ONE night at dinner, Charles started to speak, when suddenly the rest of his family exploded into conversation like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
"Hmmmm," thought Charles, "maybe this will work." He filled his spoon with applesauce and dumped it into his sister's peas. She didn't notice; she was too busy talking. He carefully set a pea on his spoon, took aim, and p-f-f-f-ing! It hit his brother smack on the nose. But even flying peas couldn't make his brother stop talking.
"I've had enough!" he thought, pushing back his chair. Charles stomped up the stairs, slammed his bedroom door, and yelled, "Help! I can't hear me!" No one else could either. They were all downstairs - talking.
Charles flopped on his bed and gazed out the window. Suddenly, a flash of color fluttered past. He moved closer as a bright yellow butterfly settled gently on the sill, opening and closing its wings as if saying a silent hello. Its color and quietness caught his attention.
"Aha!" Charles exclaimed. "That's it!"
The next morning Charles was up early. He went to his dresser, pulled out his money jar, and dumped the contents into his pocket. By 10 a.m., Charles was at the sporting goods store, waiting for Mr. Miller.
"Morning, Charles," said Mr. Miller as he unlocked the door and yawned. "What can I do for you?"
"Plenty, Mr. Miller. I'd like to see the brightest colored sweat suits you've got."
"Well, here's a nice outfit," Mr. Miller muttered, pulling out a glow-in-the-dark lime-green suit with orange stripes down the sleeve.
"Thanks, Mr. Miller! It's just what I need! These, too," Charles said, pulling a pair of silver reflector sunglasses off the rack. Then he counted out the money.
Charles ran home, slipped into his room, and put on his new suit and sunglasses. Then he walked slowly down the stairs.
First, Charles went into the kitchen where his mother was talking on the phone. She didn't notice. Charles moved closer. Suddenly, his mother blinked and rubbed her eyes. The sun reflected off his glasses and was shining in her face.
"Charles?" she asked, puzzled. Charles remained silent. Then he slipped out of the kitchen and into the living room where his father was shouting at the football players on TV. Charles glided in front of the set and smiled.
"Hey! What in the world! Charles, is that you?"
His father was staring in amazement at his glow-in-the-dark lime-green son. Charles remained silent.
Then he tiptoed outside to the sandbox where his brother and sister were arguing. Charles stepped in and gracefully sat down between them. At first they squabbled around him. Suddenly it was quiet.
"Charles, you're so green!" his brother exclaimed.
"Those glasses are weird," said his sister matter of factly. Then they just stared.
"That's enough for one day," thought Charles, as he quietly stood up to return to his room.
Charles wore his sweat suit and sunglasses for the next four days as he fluttered, glided, and tiptoed around the house in total silence.
By the fifth day, though, Charles wondered whether it was time to stop. Mom looked worried all the time and kept giving him kisses on the top of his head like she used to when he was little. Dad grunted a lot, and didn't watch TV anymore. His brother and sister kept calling him names like "weirdo" or "goggle face" or "lime slime." They came up with a new one every 10 minutes!
Charles decided it was time to make his move. That night at dinner, Charles slowly removed his glasses and cleared his throat. Everyone stopped.
"You may have noticed that for the last five days I've been acting rather strange," Charles began.
"Yes," his father said evenly, "we noticed."
"Well," continued Charles, "there was a good reason."
"Oh yes, dear," his mother chimed in excitedly. "I'm sure there was. You're such a reasonable boy. Why, I remember the time when...."
Suddenly his brother and sister didn't care whether Charles was talking or not. They were too busy yelling about who kicked who under the table, and his father was trying to settle it.
"This is why!" bellowed Charles, throwing his hands in the air.
Everyone sat back, stunned. "No one ever listens," Charles said softly. "Everyone talks, but nobody listens. That's why I wore this - so you would stop and notice."
"That we did, Charles. You were hard to miss," said Dad smiling. "What do you suggest?"
Charles was ready. "Whenever anyone talks, think of their voice as a glow-in-the-dark sweat suit and silver sunglasses. Stop and listen, the way you stopped and stared at me."
"That sounds hard," groaned his brother and sister.
"Yes," said his mother, "it does. But not impossible. I have an idea!"
The next day Charles and his mother took his sunglasses and had them encased in a clear plastic cube.
When they got home, Mother set the cube on the mantel; it looked like a trophy. Charles felt pleased. Mom called everyone into the living room.
"This will be our reminder," Mom explained, pointing to the sunglasses. "Whenever someone starts to trample on other people's words, we'll come and get the sunglass cube, hold it high in the air. That will make us stop and listen!" Everyone agreed.
It wasn't easy, but day by day the family learned. They became quite good at listening; the sunglass cube rarely moved from the mantel.
And whenever Charles saw a bright little butterfly, he winked and whispered, "Thanks."
'Kidspace' is a place on the Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will tickle imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.