Monday, June 28, 2010

Just another average Joe

A short story I wrote a few years ago. Illustrations by Alex Noble using watercolour and ink on Fabriano paper.

Joe was like any other typical 10-year-old boy. Well, he wasn’t exactly like every other boy, because he was the exact average of all the other 10-year-old boys put together. In fact, if you put all the ten year old boys in the world into a giant mixer, they would probably all come out looking exactly like Joe.

There was something always niggling inside of Joe, and he didn’t know what it was until one day at school, he overheard Suzy talking about him to some of the other girls. He happened to be walking past the tuck shop just as porky Polly said:
“And Joe, what about Joe?”
Polly actually had a bit of a crush on Joe. He remembered that time she offered him some of her chocolate éclair after she had already taken a bite out of it. The chocolate was smeared all over her mouth.
“You know, he’s got brown hair, brown eyes, uhh…you know. He’s ...”
“Oh yeah, him. He’s OK. Kinda average.”
And that’s when it hit him, that niggling thing inside him ….
“That’s it!” Joe thought to himself. “I’m average!”

With the high divorce rate nowadays, you might think Joe’s parents would be divorced, but they were still together, and he had a sister 2 years younger than him – overall, a typical nuclear family. He was of average height, average weight, average intelligence. Nothing about him stood out. His eyes were brown, his hair was brown, he had a nice smile… friendly… but nothing special. Basically, you would be hard-pressed to describe him, except to say he has 2 ears, 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth. Just like every other little boy. (Well there was that one boy Jimmy who had lost an eye when he threw a stone up in the air and it landed on him, but that doesn’t really count, now does it?)

No one really expected much of Joe – even his report card was filled with the response “average” from his teachers in each subject. You could see some of them were leaning towards saying something special about him, but something would always hold them back from saying that he was even just that little bit above average.

Joe was not particularly witty, nor was he dull. He had a small group of friends, but he wasn’t exactly popular, unlike Suzy, who had all the boys trying to see up her dress every break-time and whistling as she walked past. Joe quite liked Suzy too, and from the day he overheard her, no matter what Joe tried to do to exceed, his average-ness just stared at him in the face. In the school cross-country, he came bang in the middle, even though he had tried training every weekend before. The next time, he tried to walk the whole way, but somehow half the team took a wrong turn and came in just behind him. When everyone got their report cards, Joe was angry to see that his marks were all exactly the same as the class average. And on the school photo day, Joe was smack bang in the middle of the row even though he had measured himself the day before and was an extra 10 cm on the wooden palm tree in his bedroom!

Every night Joe would sit up in his bed after his mom left and rack his brains. What could he do to be better? What could he do to break out of his mould? But he just couldn’t think of a single thing. Then one day, he came across a baby bird that had fallen out of a tree and was breathing its last sighs of life. That's when he realised there was one thing that he could do to be different from the other kids. He knew of a very tall tree in the park, and he liked climbing trees. It was one thing he could do well. Well, pretty well… ok, maybe just average.

Sadly, what Joe didn’t realize in his short little life (below average in fact) is that everyone is different, and it’s actually quite rare to be average - he was the only one, he was one of a kind. And if you ever feel different to everybody else and wish to be normal like them, just remember you are lucky not be just another average Joe.

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