I happened to mention at my book club meeting the other day that I thought of animals as being more attractive than people. For this comment I was roundly criticized by the other members. They seemed inclined to make the "beauty is only skin deep" argument.
There used to be a kid in my neighborhood named Percy who was shunned by all the other kids. You might wonder why anyone would name their child Percy. It was a strike against him right from the start.
Truth be told he was not very appealing in the physical sense. Pudgy of build and wearing glasses from the age of eight, he hadn't much going for himself in the looks department.
But when the other kids weren't around to notice, Percy was my best friend. He had a creative mind that I could have sworn formed a visible cloud around his head. If we played in the alley or back yard, fairies and other imaginary beings inhabited every nook and cranny. If we played in the woods or by the creek there were witches and trolls to contend with. The other kids seemed boring when stacked up against Percy.
He suffered greatly from the teasing of his peers. They would tell him that there was a need for speed bumps so he should go and apply for the job. He confided in me once that he felt more like road kill, the dead racoon in the street that every passing cars runs over again just for the fun of it.
I'm ashamed to admit that in school I, too, shunned Percy and hung with the popular kids. He sat at the lunch table where the rejects sat. I never even glanced his way. After school, though, he always forgave me. We snacked on Ritz crackers with peanut butter as we did our homework together.
I'll never know how Percy survived his school years, but he turned out all right. Now that we're grown up, I often think of Percy with a deep sense of shame for the friendship I depended on so much and yet was so embarrassed by. I eventually lost track of him, but he's never far from my thoughts.
My book club friends were right of course. There was never a soul of such grace and courage and beauty as the one that belonged to my friend Percy.