Word Count 497
Bright is Subjective
by G. Ackman
People had always talked about him in low whispers, as if they thought he couldn’t hear or understand their insults, couldn’t feel the bite and sting of their words. He’s not very bright, they would say. Dumb as a box of rocks. In high school, he became invisible. Day after day of mind-numbing tasks, worksheets filled with meaningless questions. Who really cares about metaphors? Or what x equals? His report card comments were all the same – not working up to his potential. What the heck was that anyway? How did they know – none of the teachers ever took the time to really talk to him. He kept his head down, avoided trouble, and graduated, barely, and he suspected it was mostly a gift – a “what’s the point” gift. He should have been offended, but he didn’t care enough. He walked out the doors, grabbed the diploma, and never looked back.
He had a low-paying, low-level job, barely enough to pay the bills, but he did what he was asked, kept his head down, and avoided trouble. He had a small apartment, sparsely furnished but clean, an old car that ran on crossed fingers and the good graces of a mechanic friend. He knows he makes little impact on the world.
Until, that is, one late December morning when he was out for a walk, the air so crisp it nearly burned his lungs. He didn’t feel as invisible out here among the silence of the woods until a harsh sound invaded his senses. Seeing nothing obvious, he followed the sound, and discovered a nearly frozen lake, its white surface reflecting the sunlight so that he had to shield his eyes to see. The source of the sound was now apparent. Partway across the lake, a small deer thrashed wildly, its back legs submerged in the freezing water, its front legs desperately holding onto the ice, its eyes wide and terror-filled.
The man moved without thought. He broke branches off a tree and laid them on the ice on either side of the struggling deer, then sprawled himself full-length on the ice. He inched up slowly, talking all the while to calm the doe. Wary and exhausted, she quit moving, allowing him to approach carefully and slowly. When within reach, he grabbed her two hind legs and in one movement, heaved them up on the ice. The doe bounded off and the man began inching his way back to shore.
He sensed someone watching and turned to see that the deer had stopped at the edge of the lake and was looking over her shoulder at him. Her silent “thank you” warmed a place in his heart that he didn’t even know he had. No, he may not be the brightest person on the planet but he does make a difference. He stood up, happier than he could ever remember being. He headed home to change into dry clothes. Maybe tomorrow he would apply for that supervisor position.