Pa calls me dumber than rocks all the time, especially when he asks for my help, but also when he doesn't. He called me dumber than a rock when I was sitting at the kitchen table stirring my Ovaltine and Ma was right by us fixin' breakfast on the stove. "I didn't mean to spill it." I said, cause I didn't and then cause he made me real mad I also said, "My name is Ralph, not Dumber, not Than, and not Rocks, and then he said, "You're dumb like a fox," and Ma said afterward, patting me on the back real soft, real nice, "That means he thinks your smart, Ralph." Why doesn't he make up his mind?
Ma calls me stupid, but never to my face, only when she's on the phone with Gertie late at night and she thinks I'm fast asleep, but I'm not. Sometimes I just lay awake for no reason at all listening to night sounds, the owls hoot and the squirrels scurrying on the roof, wishing I was one of them instead of me, cause they don't use words; just screams, barks, hisses and coos, which are much easier to understand and less likely to maim.
It would make me smile if Ma could call Gertie when I do things right, like turning the compost, or stacking the wood, or shoveling the snow, but she doesn't. She only calls Gertie to tell her everything I want to forget and hearing it again makes me sad twice in one day. I didn't mean to kill Miss Sarah's kitten. I only squeezed it hard because it was the cutest thing I had ever seen I forgot for a minute how strong I am. And I didn't mean to look in Mr. & Mrs. Gimbel's bedroom window next door and see them both naked. I thought I was supposed to go help people when they moan or scream. Gertie lives so far away, I never get to see her face when Ma tells her about my mistakes. That's what she calls what I do, mistakes, and then she always says, "He's just too stupid to know better. He's really not a bad person."
So if I'm a good person, what's so bad about being stupid, or being dumb? As far as I know there are lots of really smart people, that do lots of really bad things, and not by mistake. On purpose. And as far as I know, I've never done anything bad on purpose, so why can't they just let me be just Ralph, instead of stupid Ralph or dumber than a rock Ralph. I've never met a fox, but if I do, maybe I'll ask him, "Are you really dumb or really smart, and does it matter?" Maybe he'll answer and maybe he won't.