He Couldn't Tell A Potato From An Onion

There was a really cool set of drawings of vegetables along both sides of the page, right and left. Two columns of vegetables, drawn with cute little faces and looking a lot alike.
The boy, already in fifth grade, read the  instructions because his dad always made him do his homework. He was to match the Spanish word listed in the middle column with the drawing of the vegetable on the sides of the worksheet, making a line between the two in pencil.
The kid tried, because his grade in Spanish was very low and he needed to bring that up along with his math grade, but he got confused. He asked his dad but his dad couldn’t figure out what the the drawings were – they looked a lot alike. He couldn’t tell the potato from the onion.
Yeah, the potato and the onion were the worst drawings to try to figure out what they were. Also, the lemon on the worksheet looked a lot like a watermelon because all the fruits were drawn the same size. But this was school and he had to do his homework, and he knew that he needed to know the names of the fruits if he was going to learn Spanish!
Plus, the list of words in the middle column were in Spanish and the kid had never seen them before. He didn’t know what to do. His dad, trying to be a good dad in spite of having had only two years of Spanish in high school, said, “Hmmm. Ceballa. I don’t know what a ceballa is in Spanish.”
Dad was concerned because his son was failing Spanish mainly due to homework grades and he wanted to help him even though he was always tired from work, but he didn’t know what to do. He told his son that learning languages really is a very difficult thing and that only some people can do it. He loved his son very much and he didn’t want him to feel stupid.
He told his son not to worry about it and to concentrate on the math. It was a tough call, because he knew the value of languages (he had been passed over for advancement at his job because he didn’t know Spanish). But he was the dad and he made the call. “Just concentrate on that math grade, son.” he said.
The boy’s Spanish teacher was very nice and always made funny jokes and kept the kids entertained with all sorts of fun videos from YouTube and all. He liked sitting in groups speaking Spanish with his friends. He was sure he could pass Spanish if he didn’t have any homework.
After the first three months of school he could even say como-esta and cual-es-to-adad and yo-may-yamo  and tengo ambray but he got them mixed up sometimes.
His nice teacher always smiled at him, even though she always seems stressed out by some of the other students who didn’t know how to behave. She often said things that he didn’t understand – all the time it seemed – but she was nice. He must not be like the smart kids, he said to himself. He must be like his dad, not good at languages. That was probably it – he just wasn’t any good at languages.
Years later, whenever he needed to speak Spanish in jail, that boy thought of the potato and the onion. Especially the onion. That ceballa and its little face. If it even was a ceballa. Maybe it was a patato. He never did figure that out. He should have done that worksheet but it was just so confusing!
The boy ended up failing Spanish two times. He just hadn’t been any good at Spanish in school and that’s all there was to it! And all those other things in his other classes had just generally started to add up on him. School started to add up on him. It wasn’t just the Spanish class worksheets, it was all the other worksheets in all those other classes too. Why hadn’t he ever been able to do anything right in school?
Later the boy got interested in guns and went out and shot some people to death in a mall in Aurora, Colorado. That’s how he ended up in jail. He couldn’t tell a potato from an onion.



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