Mrs. Pearson was right in the middle of explaining sentence structure when a man, presumably his father, walked into the classroom and explained to Mrs. Pearson that Otis needed to leave early that day. Otis was surprised. Early dismissal? What kid doesn’t love a reason to leave school early? Could it mean a doctor or dentist appointment? Could it mean an early start to vacation?  On this day it meant the worst thing possible. Otis didn’t return to school for a week. On the day he returned he found a stack of cards and letters we, his fourth grade classmates, had written with all the sensitivity and earnestness a 10 year old can comprehend. Some had drawings of flowers and rainbows, soccer balls and sunshine and some included words. I cannot recall what I wrote on mine but I do remember the silence that fell on the classroom when Otis walked in, looked at the cards and letters stacked on his desk and with bottom lip trembling managed to say “Thank you”.

Otis smiled a lot. You could say it was a goofy, unassuming and unwitting smile but it was almost always on his face. One day we were partnered up sharing a workbook. Unintentionally he had me in stitches. And you know how when you’re not supposed to laugh you laugh even harder and longer? Afterwards my friends teased Otis must now be my boyfriend to which I shrugged with annoyance.

I remember Otis’ mom coming to school one day. I remember her because unlike all the other fourth grade moms she was stunning. Impeccably dressed, beautiful and young.

After his mother’s death Otis rarely smiled. He kept mostly to himself and I couldn’t find the courage to say much of anything. Then one day Mrs. Pearson told us Otis moved away.

I wonder what ever became of Otis.