A tall figure wearing a black-hooded slicker walked quickly through the
night carrying a large garbage bag. His pale face was wet with rain. He
had picked a deserted part of town. Old warehouse buildings were being
gutted so they could be converted into apartments for non-existent
buyers. There were no stores, no restaurants and no people.
“Who’d wanna live in this shit place?” he muttered to himself.
Even the nice neighborhoods of this dismal city had more “For Sale”
signs than you could count.
He was disgusted with himself and disgusted with her, but they were too
young to be burdened. Life was already hard enough. He shook his head
incredulously. She had been so damn sexy, funny, full of life. Why the
hell couldn’t she leave well enough alone? She should have had some
He wanted to scream-out down the ugly street, “It’s her fucking
fault that I’m in the rain in this crap neighborhood trying to evade
But he knew he hadn’t tried to slow her down either. He kept giving
her the drugs and she kept getting kinkier and kinkier and more
dependent on him and that’s how he liked it. She was adventurous and
creative beyond her years. Freaky and bizarre. He had been enthralled,
amazed. The higher she got, the wilder she was. Nothing was out of
bounds. Everything was in the game.
And so, they went farther and farther out there. Together. With the help
of the chemicals. They were co-conspirators, co-sponsors of their mutual
dissipation. How far they had traveled without ever leaving their cruddy
little city. They were so far ahead of all the other kids.
He squinted, and his mind reeled. He tried to remember in what month of
their senior year in high school the drugs became more important to her
than he was. And in what month did her face start looking so tired, her
complexion prefacing the ravages to follow, her breath becoming foul as
her teeth and gums deteriorated. And in what month did her need for the
drugs outstrip his and her cash resources.
He stopped walking and raised his hooded head to the sky so that the
rain would pelt him full-on in the face. He was hoping that somehow this
would make him feel absolved. It didn’t. He shuddered as he clutched
the shiny black bag, the increasingly cold wet wind blowing hard against
him. He didn’t even want to try to figure out how many guys she had
sex with for the drugs.
The puddle-ridden deserted street had three large dumpsters on it. One
was almost empty. It seemed huge and metallic and didn’t appeal to
him. The second was two-thirds full. He peered into it, but was repulsed
by the odor, and he was pretty sure he saw the quick moving figures of
rodents foraging in the mess. The third was piled above the brim with
Holding the plastic bag, he climbed up on the rusty lip of the third
dumpster. Stretching forward, he placed the bag on top of some large
garbage bags which were just a few feet inside of the dumpster’s rim.
As he climbed down, his body looked bent and crooked and his face was
ashen. Tears streamed down his cheeks and bounced off his hands. He
barely could annunciate, “Please forgive me,” as he shuffled away,
head bowed and snot dripping from his nose.
Edith and Peter Austin sat stiffly in the worn wooden chairs of Dr.
Ronald Draper’s waiting room as if they were being graded on their
posture by the receptionist. Edith’s round cherubic face was framed by
graying hair that was neatly swept back and pinned. Her dress was a
loose fitting simple floral print that she had purchased at a clearance
sale at JC Penney. Their four year old son, Bobby, sat between them, his
shiny black dress shoes swinging from legs too short to touch the floor.
Edith brushed the boy’s long sandy hair away from his light blue eyes
that were intensely focused on the blank wall in front of him. Peter,
dressed in his construction foreman’s clothes, yawned deeply having
been up since five in the morning, his weathered face wrinkled well
beyond his years. Looking down at his heavy work boots, he placed his
hand firmly on Edith’s knee to quiet her quivering leg. When they were
finally shown into Draper’s office, the receptionist signaled that
Bobby should stay with her.
Ronald Draper was the Head of the Department of Child Psychology at
Mount Sinai Hospital. A short portly man in his late forties, the few
remaining strands of his brown hair were caked with pomade and combed
straight across his narrow head. His dark eyes appeared abnormally large
as a result of the strong lenses in his eye glasses and his short goatee
accentuated his receding chin. Glancing at his wrist watch while he
greeted Peter and Edith, Draper motioned for them to take a seat on the
chairs facing his cluttered desk. Draper had been referred by Bobby’s
pediatrician when Bobby’s condition didn’t improve.
“Describe to me exactly what you’re concerned about,” Draper said.
Edith cleared her throat. “It started about a year ago. At any time,
without warning, Bobby will get quiet and withdrawn. Then he’ll go
over to his little chair and sit down, or he’ll lie down on the window
seat in the living room. He’ll stare directly in front of him as if in
a trance and then his lids will close halfway. His body will be
motionless. Maybe his eyes will blink occasionally. That’s it. This
can go on for as much as forty minutes each time it happens. When
visitors to our house have seen it, they thought Bobby was catatonic.”
Draper looked up from the notes he was taking. “When Bobby comes to,
do you ask him about it?”
Edith’s hands fidgeted. “Yes. He says, ‘I was just thinking about
some things.’ Then, when I ask him what things, he says, ‘those
things I’m reading about.’”
Draper’s eyes narrowed. “Did you say, things he was reading
“He’s four, correct?”
Edith nodded again and Draper scribbled more notes.
“Do you question him further?”
“I ask him why he gets so quiet and still. I’ve told him it’s real
“And how does he respond to that, Mrs. Austin?”
Edith shook her head. “He says he’s just concentrating.”
“And what other issues are there?”
“Bobby always slept much less than other children, even as an infant.
And he never took naps. Then, starting about a year ago, almost every
night, he has terrible nightmares. He comes running into our bed crying
hysterically. He’s so agitated he’ll be shaking and sometimes even
Draper put his pen down and leaned back in his worn leather chair, which
squeaked loudly. “And what did your pediatrician, Dr. Stafford, say
about all this?”
As Edith was about to reply, Peter squeezed her hand and said, “Dr.
Stafford told us not to worry. He said Bobby’s smart and imaginative
and bad dreams are common at this age for kids like him. And he said
Bobby’s trances are caused by his lack of sleep, that they’re just a
sleep substitute—like some kind of ‘waking nap.’ He told us Bobby
will outgrow these problems. We thought the time had come to see a
Tapping his pen against his folder, Draper asked Edith and Peter to
bring Bobby into his office and wait in the reception area so he could
speak with the boy alone. “I’m sure we won’t be long,” he said.
His chin resting in his hand, Draper looked at the four year old who sat
in front of him with his long hair and piercing light blue eyes. “So,
Robert. I understand that you enjoy reading.”
“It’s the passion of my life, Doctor.”
Draper laughed. “The passion of your life. That’s quite a dramatic
statement. And what are you reading now?”
“Well, I only like to read non-fiction, particularly, astronomy,
physics, math and chemistry. I’ve also just started reading a book
called ‘Gray’s Anatomy.’”
“Gray’s Anatomy?” Draper barely covered his mouth as he yawned,
recalling how many times he had met with toddlers who supposedly read
the New York Times. In his experience, driven parents were usually the
ones who caused their kids’ problems. “That’s a book most medical
students dread. It seems awfully advanced for a child of your age.”
Walking over to his bookcase, Draper stretched to reach the top shelf
and pulled down a heavy tome. Blowing the dust off the binding, he said,
“So, is this the book that you’ve been reading?”
Bobby smiled. “Yes, that’s it.”
“How did you get a copy?”
“I asked my Dad to get it for me from the library and he did.”
“And why did you want it?”
“I’m curious about the human body.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, let’s have you read for me, and then I’ll
ask you some questions about what you read.”
Smiling smugly as he randomly opened to a page in the middle of the
book, Draper put the volume down on a table in front of Bobby. Bobby
stood on his toes so that he could see the page. The four year old began
to read the tiny print fluently, complete with the proper pronunciation
of medical Latin terms. His eyes narrowing, Draper scratched his chin.
“Ok, Bobby. Now reading words on a page is one thing. But
understanding them is quite another. So tell me the meaning of what you
Bobby gave Draper a dissertation on not only what he had just read, but
how it tied it into aspects of the first five chapters of the book which
he had read previously on his own. By memory, Bobby also directed Draper
to specific pages of the book identifying what diagrams Draper would
find that supported what Bobby was saying.
Glassy eyed, Draper stared at the child as he grabbed the book and put
it back on the shelf. “Bobby, that was very interesting. Your reading
shows real promise. Now let’s do a few puzzles.”
Pulling out a Rubik’s cube from his desk drawer, Draper asked, “Have
you ever seen one of these?”
Bobby shook his head. “What is it?”
Draper handed the cube to Bobby and explained the object of the game.
“Just explore it. Take your time—there’s no rush.”
Bobby manipulated the cube with his tiny hands as he examined it from
varying angles. “I think I get the idea.”
“OK, Bobby—try to solve it.”
Thirty seconds later, Bobby handed the solved puzzle to Draper.
Draper’s eyes widened as he massaged his eyebrows. “I see. Well, let
me mix it up really good this time and have you try again.” Twenty
seconds after being handed the cube a second time, Bobby was passing it
back to Draper solved again. Beginning to perspire, Draper removed his
“Bobby, we’re going to play a little game. I’m going to slowly say
a number, and then another number, and another after that—and so
forth, and as I call them out I’m going to write them down. When I’m
finished, I’m going to ask you to recite back whatever numbers in the
list you can remember. Is that clear?”
“Sure Doctor,” replied Bobby.
“Ok, here we go”. At approximately one second intervals, Draper
intoned, “729; 302; 128; 297; 186; 136; 423; 114; 169; 322; 873; 455;
388; 962; 666; 293; 725; 318; 131; 406.”
Bobby responded immediately with the full list in perfect order. He then
asked Draper if he would like to hear it backwards. “Sure, why not,”
By the time Draper tired of this game, he was up to 80 numbers, each
comprised of five digits. Bobby didn’t miss a single one. “Can we
stop this game now please, Doctor? It’s getting pretty monotonous,
don’t you think?”
Draper loosened his tie. He went through his remaining routines of tests
and puzzles designed to gauge a person’s level of abstract
mathematical reasoning, theoretical problem solving, linguistic nuances,
and vocabulary. Rubbing his now oily face in his hands, he said,
“Let’s take a break for a few minutes.”
“Why Doctor? I’m not tired.”
“Well, I am.”
Taking Bobby back to the waiting room, Draper apologized to Peter and
Edith for the long period during which he had sequestered Bobby.
“Is everything alright, Doctor?” Edith asked.
“Why don’t you take Bobby to the cafeteria for a snack and meet me
back here with him in thirty minutes,” Draper replied.
When the Austins returned to Draper’s office, Draper had two of his
colleagues with him. He advised Peter and Edith that his associates
would assist him in administering a few IQ tests to Bobby.
Peter’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Draper. “What does that have
to do with the nightmares and trances, Doctor? We came here for those
issues - not to have Bobby’s intelligence tested.”
“Be patient, please, Mr. Austin. Everything is inter-connected.
We’re trying to get a complete picture.”
Draper and his associates, one a Ph.D in psychology and the other a Ph.D
in education, administered three different types of intelligence tests
to Bobby (utilizing abbreviated versions due to time constraints).
First, the Slosson Intelligence Test, then the Wechsler Intelligence
Scale for Children – Revised (WISC-R) and finally, the Stanford-Binet
By the time the exams were concluded, Draper’s shirt was untucked and
perspiration stains protruded from beneath his arms even though the room
was cool. He brought Bobby back to the reception area, and took Peter
and Edith into a corner of the room, out of Bobby’s earshot. “Your
child isn’t normal. Are any of your other children like this?”
Excerpted from "Miracle Man" by William R Leibowitz. Copyright © 2014 by William R Leibowitz. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.