Karo Amelia Robinson has a persistent habit of spinning through doorways; just one quick rotation every single time she crosses over a threshold. It’s been that way forever.
Karo has this theory that if she could just force herself to walk through doorways like a regular, normal, everyday person, her whole life would simply fall into place. School wouldn’t be so miserable, strangers wouldn’t gawk, and her mother’s ridiculous belief in mystical, magical, new-age nonsense wouldn’t be nearly so annoying. Unfortunately for Karo, all she ever gets from her dogged attempts at non-spinning are a smattering of bothersome bruises.
On this particular bitter cold and snowless January morning Karo’s left elbow was sporting a rather painful, purple lump. She had spent a long, fruitless night crashing herself into every last doorjamb of her new apartment.
“Stop fighting yourself,” her mother had said. Karo ignored her.
Now she was standing on a crumbling concrete sidewalk, sizing up the enormous front doors of Lackville County Middle School. She had a sour, potato-chips-for-breakfast taste in her mouth and a knot in her chest. Karo stifled a nervous yawn and pulled her too-thin coat up around her ears. Her new school was looking bigger and more ominous by the second.
The traitorous doors looming in front of her were made of thick, greenish glass. Karo could see straight though them into a shallow entryway and a second set of doors. “Stupid, rotten luck,” she fretted. Then the morning bell rang. and the doors swung wide open. Karo took a shivering breath and followed the crowd up the wide cement steps. Bone-tired and bleary-eyed, she spun into the chaotic front entryway of Lackville County Middle School.
As if on cue, heads turned and fingers pointed. Karo bit her bottom lip and a familiar scratchiness roiled in her stomach. With no other choice but to move with the crowd, she spun through the second set of doors. The snickering began in earnest. Welcome to another new school, she thought.
Down every disorienting hallway, loud whispers of spaz girl and freak pinged at her ears. Karo lowered her head and did her best to go unnoticed, but each time she spun into a new class, ripples of laughter erupted in the room. All morning, Karo was greeted by the sharp disapproval of one teacher after another. By lunchtime, she had been branded a show-off, troublemaker and disruptive. Sixth period had barely begun and Karo was sitting in the principles office—again.
“I’m not doing it on purpose,” Karo insisted.
The stony-faced principal of Lackville County Middle School was not moved. “This is your first day here and the third time you’ve been sent to my office,” he frowned.
“I told you, I can’t help it,” Karo said. “I have a chronic complex tic disorder. My doctor even said so.”
“And I’ve told you,” the principle looked down his nose at Karo. “We have no such records.”
“But it’s true,” she insisted.
The principal scratched his chubby neck with a bright yellow number two pencil. “I have asked you to tone it down,” he said, “yet your behavior continues to be unacceptable.”
“I’m not hurting anybody,” Karo huffed. “In my old school—”
“This is not your old school,” the principal snapped. “You are no longer in California; this the Midwest and in the Midwest—in Lackville County—we practice self-control.”
“Actually,” Karo corrected, “we moved from Colorado.”
The principal held his pencil with both hands, as if he might snap it in two. “I can’t keep sending you back to class with that insolent attitude of yours,” he said and handed her a pink slip directing her to the school guidance counselor. In turn, the counselor sent a letter home to Karo’s mother strongly suggesting behavior modification through corrective therapy.
“Nonsense,” her mother said, opening a can of macaroni and cheese. “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“I have a tic.” Karo countered. “It’s not normal.”
“Of course it’s not normal,” her mother raised her eyebrows. “It’s magical.”
Karo winced. Despite a lifetime of evidence pointing to the contrary, her mother stubbornly insisted that spinning through doorways was proof-positive of magical tendencies. “I’m not magical,” Karo said emphatically. “People aren’t magical. How many times do I have to tell you; I’m too old to believe in your ghosts and fairies and magical blah, blah, blah?”
“I never said anything about fairies,” her mother said as she put the macaroni and cheese in the microwave. “Since when have I ever mentioned fairies?”
“I have a disease,” Karo reminded her mother. “Nobody wants to be seen with a diseased freak. I’m never going to make any stupid friends.”
“You don’t have a disease,” her mother replied dismissively. “You are not a freak and you don’t need therapy.” Her mother balled up the letter and threw it in the trash.
Something hot and brittle snapped inside of Karo. “Why can’t you act like a real mother? You’re supposed to protect me,” she spat. “I’m tired of being the school freak. Whenever you have one of your random, time-to-move-again dreams, I’m the one who suffers. I’m the one who get’s laughed at all over again. I’m—”
“Are you telling me you actually like the idea of corrective therapy? Of behavior modification?” her mother interrupted. “Do you want some stranger to turn you into something you’re not?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I do!” Karo kicked at a haphazard stack of unpacked boxes. Behavior modification did have a rather horrifying ring to it, but she didn’t care. “I want to be normal, I want to be like everybody else. Is that so hard for you to understand?”
“What’s hard for me to understand is how you can be so blind. All the signs of the universe clearly point to the fact that you have a gift. What’s it going to take for you to open your eyes?”