The answer, it turns out, is a resounding yes! "Doctor Jack-o'-Lantern", the first story in collection, does not disappoint. It opens:
"All Miss Price had been told about the new boy was that he'd spent most of his life in some kind of orphanage, and that the gray-haired "aunt and uncle" with whom he now lived were really foster parents, paid by the Welfare Department of the city of New York."
Miss Price accepts this vague background and takes up Vincent Sabella's classroom assimilation as something of a personal mission. She has her work cut out for her as Vincent arrives wearing "absurdly new corduroys, absurdly old sneakers and a yellow sweatshirt, much too small, with the shredded remains of a Mickey Mouse design stamped on it's chest." His tangled black hair, gray skin, and teeth tinged green at the roots don't help matters.
On the first day, Vincent is fascinated by the Monday morning activity known as "reports". The 4th graders are invited to share weekend activities as they transition back to the routine of the school week. Stories of drives in the country, new cars, seeing Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde at the movie theater, and spending time with friends seem to be the norm.
As you might imagine, Vincent is not warmly welcomed by his classmates. He stays at school while other children go home for lunch and always stands apart on the playground. Miss Price, sensing Vincent's need, lavishes extra praise and attention on him, but "by the end of the week he was well on the way to becoming the the worst possible kind of teacher's pet, a victim of the teacher's pity."
The following Monday when Vincent shares a report, it begins "Saturday I seen that pitcha...Doctor Jack-o'-Lantern and Mr. Hide."
He continues on:
"And then on Sunday my mudda and fodda come out to see me in this car they got. This Buick. My fodda siz, 'Vinny, wanna go for a little ride?' I siz, 'Sure, where yiz going?'..."
His tall tale culminates with a cop chase and gunfire.
Of course, none of this helps his social standing or ability to fit in. Children taunt Vincent by calling him Doctor Jack-o'-Lantern, and he responds with an action that has the teacher wondering if perhaps she should not have taken up his cause. The story ends with Vincent staging a final, even grander, act of vandalism.
I loved the raw emotion in this story! Miss Price's desire to help and nurture is as strong as Vincent's desire to fit in. Both are left frustrated and disappointed. I cannot wait to read more of the collection.
Short Story Monday is hosted by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set.