TITLE: The Floaters
GENRE: Contemporary YA
When I slip the miniature, green Croc on his left foot he knots a small fist in my shirt and screams. The high-pitched shriek sends a little girl cowering between her mother’s dark jeans. Another boy covers his ears, a small, plush monkey dangling from his fingers. Max’s teacher rushes to the door, slamming it shut, caging us in.
I am braced for this moment, as always, but today it hurts. Today, of all days, it wrecks me. I look around for help, shaken, but I realize it’s just the two of us here. He’s counting on me.
Taking a deep breath, I fold him into my arms. His body stiffens at my touch and he fights me with strong convulsions. I squeeze tighter and speak softly into his ear.
“It’s okay Max. It’s gonna be okay, buddy.”
He screams, louder this time. The sound slices through me. My heart races and hundreds of tiny needles stab at the soft flesh under my arms. His hand claws at the back of my neck, his eyes wild, chaotic. The urge to reach in and grab him nearly overcomes me.
“Max,” I say evenly. “Max, you’ve got to calm down.”
He frees his arms, swinging them wildly. Teachers and parents quietly herd the children away from the large, wooden cubbies and into the preschool classroom. One of the Hungarian moms looks at me with pity as she rounds the corner, her perfectly painted eyebrows arched sympathetically.
She knows this shouldn’t be my problem. We all do.