The tale of a young Japanese girl finding her place in a harsh playground world.
She came in late to class on the very first day. Miss Becky didn’t even frown at her, just welcomed her into the class ‘n gave her a notebook, askin’ what her name was. “Saura-Rai,” she said real quiet. Everybody in our class giggled. We thought it was real funny that her name was “Sorra-Rye.” She was weird, that one. She didn’t wanna play with the rest of us kids. Saura-Rai just... sat. She was put at the back of the classroom when she came in, right beside the teacher’s desk. She wasn’t in no trouble, it just happened with the new students. A few weeks later, Miss Becky asked Saura-Rai if she wanted to move up to the front since she didn’t need help anymore. She just shook her head no and kept writing. Every day, Miss Becky asked if she wanted to move. She just kept shakin’ her head.
Saura-Rai didn’t have any friends in the fourth grade. Not in Miss Becky’s class, not in Mrs. Wickham’s class, not even in the special class down the hall where all the other kids with no friends went. I ended up sayin’ that around Momma one day, and she gave me a nice smack upside the head. She told me that those kids didn’t have no friends because they’re just dumb and they can’t help it. I kinda giggled and Momma clobbered me again, and sent me outside sayin’ “Don’t you be going and gettin’ yourself into all sorts o’ trouble, now.”
Well if I woulda listened to Momma, I’d be out playin’ with all the other kids. Not sittin’ inside, shuffling my feet ‘n staring at the ground. Mrs. Wickham put me ‘n Bobby ‘n Saura-Rai all in detention after school. It wasn’t my fault, it was all Saura-Rai. She punched Bobby square in the face when he called her a dirty asian bookworm. Okay, I guess it was kinda Bobby’s fault. But I didn’t do a thing, I just sat there watchin’ and yellin’ at them to fight. I guess Mrs. Wickham figured that I was guilty o’ somethin’ or other.
The whole thing started on the second day o’ school. Miss Becky came in with this real big net thing, and there were butterflies flyin’ around in it. She said that we would take turns takin’ care of the butterflies, but we couldn’t touch ‘em or else they’d die. They were allergic to people, I guess. Well as soon as Miss Becky left the room, Bobby stood up ‘n said he was the bravest one cause he would touch a butterfly ‘n “he wasn’t scared of Miss Becky.” Louise started yellin’ at him, tellin’ him to sit down ‘n stop being a dunce. Bobby didn’t listen, he went right over to the net ‘n crushed the corner of a butterfly’s wing in his fingers, just like he was a big mean animal. He was even laughin’ like one. Well I guess Saura-Rai liked butterflies or somethin’, cause she stood up and looked Bobby straight in the face, not even scared o’ him. She couldn’t speak real good English yet like the rest of us, so when she tried to tell Bobby to leave the butterflies alone, it came out all wrong ‘n our class started laughin’. I dunno why wasn’t laughin’ along with the rest of ‘em - I usually would. I was about to, but I saw Saura-Rai startin’ to cry when Bobby started makin’ all sorts o’ faces at her. She reminded me o’ that butterfly, so little and helpless, bein’ crushed in between Bobby’s fingers. She seemed so closed in after that, it’s like Bobby crushed her so hard that she just turned back into a caterpillar. She looked like she would run out of the room, but she just sat down instead. Saura-Rai always did that. Always sat, probably cause she was too scared to be doin’ anything else.
After school, I went up to Saura-Rai ‘n told her that Bobby’s just Bobby, he’s always been the meanest in our grade. She nodded, and it didn’t really look like she got all o’ what I said. So I said it slower ‘n louder. Saura-Rai put her hand up halfway through my sentence ‘n told me that she could hear me, she just couldn’t talk real well. I felt real dumb when she told me, like I should be sittin’ in the special classroom. I just went home after that.
The next day, Bobby ruined another butterfly. Miss Becky caught him this time and smacked his hand real hard, scoldin’ him about how he was bein’ rude and obnoxious. I never heard that word before, but I giggled cause it sounded real mean. Then Bobby started yellin’ at Miss Becky ‘n calling her a dumb butterfly lady. Miss Becky looked like she was about to strangle the boy, but instead she handed him a piece o’ chalk, ‘n told him that he had to write lines at morning recess for the rest of the year. Bobby didn’t wanna do that, so he reached into the net and almost killed all of our pretty little friends before Miss Becky pulled him away. I glanced back at Saura-Rai, wonderin’ if she was gonna stand up again ‘n defend her butterflies. She just sat.
I thought she was gonna stay sittin’ all year. She almost made it, too. But close to summer time, Bobby got off his line writin’ and decided he was gonna get back at somebody. He couldn’t do anything to Miss Becky, so he went for Saura-Rai. After school, he followed Saura-Rai outside and started callin’ her names. I wondered if she even knew what half of ‘em meant. Maybe she didn’t. But when Bobby called her a dirty asian bookworm, she flew into a fit. Her face got all red ‘n everything. She stomped toward him and punched him in the face, so hard that he got blood comin’ out his nose ‘n all. I started cheerin’ her on. Everyone was real shocked to see Saura-Rai, the girl who was always sittin’, sock Bobby so hard. I guess she couldn’t hit him sittin’ down though.
Well Mrs. Wickham didn’t think any of it was funny like we did, and the three of us got put in detention. I was supposta be out playin’ with all the other kids after school, but I got stuck in the classroom for a whole hour. If Saura-Rai hadn’t clobbered him, we wouldn’t be here. I wasn’t even doin’ anything bad, but when I told Mrs. Wickham that, she just smacked my hand and shushed me like the librarian downtown does.
I was almost startin’ to like Saura-Rai. She was real pretty, with long black hair ‘n funny shaped eyes. Momma told me to forgive her for makin’ me feel dumb earlier that year, so I did. But now she got me in trouble all over again, so I was all done tryin’ to be nice. She was too weird anyway.
Saura-Rai moved back to her home country after that, wherever that was. Japan or somethin’, Momma said. We ain’t had no problems since she left - Bobby didn’t have anyone to bug anymore so the butterflies were safe again. Nobody clobbered anybody ‘n we just went on with our lives from there. Seems like everybody forgot about Saura-Rai but me. I dunno why, but since then I’ve always wondered if she ever turned back into a butterfly when she flew back to her own kind.
- Sanna Ryan