Excerpt from PARENTS WANTED by George Harrar (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2001).
It's Adoption Party Number Five for Andy Fleck, the kid nobody wants.
Relax, my social worker tells me. Mix in with the adults. Don't go roller blading all night or hiding out at the video games. Let the people meet you.
Why bother? Who wants a twelve year old? Why would they? They'd have to be crazy.
And look at them. That guy's pants don't even cover his ankles. His wife has bushy red hair, like a clown. They look like they've been dropped in from Planet Weird. Who would want to be adopted by them?
Aren't there any normal parents in this place? I only need two--or better yet, just one `cause you can get away with more stuff with a single parent watching you.
Okay, it's time to get real--if these people were normal, they'd be making their own babies and not trying to pick up somebody else's kid. I might as well go roller blading and...
Hold it--here comes a guy's wearing Airwalks and a cool black shirt. The woman's got on a leather vest and a silver necklace. They're heading for the adoption books...yes, keep going...all right, they're sitting down and opening the one with me in it! Oh man, now he's holding her hand like they're at a school dance or something. I hate that stuff. But look, Fleck, nobody's perfect. Remember the Airwalks. Okay, parent check--shirt tucked in, jeans pulled up, hair brushed back. Steady on your blades, don't go falling on your butt right in front of them. Take a deep breath and speak up. Don't just stand there, SPEAK
"You looking for a boy?"
Did he say yes? Did she say anything? Smile the way the photographer told you. Now turn the pages, find your picture...."There--that's me!"
"That's a very nice picture," she says.
"Well, the reason I'm in there--I mean, my picture's in there, I'm right here." God, Fleck, why don't you just tell them you're an idiot if you're going to talk like one? "What I mean is, I sort of need a family."
They're both staring at me. Do I have pizza smeared all over my face?
"What's your name?" he says.
"Andy, Andy Fleck."
"That's a nice name," she says.
"It's okay, I guess. I mean, I like `Andy,' but `Fleck' sounds like dandruff. I wouldn't mind having a different last name." They don't seem to get the hint that I mean theirs. I have to be more direct. "So, what's your last name?"
I swear, that's what it sounded like. Can you imagine, Andy ScissorRotShe? Maybe I better keep looking for parents.
She says, "It's a tough name to spell--S-I-Z-E-R-A-C-Y."
"If I were you," he says, "I'd hold onto your own last name."
"Can you do that, even when you're adopted?"
"Sure," he says, "if that's what you want."
Great, now we got the name stuff out of the way. But they still haven't said they're interested in a boy. Maybe they came here looking for a girl--girls get snapped up right away. Parents think they're easy because they don't get dirty and swear and break things. Girls are boring.
I have to make a good impression. "I can do a handstand. You want to see?" I drop to the floor to show them, but he taps my arm.
"It's a little crowded here," he says, "don't you think?"
Normally I'd do it anyway. I don't let adults boss me around. But this guy tapped my arm, he didn't grab it. And he asked me what I thought instead of ordering me. So I stand up. "Yeah, I guess I could hurt somebody if I knocked them in the head with my blades."
She smiles and says, "We have a big back yard. Maybe you could come over sometime and show us your handstand."
"That's a good idea," he says. "And if you like climbing trees, we have a million of them. What do you think?"
I can't believe this. I only met them two minutes ago and already they're talking about me visiting their house. That's really strange. How come some other kid hasn't sucked them up already? I can't see anything wrong with them. She's pretty sharp looking, for a mother, I mean. Her hair is long and curly like Mom's before she got it cut. He seems just regular, like some guy in a commercial throwing a football around with his kids. They sure look a lot better than most of the foster parents I've been put with.
"Yeah, I could visit. All you have to do is talk to Al--I mean Alison, she's my social worker."
"Okay, we'll do that."
It seems like we're done talking and I should go away, but then, what if they don't go find Al? What if they forget about me?
Or maybe they're just being nice and aren't really interested. That happens all the time at adoption parties. Adults think they're being nice pretending to be interested.
He stands up. "You know, maybe you should take us to meet your social worker right now. How does that sound?"
It sounds great, but I don't tell him that. I don't want them to think I'm desperate or anything. "I guess...if you want to."
"Lead on, Andy," he says, and then he puts his hand on my shoulder, just the way a father is supposed to.
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