Mike Can Draw
By ice rivers
Some stories are so lovely that I hesitate to write them. Some legends are so fragile and delicate that I'm reluctant to reveal them. Here's a lovely story and a delicate legend all in one.
I'll try to do them justice before the memories fade completely as the blur increases every day.
I remember his first day in class. He was fresh off the boat. I mean that literally. He was a boat person from Viet Nam. He was in my English class.
He didn't speak a word of English.
I didn't know what to do with him that first day so I somehow signalled/sent him to the main office to pick up an attendance sheet.
The secretary at the main office was expecting a student from another class named Mike. When my student arrived, whatever his name was, it wasn't Mike. Helen asked my new student if his name was Mike. He didn't know what Helen was saying but he knew a question when he heard one.
He nodded his head up and down.
Helen said "Here, Mike", and gave him the papers.
He returned to my classroom a few minutes later without the attendance sheet but with whatever administrivia Helen was supposed to gived to "Mike". I took the paper from him. I said thanks and asked and asked him what his name was. He said "Mike"
I said "Hi, Mike"
That's how Mike got this name.
Aside from the single word "Mike", Mike spoke no English. We were a pair, Mike and I.
Mike would come into class, take his seat and listen with great patience and attention to the academic tumult engulfing him. I knew something of the concept of linguistic immersion wherein a person learns a foreign language more quickly by surrounding himself with it. I believed this was happening with Mike although I didn't know for certain. I did know that in this case English was the "foreign" language to Mike and he was surrounded.
One day after a couple of weeks, I noticed that Mike was taking "notes" of what I was saying. I couldn't imagine what Mike's notes looked like so I casually made my way to his desk to sneak a peek. Mike's "note" was a surreal and photographic drawing of a rose. As I looked at the rose, I was amazed as much by its sensitivity of rendering as I was by its virtousity.
Near the drawing, I wrote the word "rose."
Then I said the word "rose"
I spelled the word "R..O..S..E"
Mike smiled and said "rose"
I took a risk. I had a feeling the risk would be approved by Mike.
I announced to the class. "Check this out, everybody. Mike can draw."
Everybody crowded around Mike's desk.
Everybody look at the rose.
Everybody flipped out.
Everybody started saying "Mike can draw"
Eventually Mike got the message.
He spoke his first English sentence in English class.
This is what he said.
"Mike can draw"
Time stood still.
I'm here to tell you, Mike could draw.
Many scholars praise the efficient linguistic style of Julius Caesar, how much he could say with how few words. All of France is divided into three parts. Has anyone ever said more with fewer words at the beginning of his story.
This is the beginning of Mike's story.
Mike Can Draw.