First of all, I should explain about my little brother, Andrew. He has a disorder called autism. Autism is a mental disorder that effects the messages to the brain. One must be born with it, and it is not contagious. Anyway, one night my parents had to go to a support group at his school. While they were gone my brother, my nanny, Rosy, and I had to find a means of getting dinner. Feeling that we needed and deserved an award, Rosy and I decided on eating out at a pizza place. To protect the not so innocent I won't tell you the name of the restaurant. (The Pizzaria at the Milburn Mall, maybe the not so innocent are not worth protecting.) My brother was in a bad mood that night. Maybe it was because my parent had gone out. Maybe he was just having a mood swing. I didn't know, no one did. He couldn't tell us. So we set out, Andrew crying the whole time. I guess that Rosy and I figured that he would cheer up when we got to the Pizzaria. We thought he was just hungry. We were pretty surprised when we slid down in the slightly beat up, red booths provided for us, and saw that he was still cranky. Suddenly, Andrew burst into loud wails. Rosy, and I tried to calm him down, but he would not be consoled. I felt the eyes of the cooks, waitresses, and the other customers boring into me. I knew that I was blushing. "Maybe he needs to go to the bathroom." I muttered and Rosy took him down the slightly grimy whitewashed halls to the men's rooms. You see, there is very little Andrew can do for himself. The eyes that had been on me followed them to the door with an expression of disgust on their faces. Even behind the door we could hear my sibling's screams. Strangely the family in the booth across from me were the only ones not rolling their eyes, or talking among themselves about that "horrible child". They were eating and talking just like a normal family. There was a very young girl and boy, a girl that looked about 9 or 10, and a mother. The older girl even smiled kindly at me for a moment, and I managed a shaky grin back. Then I heard another explosive cry from the bathroom. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, shouting, "It's Halli, I'm a girl. If there are any guys in there I suggest you come out or whatever. Because, I repeat, I am female!" After this I swung the doors open. It was a one-person bathroom, no one besides Andrew and Rosy could have gone in. I felt pretty stupid. Fortunately, I was too caught up in the act of helping Rosy wipe Andrew's nose and dry the tears that just kept coming to feel too stupid. When he had quieted down a bit we went to our table and sat down again. We got some bread in those wicker baskets, and I thought that maybe everything would be all right. Not long after we had come back, Andrew started to sob. I could hear the other customers discussing whether he was being abused, or whether he was just spoiled. I felt my skin prickle as they talked about my family as if we were some dinner conversation. "I think I'll take Andrew to Drug Fair across the street until he calms down," Rosy whispered. I nodded, Drug Fair was actually a big place that sold everything, from medicine, to shampoo, to books and toys. "We'll be back before the food comes." She added before they left. As they got up to leave I saw two boys around my age staring at them, their eyes were as round as saucers. It annoyed me, they were about 13 or 14, they should know better! Then I looked around and felt my heart freeze with rage. Next to the boys I saw a woman who must have been their mother. She was staring at us as well, her eyes were wider than her sons' were. I did what I always did, when people stared at my brother. I stared right back. Most people will then realize how rude they were being. These people, though, must have had no concept of what the term 'rude' meant. They still stared. I let my eyes scan the rest of that wall. Everyone was staring, adults four times my age were holding up toddlers so that they could get a better view. Their eyes were following Rosy and Andrew, and their mouths were wide open like codfish. "It's not his fault!" I wanted to yell, "You think we chose it to be this way?" Instead I sat down on the booth, hard. For a moment I thought I would start to cry myself, but I choked down the sob that was making it's way to my lips. Upon looking up I saw that one of the families was getting ready to leave. It was the one I told you about before, the only family that hadn't watched my brother as if he was a sitcom on TV. The one who had been eating and talking politely. Before they left the older of the two girls came up to me, "Does your brother have autism?" I think that if I hadn't been on a booth, I would have fallen of my chair. "Yes," I replied, "How did you know?" "I work with autistic kids at my school." "Oh, wow!" I said in awe, "That is so cool!" "Yeah," She answered shyly, "It's fun." We started talking. Her name was Alicia, and she lived in Milburn. Then her mother came over with her brother and sister and started to talk with us. I studied Alicia, she couldn't have been more then 10. Yet I couldn't get over how she understood a concept that the gaping grown-ups at the table across from us would probably never get. In, fact the whole family was so nice and open that it almost washed away the nastiness that the other restaurateurs had shown. One finds angels in the most unlikely places. I choked back another sob, only this was one of joy.
In this land of shadows It is good to know there are flashlights And sometimes one even finds a small sun