His granny knew he hadn't slept well the night before in their shack which had thin walls and with his family bickering about anything and everything and the all-to-familiar eventual fighting and shoving between his ma and pa which caused his granny to to call the cops again, but it was time for her to take control and get her nine-year old grandson enrolled in school even if it was two months after the beginning of the school year.
Billy, dressed in tattered bib overalls, no shirt, and wearing no socks and some badly scuffed hand-me-down shoes, much too big for him, was aware that he towered over the other kids in the first grade classroom and that the kids were staring at him as his shabbily dressed granny nudged him gently toward the nicely dressed woman approaching him.
After the teacher found a desk that was big enough for him at the back of the room, he slouched in his seat hoping that he could blend in with the smaller kids, but he slid down even further when he heard how well they read when called upon and wished even harder that he wouldn't have to read, but his wishes were futile. The whispering and impatient looks of some of the faster readers made him wish that he could run away, from school, from home, from his non-existent friends, from everything, but the whipping' he'd get when caught wasn't worth it.
At recess he roamed alone around the edge of the playground until he found a place where he could sit hidden behind an old oak tree and whittle on a stick with his pocket knife until the bell rang.
After school, he knew his granny wanted him to hurry home, but he hung back a bit as the cliques of kids walked and ran ahead of him, all the while talking about the fun things they were going to do when they got home, at which point, he grasped a small garter snake sunning at the edge of the road and debated only for a moment whether to fling it with all his might toward the kids and listen to their screams hoping to drown out the disturbing voices he was hearing within his head.