Ichabod Shrubb could see around corners. It’s not the kind of thing you’re born with, he was quick to point out. You have to work at it, like a muscle. At first you can just barely see what’s there, like you’re looking at something out of the corner of your eye. But the more you just stand there and try to see something, the more you can.
It was how he spent most of his recess periods; standing at the corner of the school, appearing — to the untrained eye — to be staring at nothing. But really, he was looking at all his classmates on the other side of the school. Laughing, playing foursquare, running around with their arms pulled inside their jackets. He occasionally wished he could join them in their games, but he was cursed with the burden of talent, and real talent demands to be perfected.
On one gray day a group of girls in puffy winter jackets came up behind Ichabod during recess.
“He’s so weird, he’s just standing there,” one of them whispered.
“Hey Icky, what are you doing?” one sneered, in a way that suggested that anything he said would inevitably make him the object of ridicule.
“I’m teaching myself to see around corners.” With this statement he made a particularly concentrated face and held out his hand toward the corner of the building like he was trying to move it with his mind. But that’s ridiculous. He was just bending his vision around the corner to watch Sammy Jenkins win another game of foursquare.
The girls tittered as they ran away, their white-sneakered heels kicking up behind them. But Ichabod paid them no mind. As he had heard his father say, ‘The masses never appreciate real talent.’
A few days later, Ichabod was standing at the corner, as he usually was, when there was some kind of uproar on the foursquare court. Sammy Jenkins had hit the ball out of bounds, and he was, by all rights, out. But he was refusing to give up his prized spot as server and take his place among the rabble of the line. The crowd cried out in protest, but Sammy picked up the ball and stomped off of the court — the playground equivalent of flipping over the checker board.
If anyone had been watching Ichabod Shrubb during this sequence of events — which they weren’t — they would have seen his usually steely concentration flag at the first outcry at the foursquare court. As the commotion grew, he became anxious. He started shifting from foot to foot, biting his lip. As the sound from the other side of the school rose to a din his will finally broke, and he ran around the corner toward the foursquare court—
—and ran squarely in to Sammy Jenkins.
The red rubber ball bounced out of Sammy’s hands and rolled back toward the court, which was now silent. For a moment, the two boys stared at each other, too surprised to speak. Eventually Sammy brushed past Ichabod with a quiet, “Move, weirdo,” before stalking back in to the school with his shoulders hunched.
The crowd of children around the foursquare court stared at Ichabod in disbelief.
“How did you do that?” One particularly small but big-eyed boy finally asked.
Ichabod straightened up and looked at his classmates. “I can see around corners,” he said.
“Can I learn how?” The boy asked.
Ichabod sized the boy up and said, “It will take some hard work, and you may never be able to see around corners as well as me, but you can try.”
For the next few weeks Ichabod was accompanied by a small crowd at the corner of the school every day, each child staring, trance-like, at the outer corner of the building. The recess teachers were baffled. The foursquare court lay deserted – save for Sammy Jenkiss bouncing the red rubber ball by himself. A few children claimed that they were beginning to see something, but none of them ever had the success of Ichabod. Inevitably, the crowd broke up to go back to their usual games, and this time, Ichabod joined them.
Photo by roger4336