like everyone was struggling, that she didn’t have time for me. That I was a charity case and she didn’t have the time or the energy to teach me how to read. That I should have already known how or have someone in my family teach me,” KK said and was crying on Luke’s shoulder.
“KK, why would Ms. Kingman say something like that?” Uncle Jesse asked.
“I don’t know but she never helps me. Without Karen, Jim, or Matt I would be a fish out of water. They practically do my English for me when they can get away with it. Just enough to keep me up with everyone else.”
“KK, I want to have a talk with her tomorrow,” Uncle Jesse said.
“She’ll deny everything. What you see on the outside is different then the inside. I don’t like her very much. I would rather have Roscoe as my teacher. At least he’s more up front with you then she is,” KK said and then cried into Luke’s shoulder.
The next morning Uncle Jesse and Luke scheduled a conference with Ms. Kingman after school.
“Now Luke, don’t go charging in there. Let Ms. Kingman state her side of the story,” Uncle Jesse said after returning home from dropping KK off at school.
“Yeah I know, but KK seemed so defeated,” Luke said.
“Tell me about it. I know I struggled, but I don’t think it was this bad,” Bo commented.
“No, Bo you didn’t have this bad, but you’re right Luke, she’s sound defeated. I am awfully worried about her,” Uncle Jesse said.
“I just hope we can figure out a way to help her before it’s too late.
After school Bo and KK played on the playground while Uncle Jesse and Luke had a meeting with Ms. Kingman.
Sitting on the swings, KK asked “Bo, am I stupid or what?
“No, you’re not stupid. I think the problem lies that you learn differently then others and it’s very difficult for Ms. Kingman to change modes. What we all need to figure out is how you learn.”
“It doesn’t help that I don’t even know how I learn.”
“In due time we all figure that out,” Bo said. He got off his swing and faced KK face to face. “Listen to me kid, one way or another we will figure this out. All of us. You don’t have to face this all alone.”
“Bo, when did you learn how to read?” KK asked as Bo picked her up, off the swing.
“Probably in first grade. I don’t really remember. I’m sure I was taught letters and numbers in kindergarten and it went from there. I remember struggling with it though. It didn’t understand at the time why I needed this skill at the time.”
“I’m sure glad there’s someone in this family that’s understands what I am going through,” KK said and rested her head on Bo’s shoulder. Bo then sat down on a bench; rubbed KK’s back and let her fall asleep.
Inside the classroom, Ms. Kingman was quickly cleaning up after a busy day of 20 first-graders. She didn’t have an explanation as to why KK was failing English. She didn’t know exactly what she was going to say Mr. Duke or Luke but she knew this wasn’t going to be easy. She didn’t really want KK in her class because she felt that it was holding back the other students in her class. She hated to feel that way but she really felt KK should have been in a special education class instead of her class. But how to explain it to the Duke family?
Outside of the classroom, Uncle Jesse reminded Luke to be cordial to Ms. Kingman. “I know Luke that what she says about KK may hurt but always be polite.”
“I know, but…”
“I know as well, but let’s hope she has KK’s best interest at heart, not her own.”
There was a knock on the door. Ms. Kingman opened the door to allow Luke and Uncle Jesse in.
“Thank you for meeting with us on such a short notice, Ms. Kingman,” Uncle Jesse said. “We received your note yesterday and we are very concern regarding KK’s welfare.”
“I can see that. Sometimes parents are too busy with their lives to care about their children and school work.”
“Ms. Kingman,” Luke began, “What seems to be the problem with KK in regards to English?”
“It seems that she doesn’t understand anything about the English language in written form.”
“We have talked about it and you are right she doesn’t understand,” Luke said. “What have you done to help her learn?” Luke had not meant to go on the offensive but Ms. Kingman should have known going in that KK would need more help then others.
“There’s only so much I can do and then rely on parents and guardians to help out.”
“I read to her every night. She still says that letters look like pictures and doesn’t make any sense to her. Is there something that you can suggest to help us to help her?”
“Well, I’m not really sure. Each child…” Ms. Kingman went on. Luke felt that she was beating around the bush and really didn’t have a clue on how to help KK. When she ended her speech, Luke realized that he had not listened to one bit she had said.
“Ms. Kingman, let’s be realistic,” Uncle Jesse said. “Admit it; you don’t have a clue on how to help her. You just hope that she will learn this on her own or from someone else.”
“Ms. Kingman, is it true that KK has come to you for help in the past?” Uncle Jesse asked.
“Yes, I try to give it to her but I also have 19 other children to attend to. I can’t afford to give all my energy to her. It’s not fair to the other children.”
“Well I agree. Isn’t there someone in the building that can provide a few moments of one-on-one tutoring?” Luke asked.
“Well, if you asking for a reading support teacher, they’re few and far between in rural Georgia. The only thing that I may be able to offer would be the student intern that works with Mr. Hiller, the other first grade teacher. He maybe able to provide some tutoring to her.”
“Might as well give it a shot,” Uncle Jesse said.
“When KK was tested for reading comprehension she scored at the lowest level. Since there wasn’t anyone else in the class at the level I put her in the lowest level that was in the class, which was the next level up.”
“Why did you decide that? She barley knows her ABC’s and you expected a miracle from her to start reading?” Uncle Jesse said, trying to follow his own advice and keep calm.
“I was hoping that she would catch on eventually, but apparently that has not happened.”
“So how can you tell me that she’s failing English, when in reality she hasn’t been taught anything?” Luke asked.
“She’s technically failing, there’s no if, ands, or buts. Granted she needs tutoring, but I cannot lie on a report card.”
“Okay,” Uncle Jesse trying to ignore Ms. Kingman’s last remarks. “Why wasn’t she put in the correct reading program in the first place?”
“Mr. Hiller has those students and you and Ms. Zang decided to put KK with me. Our schedules do not coincide with one another. If she went to the other room for reading she would miss something in this class.”
Both Luke and Uncle Jesse couldn’t believe their ears. Both of them could not believe the way that she had acted. Mr. Kilgore had recommended that KK be in her class not Mr. Hiller. Maybe he was even unaware of the situation or how Ms. Kingman felt about her students.
After a few moments of silence, Ms. Kingman spoke. “Is there anything else that you want to discuss?”
“Um, no. Thank you for your time Ms. Kingman,” Uncle Jesse said. Then he and Luke got up and shook Ms. Kingman’s hand and left the room.
A few feet away Uncle Jesse whispered into Luke’s ear, “Go get KK and bring her to the Principal Office. I want KK to tell Mr. Kilgore in her own words about the situation in the classroom. I’m gonna do everything in my powers to get her out of that lady’s class and into Mr. Hiller’s, even if she has to deal with Aaron all year long.”
When Uncle Jesse entered into Mr. Kilgore’s office, Mr. Kilgore was getting ready to leave.
“Excuse me sir, but do you have a moment?” Uncle Jesse asked.
“Sure, anything for you Mr. Duke. Please, have a seat. Is there anything wrong?”
“Unfortunately there is and I would like KK to tell you in her own words and then I would like to have a discussion with you.”
“Hey, Bo. Is she sleeping?”
“Yeah. She still struggling with the fact that she believes that she’s stupid. She asked me again if she was and I told her that you learn a different way then others. Usually she would have woken up if she heard you coming around but I suspect that she hasn’t got a good night sleep since the beginning of school.”
“I hate to wake her but on the other hand she won’t sleep tonight,” Luke commented.
“Hey, sweetie,” Bo said in a gentle voice in a vain attempt to wake her.
“Come on sleepyhead, Uncle Jesse needs you to speak to Mr. Kilgore,” Luke said.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” KK said in a scared and upset voice.
“No sweetheart. We want to have a meeting with Mr. Kilgore. We’ve learned a great deal about the teaching styles of Ms. Kingman,” Luke said.
Bo and KK followed Luke to Mr. Kilgore’s office.
A few minutes later Luke returned to the office with Bo and KK. Still in Bo’s arms, KK hid her face and silently cried into his neck, frightened by all that was happening.
“Luke, go on in. I need a moment with KK,” Bo said. When Luke looked like he wouldn’t comply, Bo continued. “Luke, let me handle this one, okay?” Luke still was not sure that he should leave it to Bo but went into the office to wait for them.
It took Bo a minute to loosen the grab that KK had on him and put KK on the ground. He crouched his 6 foot 4 inch frame down to her level, “K, there’s nothing to be frighten of.”
“I don’t want to get in trouble with Ms. Kingman.”
“Why would you get in trouble?”
“Because what if it gets back to her?”
“I’m sure whatever you say won’t get back to her.” KK looked unconvinced. “If it does will deal with it then, okay?” Still, KK was unconvinced but rubbed the tears from her eyes and with a little push from Bo went into Mr. Kilgore’s office.
Uncle Jesse could tell by the way KK was acting that she was nervous. Sitting, Uncle Jesse stretched out his arms and KK ran into them. He kept trying to reassure her that she did nothing wrong, but he could feel her nerves run amuck inside her body.
“KK,” Mr. Kilgore said trying to get her attention, “I want you to tell me what has been happening in the classroom since you started the school year.”
“I don’t like Ms. Kingman. She doesn’t teach me how to read. I ask but no help from her,” KK said.
Ms. Kingman had to turn in some paperwork to the school’s secretary. When she entered the door she could hear familiar voices coming from Mr. Kilgore’s Office. She then realized it was Jesse Duke’s voice and barged in the office. Uncle Jesse’s realized who it was when KK tried to make herself so small that she couldn’t be seen by her teacher.
“Ms. Kingman…,” Mr. Kilgore tried to interject but was interrupted by Ms. Kingman.
“Just because your child is failing you plan to trash my reputation?” she said in loud and accusing voice.
“Ms. Kingman, please,” Mr. Kilgore announced over her. “Mr. Duke is concern for his niece’s welfare and wants the best for her.”
“KK Duke is failing English because she has not tried hard enough to learn the alphabet.”
“Ms. Kingman, is it?” Bo asked. “You teachers don’t understand about children who struggle with school from the start… You don’t understand the frustration and the self-esteem problems that we go through. We don’t need your added pressure about passing and failing. We just need a chance to breathe and understand exactly what is being told to us.” Without missing a breath, “Come on K, let’s go play outside,” Bo said. Taking the opportunity to escape, KK got off of Uncle Jesse’s lap grabbed Bo’s hand and walked out of the office and back to the playground.
Luke felt he couldn’t have said it more eloquently himself.
“Ms. Kingman, it’s not that K isn’t trying. It’s because she can’t even comprehend what letters are. She barley understands how to write her own name and I’m sure that’s from memorization. I’m sure she doesn’t understand exactly what letters she’s writing,” Uncle Jesse said.
“Ms. Kingman, is that true? Does KK know the alphabet yet?” Mr. Kilgore asked.
“No, but it isn’t for a lack of trying on my part.”
“Maybe KK is too much for you to handle? Maybe she would do better with Mr. Hiller instead?”
“Well that might be the best solution,” Ms. Kingman said and slammed the door as she left the room.
Everyone who was left in the room was shocked at what had just transpired. No one really knew what to say.
A few moments, “Mr. Duke, I don’t know what to say. I explained the situation to Ms. Kingman prior to placing KK and believed that everything was fine. It makes me wonder what else is exactly going on in the classroom.”
Ms. Kingman had reached her breaking point. She believed that KK was out to get her and probably had lied to everyone to get out of her class. Little did she know that KK did no such thing, but when a person is thinking irrationally anything can happen. She angrily walked back to her classroom grabbed her purse, got in her car and left as fast as she could.
Ms. Kingman spotted KK and Bo on the playground and had a few words to say to KK. She stopped her car which frightened KK because she didn’t know what mood Ms. Kingman was in.
Ms Kingman walked up to where Bo and KK were. She tried to get nose to nose to KK but Bo prevented that by stepping between KK and Ms. Kingman. Even Bo was unsure of what Ms. Kingman was capable of. “Listen, you,” she talked sternly to KK, “You may have won this round, but the whole world won’t catered to you. Don’t lie and say you have some disorder. There’s no such thing as autism and everyone knows it. You are as stupid as they come and don’t think the world owes you any favors,” Ms. Kingman said, turned around and walked back towards her car.
“You know what Ms. Kingman,” KK said, getting Ms. Kingman to stop and look at her, “you’re as nutty as a fruitcake! And don’t worry about me because everyone in this world gets their just reward. Just wait and see, Ms. Kingman, God will punish you for what you have done to many first graders during the past few years. You have done more harm than good and I’m glad to see you go,” and then KK waived good-bye to Ms. Kingman. She was past the point of frustrated so she just turned around, got into her car, and drove away.
Watching the dust fly from the road as Ms. Kingman left, Bo high-fived KK. “Where did that speech come from?” Bo asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. I just know that everyone is accountable for how they act on Earth to God. It wasn’t nice to call her a fruitcake but she is.”
Luke, Uncle Jesse and Mr. Kilgore had seen the commotion and heard the conversation between KK and Ms. Kingman.
“Hey KK, everyone else is over there,” Bo said pointing in the direction of where the three guys were standing, “Let’s go meet with them.”
When KK and Bo caught up with Uncle Jesse, Luke, and Mr. Kilgore the first question she asked was, “Please tell me I don’t have to return to her class?”
“No, young lady. I don’t believe we will be seeing her anytime soon,” Mr. Kilgore announced.
“That’s fine with me. If she’s not going to be my teacher then who is?”
“K, you’ll probably have a substitute,” Bo said.
“Actually, I’m gonna ask if Mr. Hiller’s student intern wants to teach the class for the rest of this week and while I work on finding a permanent teacher,” Mr. Kilgore said. “I’m gonna call him right now so that he’s aware of the situation.”
“Come on kids,” Uncle Jesse said, “It’s time to go home and eat dinner.”
Mr. Kilgore went back to his office to make that important phone call.
“Is Steve Gleason there?”
Steve, this is Mr. Kilgore….”
Balladeer: “And the rest is history. Ms. Kingman never returned to the classroom and never was heard from again. Steve would teach KK’s class for the rest of that week. During reading time for the rest of the year Steve and KK would work together to improve KK’s reading ability and to catch up to the skill level of her classmates. Over the course of the year they would forge a tight bond that would carry them both throughout the rest of their lives.”