The first time I saw him I knew he was special. I had just graduated from high school and this was my summer intern project but it was more meaningful than anything I had ever done before.
The family was nice enough but 12 years of dealing with an autistic child had taken its toll. You could see it in the mother, the way she walked, slowly and purposefully. You could see it in the father who had signed up for every hour of overtime available to pay for medical bills and experimental treatments.
We had learned in school about the many experimental treatments that had been tried and failed. I was one they hoped might succeed.
My assignment was simple enough; I just had to be a friend.
But Eric didn’t want a friend, not the human kind. His friends were the horses and the cows. If you let him he would live in the barn. Of course his parents wouldn’t let him. They dressed him in the latest sportswear by designers neither one of us cared about, and they expected him to have manners and engage in conversation.
Eric didn’t engage in conversation, he raged. He threw things including himself to the floor. He was frustrated but worst of all, he was sad.
It didn’t take me long to see he was happier and more comfortable in the barn. I could lie all day on a hay stack reading the latest novel from my mother’s bottom drawer while Eric brushed the horses and cows; and that is what I did, day after day, that summer.
I would look up from time to time and see him resting his cheek on the side of a cow or horse he had been brushing. I found it sad to see the love his parents craved administered to an animal that on the surface seemed oblivious.
I graduated last month with a degree in special education and rode by the home of my first pupil. The house was boarded up and the animals were gone but there at the fork in the road stood Eric’s Barn.
This is a work of fiction. I wrote this in response to an associate who complained the name for this picture Eric’s Barn” was too vanilla. I was trying to show that there may be an interesting story behind something you see as vanilla. It’s all about perspective.