I knew from the moment his head peeked around the bus seat that he had had a rough day.

When Howie’s upset, his whole face scrunches up into a giant frown.  He would have the worst poker face.

My own face must have given me away when I looked at the bus monitor.

“Yes,” she said.  “He is very grumpy about something from school.  But he held it together on the bus.  Told me with his words that he didn’t want me to talk to him or sit with him.  He just sat there.”

I grabbed Howie’s hand and walked him off the stairs.

We stomped together down the driveway.  I asked if he wanted to talk about it.

“NO!”

“Do you want to go in?”

“NO!”

It was 95 degrees outside and 99% humidity.  Howie started pacing in the garage.

I sat.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’M THINKING!”

Finally it comes out. “I had to finish a worksheet at camp before I came home but I had already done it in school before and I didn’t want to do it and they made me.”

“Did you tell them that?”

“NO! I JUST IGNORED THEM!”

He paced some more.

Somehow, I convinced him to come inside.  More stomping.

He sat down in his beloved green chair.  His face was still frowning.

From the other room, we could hear Lewis working with his home ABA therapist.  They were playing a game, talking quietly.

Howie looked at me.  He wiped away a tear.

Leaning over, he whispered in my ear.

“I’m going to go in there and put on a happy face.  Even though I’m not.”

I was stunned.

“Oh…okay.” I stuttered back.

And he did.

I followed him into the room.  He looked at Lewis’ therapist, gave her a big smile, and said “Hi!”

“Hi Howie!  How was your day?”

“Good!”

She looked at him.  “You look happy.  Are you happy?”

“Yes,” he said.  “I am.”

He turned to me.

Gave me a little smile.

He turned back to them.  “Can I play the game too?”

“Of course!”

Wiping away a tear myself, I sat down.

The three of them played the game.  Incident free.

Howie sat on my lap when the game was over.

I whispered in his ear.

“I’m very proud of you.”

“I did it,” he whispered back. “I fooled them.”

Maybe I will take him with me to Vegas after all.

Can’t read my, can’t read my
No he can’t read my poker face
(She’s got to love nobody)
Can’t read my, can’t read my
No he can’t read my poker face
(She’s got to love nobody)” – Poker Face by Lady Gaga

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