Tennis, Anyone? by Michael Signal
(1) Porter stepped through the shiny halls of his new school in proud strides. He had just moved to Aurora from the city of Chicago. His old Chicago school sprawled across entire city blocks. The hallways were as big as avenues, and when they were crowded in a rush between classes, they were busy highways. Most kids had never even noticed Porter at Chicago Heights, but as he walked across the gleaming, narrow floors at Applewood Day School, he heard a faint buzz of whispers and saw heads turn.
(2) Eventually, Porter had found a way to be noticed at Chicago Heights, and he decided to use the same strategy at his new school. Porter didn't dress in the coolest fashions or listen to the most popular music. Nobody at Chicago Heights treated him badly, or bullied, or teased him. But, nobody noticed him either, at least until he decided to become a tennis pro.
(3) Porter's parents couldn't afford the fanciest clothes, and he preferred listening to his parent's CDs over the playlists that most of the kids around him were blasting from their music players. He liked to be active, but all the boys at Chicago Heights were into baseball, football, and basketball. Porter couldn't play any of those sports well, and he did not think they were very fun. None of that would help him get noticed. But, inspiration occurred in his living room, as his mom was watching the US Open on television. "Oh, I loved tennis so much," his mother said as Porter walked into the room.
(4) The idea hit him in an instant. "Do you still have your racket?" he asked. "I don't think I'll really be able to play tennis anymore, but I could just never part with my rackets," was his mother's sad response. "Can I borrow one?" Porter asked, sprinting from the room before he could hear his mother's reply.
(5) The next day, when Porter showed up at Chicago Heights, he wore white shorts and socks pulled up to his knees. The handle of a tennis racket poked from his backpack. That turned heads and got people talking, but Porter had bigger plans. That afternoon at lunchtime, he climbed on top of an empty table in the courtyard and looked around at all the students bustling below him, dumping lunch trays, reading books, talking to friends, and just hanging out. He opened his mouth and yelled, "Tennis, anyone?" All movement in the courtyard stopped. Heads nodded upward, and all eyes were on Porter. The students at Chicago Heights had finally noticed him.
(6) Now he walked through the halls of Applewood Day School. Everybody noticed him there too. He didn't know if it was the racket handle they noticed first, or the super-high socks. He didn't know exactly what it was, but Porter knew that people noticed him, and it felt good, at first. In Chicago, people smiled and gave him high-fives. They said things like, "Way to go!" When kids looked at him Applewood Day School, they smiled, but they also giggled. The kids at Applewood talked when Porter passed by too, but they didn't talk to Porter. They seemed to only be talking about him.
(7) It seemed as though getting noticed must not always be a good thing, but that's when Porter noticed something. At Chicago Heights, Porter had to be different because all the other kids seemed the same, and he couldn't be like them. But when he looked around Applewood, he saw that nobody was trying to be like anybody else. Kids were dressed in all kinds of different clothes, hanging around with all kinds of different friends, and listening to whatever music they liked.
(8) The next day, Porter arrived at school in jeans and a super hero t-shirt. He was nervous. He thought that people would start to whisper behind their hands as they had done before, but they didn't. Instead, they smiled and waved. Kids didn't rush up to introduce themselves, but they didn't ignore Porter. Then one girl did introduce herself. She walked right up to Porter and said, "Hi, I'm Carla. Looks like you're new here, so I thought I'd say hi." Porter smiled and nodded. "Hey I gotta ask you though, do you really like tennis?"
(9) "Not so much," Porter giggled. "Well I do," Carla said. "I see you have a racket. Maybe I can teach you how to play." "It's my mom's racket, and I know how to play. I just don't like it too much." "Oh, bummer," Carla responded.
(10) "Yeah," Porter said, "She used to be a professional tennis player, but she got injured and can't really play anymore." "Your mom was a professional tennis player?" Carla asked. "That's cool! But, it's also pretty cool to be just yourself, isn't it?" Porter just smiled and said, "Yep."